Boca Raton, Florida
To say that my marriage was unconventional and difficult is an understatement. But I would do it all over again because my journey with Jeff provided me with the opportunity to discover my own true definition of love. I remained committed to love throughout my 25-year marriage to a bisexual man who contracted HIV. My best friend of 37 years and husband of 25, Dr. Jeffrey A. Mintz, was diagnosed with AIDS-related pneumonia on June 19, 1992 and died on August 17, 1994. In those 25 years, I was able to find my core, my strength, my faith, my hope and the true understanding that I was chosen to love him. I was chosen to stay with him, and I was chosen to watch him become the stranger in my bed as the virus wreaked horrific devastation.
My world was crumbling slowly before my eyes. I wanted to die with him, but I couldn’t. I had to live and stay strong and healthy because I was his support—his life support—until his eventual death. As I held him in my arms so many times night after night, he would convulse from the spiked 105-degree temperatures that accompanied the illnesses associated with AIDS. I changed the sheets at 3 a.m. because his night sweats left him in a pool of water and drenched clothing. It was a movie—the movie from hell.
We kept our secrets well hidden from everyone. After Jeffrey was diagnosed with pneumocystis pneumonia, I could only watch him fight for his life as I sat at his bedside. He lay so gravely ill. I started to document his ordeal and never stopped writing during this insanity. My writing saved me. I recorded every detail of this period in 15 journals. My emotions—rage, denial, hate, resentment, love, sadness, chaos—were rampant. My toughest job was to tell his parents, our families and our friends that Jeff had AIDS and how he acquired it. I could lie no more. The truth was all we had left.
My marriage under these wild circumstances was, to say the least, insanely chaotic and yet also rewarding. The word love for me has always meant commitment, unconditional acceptance and facing every problem with a solution, even if I didn’t know what the solution would be or if it was the right one. To this day, I remain in my heart Jeff’s wife, friend, caregiver and devoted partner. My hope is that as I share my story, others may gather up the strength and fortitude to commit to their marriage vows before God first and then commit to their marriage.
My autobiographical book, Committed to Love: A Woman’s Journey through Love and Loss, challenges readers to love someone unconditionally in spite of their faults. I am a baby boomer, motivational author, lecturer and fitness guru originally from Troy, New York. I currently reside in Boca Raton, Florida. I spend my days encouraging and supporting people by promoting wellness through diet, exercise and healthy choices. I am a member of Jesus People Proclaim International Church (JPPIC) in Deerfield Beach and the executive director of its I Love My Life Wellness Center.
Writing over the years has been calming and healing for me. I’ve written a weekly motivational column for The Boca Raton News and a monthly cooking column titled “Cooking With Yeshua” for the JPPIC newsletter. But my writing legacy also includes Safe Sex Never Tasted So Good, a healthy and sexy (actually XXX-rated) cookbook. Donning the alter ego Mrs. Boner, I provided nutritious, easy and fun recipes for adults in a hilarious way.
Overall, despite periods of overwhelming sadness and depression, I have also soared mountaintops. I truly love my life. For more about my story, please go to my website at www.susanmintz.com.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Compassionate, tenacious and free.
What is your greatest achievement?
Staying married to a bisexual man for 25 years who died of AIDS in 1994 and continuing to fight against the stigma that still exists today.
What is your greatest regret?
My only regret is that I didn’t have another 25 years with the man I adored.
What keeps you up at night?
Fighting against injustice, racial bias, economic inequality and the persistent stigma that exists today with this unfair disease. Also, occasionally running out of my sleeping pills.
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
That my husband never contracted this horrific disease.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Live life to the fullest with no regrets.
What person in the HIV community do you most admire?
Though deceased, Elizabeth Taylor. She was a compassionate and passionate activist who stood up for people living with HIV in the beginning.
What drives you to do what you do?
Having deep-seated compassion for human suffering. There’s always more work to be done.
What is your motto?
I’d do everything the same way all over again. Not one regret.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
I would be bold as a lion.