While Adam and I are biologically the same person, I do not identify as myself as Adam, so going forward Adam will be referenced in the 3rd person whereas any first person references will be related to Michael. Below are a couple of photos generously provided to me by Bill Madway, Adam’s uncle via Facebook. In the first photo below from the 1960’s are, going from left to right, Adam’s grandparents Edith (died August 3, 2007) and Pete (October 29, 1926- July 7, 2000), Seth is in the front, Bill behind him and Wendy (1951-2010) to the right. While I will have to see if my parents still have physical photos of me as a child (some of my grade school years is posted on Facebook), there is a very strong resemblance when looking at Wendy as well as Seth. The photo was taken in Levittown, PA in front of their home. The 2nd photo is from about twenty years ago (so late 90’s one would presume). It shows from front to back and left to right Adam’s cousins Arial and Tori (sorry, unsure which is which), their mother Wendy (Seth’s wife, Adam’s aunt), Adam’s cousin David (Bill’s son), Seth (Adam’s uncle), Edith and Pete who are Adam’s grandparents (shoot that explains the receding hairline that I have), Bill, Adam’s other uncle, Wendy who is Adam’s mother and Megan (Bill’s wife and Adam’s aunt). Below that, I may have found an even older photo of Adam’s grandfather. Also included is a brief video of Adam’s aunt and uncle talking about their best Jewish moments. If all goes as planned, I will have a phone conversation this Saturday, so stay tuned for more on this ever unfolding story.
This blog entry is very lengthy, but I kindly ask ALL of my Facebook friends to PLEASE READ.
Many of you may remember Pedro Zamora. Pedro was on the third season of “The Real World.” He contracted HIV which, back in the early 90’s was a death sentence. His courage was inspirational. Pedro died of AIDS in 1994 but he educated us all. Please take a few minutes to watch this video.
James McClarty-Lopes has been living with HIV for over 10 years. He is a chef and an athlete. I can’t embed his video, but please take a look. His attitude and the fact that he is living a very full, healthy life is an inspiration.
At the 2011 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, I met two gentlemen who are HIV positive. One has been living with it for 27 years and the other for 25. They are healthy and living good lives.
Today HIV is not a death sentence. It doesn’t mean you are doomed to get AIDS. It is considered a treatable, chronic disease that is no different than if you were diagnosed with diabetes. We have progressed far. This doesn’t mean we need to be complacent.
There still is no cure for HIV, those infected will have it for the rest of their life. Remind your friends and family of this fact.
We must continue to raise awareness like we once did.
Tell your friends, whether they be straight, gay or bi to always be safe.
Cross-post this blog entry on Facebook and Twitter. Have them watch the videos.
For many years I had psoriasis and in late May 2011, I finally made an appointment with the dermatologist, but because of being short staffed, they couldn’t take me until August 10th. I will get back to this in a little bit. In early June 2011 I got what I thought was a very bad gum infection to the point where I had all the symptoms of the flu. For those who know me, I almost never get sick. My school mates might recall that I rarely was absent. On June 6, the day after I walked in the Asbury Park pride parade, I was rushed to the hospital with a 103 degree fever. I was so sick, I had to be in a wheelchair. St. Peters did a great job and got my fever down a few hours later, but I was sick for weeks. Once I recovered, I developed Bell’s Palsy. Having the right side of your face paralyzed was very frightening. It was like I had a stroke. Eating was physically exhausting for me and whatever I ate, I could not taste. I also had diarrhea and almost no energy. I often went home sick or simply too tired to keep working. The Bell’s subsided after eleven days and I made a full recovery. The diarrhea continued and I started to have a lot of pain, as if I had a hemorrhoid.
On August 1st I was going to Las Vegas with my friends and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from going. I can live with the diarrhea and pain, but I still didn’t have a normal energy level. A few days before my trip, I noticed that my skin was getting these little dots on it and the big patch of psoriasis on my right calf went almost around my whole leg. I was concerned about what they were, but since I was going to the dermatologist in a few days, it wasn’t a big deal. The trip was fun, despite the pain and low energy levels. I saw the dermatologist and they said that the breakout all over my body was psoriasis. The treatment for the kind of psoriasis is a drug called Enbrel. The problem with Enbrel is that it weakens your immune system, so I had a battery of tests done. My liver and kidney functions are fine nor do I don’t have hepatitis, herpes or syphilis. What they didn’t like was my western blot test. It came back with an inconclusive result. For those that do not know, the western blot checks for HIV. Having a “balanced” result as the doctor put it, doesn’t mean that I have HIV, just that there is some kind of antibody in my immune system. Thinking that I just had a gum infection, this makes sense. My body still had the antibodies from fighting that off. As a precaution, my dermatologist recommended that I see an infectious disease doctor to get a more comprehensive set of tests to check my immune system.
I was an emotional basket case, as my friends and co-workers can attest. For those that are my friends on Facebook, you may recall that I posted some rather cryptic Facebook status messages about tests. I was very scared, thinking that I could die.
I went to the infectious disease doctor and he explained to me that goodness forbid that I am positive, that I won’t die and that it is a treatable disease, no worse than someone having diabetes. It’s just simply a chronic illness. While this made me feel better, the specter of having HIV still scared me. I thought, what if I did have it? With the layoffs at work, I’ll never find another job again. No one in my right mind would insure me (I recently found out this is illegal). How would my friends, family and co-workers react? Would I get an “I told you so” lecture, will my parents cry? Will my co-workers be afraid to sit near me or have a munchkin or bagel after I did? With the way I was feeling physically, I thought, “do I not have HIV, but AIDS?”
I went for the blood test and for over a week I thought about these things. Thanks to my wonderful best friend and others (but how Neil put up with me will forever be a mystery) , my mind was continuously put at ease. My physical symptoms were not getting much better. I was constantly getting up several times at night to go to the bathroom and the psoriasis continued to spread. Finally it was the day of my appointment. I was mentally prepared to be told that beyond a reasonable doubt that I was HIV positive.
I was right.
The doctor, like pulling off a bandage, told me that I indeed am HIV positive. He then showed me the ten or so tests in which a vast majority said “positive.” My heart sank. He then proceeded to explain that it was caught early. He went on to state that my liver and kidneys are all functioning normally. I do not have toxoplasmosis. I do not have any form of hepatitis, syphilis or tuberculosis. He then stated that my viral load is quite low and my CD 4 count is high (that’s a good thing). He said he sees no reason why my HIV cannot be completely suppressed. He put me on a medication called Atripla, which are three medicines combined into one. While I may work for Merck, I am thankful to the folks at Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Gilead for making this medication. The worst side effect are a rash and scary dreams, which is why they say to take it at night.
How did my friends, co-workers and family react? One member of the Merck Rainbow Alliance jumped back and looked at me like I was a leper before catching their self (and I wasn’t surprised by this one person’s reaction). Other than that, my friends, co-workers and family reacted with caring and support. No “I told you so” and my co-workers have treated me no differently than they have before. I am also very thankful to have a very supportive boss who has allowed me the great flexibility of time to go see my various doctors. I truly have the best boss in the world with Mike Landsman.
I have been lucky, no scary dreams, just vivid ones that makes sleeping fun. After 2½ weeks taking Atripla, my diarrhea has gone away and thanks to a combination of another drug and lightbox treatments, my psoriasis is slowly fading and the chicken pox-like itching has become only a distant memory. A recent follow-up visit to the doctor reaffirmed my very, very good prognosis with my illness. He thinks that at the rate I am going, my viral load may drop to undetectable levels and that I may even be able to take the immune-whacking Enbrel. There is no reason why I can’t live to be a very old man.
There you have it, as promised, “my big announcement.” If you did read this almost 1,500 word blog posting, I thank you. I want to use my experience with HIV as a lesson. I am very open about it and please, feel free to ask me questions, whether it be on my web site or in the comments section of the Facebook cross-posting and re-post!
As I write this post, we are a little over 4 hours from January 1, 2010. First, I want to wish the four readers of my blog (I count myself) a happy new year. Should by a quirk of odd luck and randomness others read this, then you too, I wish a happy new year. As one year comes to a close and a new year (and decade) comes before us, it is a time for both reflection and to look ahead.
First a look back.
2009, I admit wasn’t one of the best years of my life. In early January, one of my closest friends lost his father. As a friend who lived a large distance away, I felt helpless in trying to comfort him. Having (thankfully) not experienced this myself, I did not know what to do. The following week, when I flew out to see him (a pre-planned trip) I discovered that my friend was far more resilient than I thought. Though the focus of the trip was to take his mind off of things, I discovered he didn’t need it. Later in the year I saw this friendship erode and end on September 18th for what I believed to be forever (he made it quite clear to me that this was to be the case).
Professionally, there were disappointments, to say the least. March 3 will always be a day I wish to forget but will remember for a long time. I discovered a new side of someone who works at the same company I do, a side I didn’t like. When others were told, some were extremely surprised while others reactions were, “yeah, I know.” Also another person who is very close to me continued to feel the full force and fury of our economic downturn and I could do nothing but provide moral, sympathetic support. He is still battling that storm, whose end, while not apparent, hopefully will come soon.
There were a lot of good things that happened in 2009. First, and most importantly, my mom’s cancer went into remission. She ended her treatments and even got to do something she never thought she would be able to do ever again, travel. Secondly, my dad regained the ability to drive at night. My parents got to enjoy freedoms once thought lost forever and for me, I think that’s a great thing! We also got to celebrate my parent’s 50th anniversary.
I got to travel to a place I’ve never been to before–Chicago the land of Obama (yeah, someone named Abe is also from that state). Yes, I’ve been to O’Hare earlier in my life, but I don’t get to count that. Despite the rain and nasty weather I had a great time walking around the city.
I also got to attend my first Defcon in Las Vegas. It was my first “Geek convention” and I found it fascinating. In November I got to do something for the third year in a row, turn a “virtual” friend into an “in real life” friend, someone I have known for six years. This was, by far, the best trip to Las Vegas I’ve ever had and certainly one of my favorite vacations of all time.
One of the nicest surprises of my life happened on December 16. That friendship, that I thought was over forever had a rebirth. Let’s call this “friendship 2.0.” Someone once told me, “fortune favors the bold.” I got bold and decided to reach out to the friend and he responded with kindness. While I wouldn’t say the friendship is the same as it once was, it is still a good friendship and there is no one that knows me better than he does. I know he is a friend whom I trust and value any and all advice he can give me.
Professionally, right at the end of the year something nice happened. No, it wasn’t from the person I work with, but a peer of this person. I got an “Award For Excellence” for a project I was on. That one, single act restored my faith that there are truly appreciative people at the company I work for. Until that time, I simply relied upon myself for motivation (though my support lead also helped a lot). I am a self-motivated person, but it is always good when others help out. I can only hope my “friend 2.0” person learns and masters this skill–let’s call it “level 81” to use a World of Warcraft term.
A look ahead.
What will 2010 bring? Your guess is as good as mine. I hope “friend 2.0” continues on it’s successful journey. I wonder what a service pack would look like?
Professionally, I am more optimistic than ever. I think this year when March comes around and a “look back” is done it will be better than 2009. I do hope that despite the merger and a thinning of the workforce, I will remain with the company. My job is evolving and I plan to evolve with it.
If all goes as planned, 2010 will be the fourth year in a row that I turn a virtual friend into a real life one. I look forward to seeing my friend of 19 years when I hopefully travel to Milan in June. I also hope another friend of mine from a kingdom across the ocean will also visit, but if not, maybe 2011 will be the fifth year in a row (neat, a half decade of turning virtual friends into real life ones).
I remain optimistic for myself, my family and my friends.
We’ve come to November already and things are happening. Thanks to a combination of only using a few days and working for Merck for a decade as an employee, I have a ton of vacation days to use. Since I couldn’t really take vacation in March-May and again in October, I have them all squished into November and early December. I was supposed to be off this entire week (11-2-11/6 and the following Monday) but something is happening that will preclude me from getting the whole week off. As referenced, there are some big things happening that should make this month exciting. In addition to the former, I will be ordering a new computer for my parents. There is Thanksgiving later this month and at the end is a trip to Las Vegas! Stay tuned to this blog for my experience with the “Big Event.”
Here are the specifications on the Mac Pro I will be configuring for my parents:
• One 2.93GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
• 8GB (4x2GB)
• 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
• ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB
• One 18x SuperDrive
• Apple LED Cinema Display (24″ flat panel)
• Apple Magic Mouse
• Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English) and User’s Guide
• Final Cut Express preinstalled
• HP Photosmart Premium Wireless Fax All-in-One Printer, Scanner, Copier
• AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac Pro (w/or w/o Display) – Auto-enroll
It’s the first of July. This should prove to be an interesting month for me. We have the 4th of July weekend, my parent’s 50th anniversary on the 5th, HtR a day later, my midyear review (not looking forward to that) and the cherry on the top of my July sundae, my trip to Vegas for Defcon. It should be an interesting month to say the least. Oh, I posted this from my iPod Touch using the WordPress app.
Originally posted on MySpace on Tuesday, April 25, 2006
It all started in January of 2005 when I put money down on my own condo. I started to think about my independence and what changes this will bring to my life. A few busy months at work and dealing with the house went by. Then April rolled around and thoughts about the changes my life will soon have re-entered my mind. That’s when the recurring dreams about telling *them* started. I started thinking about telling someone, but who to tell? There was an on-line acquaintance who I have drawn up a nice, friendly platonic relationship with. He told me at first that he thought he was bi then came to the realization that he is gay. So I decided what the heck, so I told him about me. Like me, he asked all the usual questions. I later told another IRC chatter who was openly gay. When I came back from my trip to Greece, I decided to tell others in an IRC chat room that I frequented. The participants in this chat room tended to be quite liberal and were quite supportive. Its to be noted that nothing happened in Greece to make me decide to do this, just that I had time to think.
Several busy months went by. I closed on the condo in August and moved in September. That month between closing and moving were beyond hectic. Between buying all new stuff for my new condo (silverware and some dishes I got from my mom who was all too eager to give them to me), waiting for furniture (mis)deliveries, getting utilities transfered, and all my stuff moved there was little time to think of anything else. I got myself settled in and slowly got situated with my new life (shorter commute means more time to do condo related stuff).
Then October 11, 2005 came. I was in my new place for about 3 weeks. I decided to “celebrate” National Coming Out Day by telling my long time (12+ years) online friend from Italy. There was nothing we kept from each other (except this). Up to now the only people I told were some people on an IRC channel, not a long time friend who is more than just ASCII text on a screen (we’ve video chatted, done voice chat, I’ve done Net Meeting tech support, etc). So I told him. Up until this point, I never knew what his opinion was with gay people. He was very, very supportive and I got to find out another aspect of his life.
The dreams about telling *them* continued at least 3 times a week. The dreams varied, sometimes it was a good experience, sometimes it was a nightmare. Often I don’t remember my dreams, but these I did. The majority of the dreams were positive.
Months went by and I decided to tell one of my best friends from college, who also not only has the same first name as me, but the same birthday. He was my first “in real life” person that I told. Like everyone else, he was very supportive. He didn’t ask me a lot of questions (which was an interesting change of pace) but was quite nice about it.
Throughout this whole time there were points I wanted to tell *them* but the right opportunity never came up. I can’t tell *them* in an e-mail. Calling them up and telling them isn’t a good way of doing it. It has to be face to face, so I decided to not tell *them*.
There was a “scholar in residence” at what will soon be my new shul (synagogue) the weekend of my 34th birthday. While I didn’t attend the Saturday lecture, it was about gays and Judaism. Well, this synagogue has *them* as members and they went. No face-to-face opportunities to talk to *them* about this lecture came up.
Surprisingly, around this time the dreams stopped.
The two of *them* went on vacation to Europe and I was invited to the house for the two Seders. It was just the three of us. So on Wednesday April 12,2006 I went to their house. On my drive to their house, out of the blue I started thinking about telling *them*. We had a nice, quick 20 minute first half of the Seder and then it was time for dinner. This was my opportunity to ask about the talk the scholar in residence gave about Jews and homosexuality. In a nutshell he said that Judaism accepts it as a natural thing (this is a pretty liberal synagogue in the Conservative movement) and people are just born that way. I then asked *them* if they felt the same way. They said yes.
I then told *them*, I mean, my parents that I am gay.
The dream had become literal, but which dream is it going to be?
I quickly found out that the result, in real life, was just how I dreamed it. The response from my mom and was, “yes, we know.” My dad asked me if I have a boyfriend. I asked my mom why she never asked me and she felt that when the time was right, I would tell them. Apparently after I moved out, my parents had a brief chat wondering if I would tell them. When I said that I couldn’t believe how supportive they are and how great they were in my announcement, my mom literally shrugged in a way that said that it was no big deal. My dad said that it must’ve been a big load off of my mind to finally tell them. They first figured that I was gay at age 17 when a girl was flirting with me and I showed zero interest. I wasn’t even 100% sure then, but I was coming to that realization. I suppose the best way I can sum up their reaction was if I told someone that the sky is blue.
Coming out didn’t end there. Now that I had told them, I felt a little bit freer. That’s when I decided to update the MySpace profile and check off “gay” for my sexual orientation. I suppose at that point I officially “came out” on the Internet.
The day I told my parents, I discussed telling my aunt. Both my parents felt that she would be supportive. I was planning to visit her on April 23. The day I got home from my parents I e-mailed my aunt to remind me that I had something important to tell her that must be told in person. The 23 came and I went to see my aunt along with my parents. After I finished setting up the home networking on her TiVo, I told her. He response was literally “so what?” She then told me about another member of her family who is bi.
So there you have it, my coming out story. People at work don’t know, but some are on my “friends” list. If they come to my profile and find out, so be it. Ironically, my place of work just started a gay-lesbian group at its worldwide corporate headquarters this week, but the timing of the meeting didn’t work out for me. I see no gain for me to outright tell people at work, but if someone asks, I will tell them.