Reflections on surviving several bouts of cancer, while living with HIV

Even now that the radiation is over and I’m taking chemo pills, I don’t know what tomorrow may bring for me. I’ve been through worse, having had stage 4 cancer with one leg chained to a bed while I was in prison and being told I was going to die. But one thing I know about myself and the people whom I’ve grown accustomed to and have welcomed into my life, we are all resilient people. We come with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. That’s not to say that I haven’t had some scary nights in this ordeal, dealing with this cancer, not being able to get up and walk, falling down and passing out, but I still manage to come out on the other side.

I tell people that when I’m living my worst life, I’m living my best life because I learn so many things while in that valley trying to claw my way up and out. I’ve learned so many things that have helped me in these dark moments. I’ve thought about what advice I would give somebody in this situation. It’s always a message of hope, so I take my own advice and I push on, move out and climb up to the next plateau, ready to take on the next fight.

Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I was feeling good. My little organization was starting to blossom, and then when the diagnosis came, it was one thing after another. First, I had this massive abscess, then I had to do six weeks of IV antibiotics at home. After that cleared up the doctors said, When we were giving you the IV, we saw that your appendix ruptured, so they needed to remove my appendix. While removing it they found the colon cancer. Right on the heels of the colon cancer is when I got the neck and tonsil cancer. Having already had cancer three times, I said, okay, here we go with this again. I felt that this, too, shall pass. Once the radiation treatment started, though, I really felt down. I was at a low and then Derek came back into my life. He has been a tremendous help.

Davina said early on that she would come and help me through treatment. In the back of my mind I said, yeah right, she’s coming to my house for a month to help me get through this. Not that I doubted her friendship; I just felt that that was a lot for any one person to say they would do. But Davina being Pozitively Dee [as she is known in the world of HIV advocacy], she came and we conquered. She moved in, cleaning and cooking and giving me the moral support and strength I needed. I often tell people you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only option.

I want people to know that just because you hear the word cancer we automatically get afraid and think that it’s the end of the world, but for me cancer and HIV are two words that I have knocked down brick by brick, fight by fight and I’m still standing.