Twenty five years later

Seaway News - - FRONT PAGE - Pat O’Con­nor

To­day is a writ­ing of thanks to peo­ple and things that have kept me quite well for 25 years … pg. 13

Hello ev­ery­one! Sort of a mile­stone last week, as 25 years ago I was in the hos­pi­tal af­ter hav­ing my ap­pen­dix re­moved. This emer­gency surgery also hap­pened on my wed­ding day to my for­mer wife, Cathy. Lit­tle did I know that the blood prod­ucts I re­ceived dur­ing surgery and for 5 or 6 days af­ter to help stop the bleed­ing con­tained two viruses that would change my life dra­mat­i­cally. Be­ing a hemophe­liac in the early and mid 80s was a ter­ri­ble thing, as most of us con­tracted HIV, Hep C or both from the prod­ucts that helped con­trol our bleeds. Young or old, a lot of us are not around as HIV and AIDS ended our young lives years ago. Many who died were young chil­dren, so in­no­cent and at the time, just so un­lucky to be a hemophe­liac. Bet­ter for me to get off this sub­ject, as it still makes me quite an­gry when it comes to mind.

To­day is a writ­ing of thanks to peo­ple and things that have kept me quite well for 25 years. Thank you to Cathy and her ex­tended fam­ily for be­ing there in the be­gin­ning with their sup­port, prayers and en­cour­age­ment. There were a lot of tough years, learn­ing about my HIV, how to care for my­self and all those ter­ri­ble meds.

Thank you to the com­mu­nity in large for ac­cept­ing me when I went pub­lic in 1990 with my HIV sta­tus. Your cards, letters and your “Hel­los” when I was out meant the world to me. I was very scared when go­ing pub­lic and the city of Corn­wall and its peo­ple erased those fears with kind words and ac­cep­tance. You also booted me for many teach­ing en­gage­ments where I was able to start to ed­u­cate peo­ple on a sub­ject few oth­ers would talk about. It made me feel use­ful to “our com­mu­nity” af­ter speak­ing only out of town to those who wanted to learn about HIV/AIDS. It helped give my life some mean­ing, which I needed big time back then, as I still do to­day.

Thank you to all the docs, nurses, den­tists, chi­ro­prac­tors, phar­ma­cists and my health care team in Kingston for keep­ing me go­ing for so long. Your care and gen­uine con­cern for me and the bat­tles I had to fight, and still do, give me great peace of mind. You are all there when I need you, which is good to know. Thank you to Dr. Mar­i­lyn Crabtree, my lo­cal doc and to the late Dr. Redda, who cared for me for years with such heart­felt, gen­uine con­cern. How are you Mrs. Redda? I hope well!

Thank you to all my friends. I have learned through the years that some friends will be there at cer­tain times of your life. At that par­tic­u­lar time they are very im­por­tant and then some drift apart for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. That’s just part of a long life but I al­ways think and speak of my old friends in kind words, as they were there for me and helped me through some pretty tough times. You also sup­ported me whether it was walk- ing in an AIDS walk or just talk­ing and lis­ten­ing to me vent. You know who you all are and I wish you all good health and hap­pi­ness.

To all the peo­ple in my life now, I can only say thanks for be­ing there for me and your pa­tience. I know I can not al­ways make plans be­cause of my aches and pains or fa­tigue prob­lems or what­ever, but I ap­pre­ci­ate you all and your friend­ships. For all the peo­ple who I bump into and ask how I’m do­ing or feel­ing, you al­ways make my day. My friends are im­por­tant to me and I will al­ways help them out when I can.

A huge thank you to my fam­ily. I never told my mom or dad about my HIV in­fec­tion un­til 5 years af­ter find­ing out. I did not want them to worry too much in the good years of their lives. When I did tell them, their love, prayers and pos­i­tive thoughts kept me go­ing emo­tion­ally. My biggest wish was not hav­ing them bury their son in their life­time.

To tell the whole 25 year story would take a book (ya I know, I should) and it’s been quite a ride. I have parts of it done, I have a great ti­tle, but don’t al­ways have the en­ergy or in­ner strength to fin­ish it. Maybe some­day.

I never re­ally be­lieved this would hap­pen as I thought I would be dead long ago. My fa­ther Doug passed away years ago and my mom is still with us. Dad would have been proud I made it this far. I know mom is in her own way. My sis­ters and brother are of great im­por­tance to me and have helped me in so many ways. Lau­ren is my sound­ing board for the fam­ily and hears my med­i­cal sit­u­a­tions, health is­sues, thoughts and fears more reg­u­larly. I am also very glad they all have not had to bury their brother.

Save the best for last re­lates to Faye. She is my best friend, my con­fi­dent, my per­sonal nurse and my lover. She knows me like no other and the past 12 years with Faye have been the best. We have done many things to­gether. Trav­eled our coun­try, vis­ited many oth­ers, learned to en­joy each other’s com­pany and gen­uinly care for each other. Again, we never though we’d have this long to­gether, which we are happy for but can only hope for some more years to “make some mem­o­ries.” I love you Faye, am so proud of you and will al­ways be yours.

Faye’s son Matt will be off to col­lege in the fall and I will miss him a lot. He keeps me young at heart and is a good kid with a bright fu­ture. I hope I have taught him some things he can use in his long life.

So it’s been 25 years! I can’t be­lieve it! Never thought I would live un­til 30 or 35, now I’m old and 50. Most docs back then never though so ei­ther. Now they won­der why I’m here and healthy some­what. Bad blood­work last week also. Have to make 55 or 60. It’s ex­haust­ing. Thank you all for 25 years and count­ing. Have great sum­mers and I’ll try to check in once or twice.

Be well ev­ery­one and if you are not well, al­ways stay pos­i­tive ( no pun in­tended)!

Sorry Elmo - got you 12 years ago and still, at that time, thought you’d out­live me! What a great dog, at 12, who is al­ways by my side. Happy birth­day! Also, thank you to Se­away News for print­ing my thoughts and gib­ber­ish for the past 15 years. It has helped me and many oth­ers I hope.

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