Tuesday, July 29, 2003


I used to think my big, fat Greek mouth could handle anything, that is until today's endoscopy at the California Pacific Medical Center was performed.

For two-plus months my stomach has been experiencing weird, unexplained painful knots that my regular doctor couldn't figure out what was causing the trouble.

In June, I had stomach x-rays performed, which showed mild diverticulitis in the intestines. To alleviate some of the problem, I started a regimen of acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs that greatly relieved some of the pain. However, this didn't cure the cramps so my doctor had me see a GI specialist who ordered up this morning's endoscopy.

Groggy from little sleep late night, and no food, I registered for the procedure. My mind flashed on to gay French director's Patrice Chereau's latest film, "His Brother," which is about a gay brother who helps his straight brother die after he's diagnosed with a platelet deficiency disease. Getting prepped for the procedure brought back images of the dying brother's grueling visits to a Paris hospital and the concerned nurses who tend to him.

Laying on the gurney, a nurse injected two painkillers into the IV hose in my right arm and I got high. Even under the influence of the drugs, the GI specialist still had difficulty getting the tube with the miniature camera down my throat. Gagging, I took a deep breath and the tube finally slid past my throat and down into my stomach.

When the painkillers wore off slightly, the GI specialist came to talk to me.

"We found some polyps that were removed and will be biopsied," he explained. "Avoid aspirin, Advil and Motrin until we get the results back."

Not the news I wanted to hear.

"What's causing the trouble? HIV? The meds for HIV, or something else entirely?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "I'll call your doctor and talk to him. You should see him this week, and I want you back in my office in August."

He prescribed a new medicine to add to my already large daily cocktail.

Am I worried about this latest physical ailment and what the biopsies may reveal? Yes, and with good reason.

My t-cells haven't been above 100 in over a year. They fell down to two this spring. I named them Ringo and Paul and told them to multiply, which they did recently. I now have 73 t-cells, according to my latest blood tests. My viral load, which has been over 250,000 all year, is at 500,000.

All these numbers floated around my head as I waited for my boyfriend Mike to come pick me up and take me home. He embraced me in the waiting room, kissed my lips and asked how it went. His response to my gagging problem?

"You are the last man I'd expect to have trouble opening wide enough for that little tube," he said, and both of us laughed.

We took a cab home. What did I find waiting for me in the kitchen? A big bowl of fruit, fresh filtered water and a wedge of a marijuana-laced brownie, to help ease the stomach knots.

"Now, remember today is the last day for the Sarunas Bartas retrospective at the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley, and after you take a nap, I want you to get on BART and go see the film tonight," Mike said. "It would do you good to catch a Lithuanian film at the PFA."

He went off to work and I thanked God for blessing my life with Mike as my partner, of eight years and counting, and for making sure a Sarunas Bartas film is playing tonight. Small stuff in the grand scheme of things, but despite the low t-cells, a viral load that won't decline, continuing intestinal troubles, I'm grateful for the good people in my life and true happiness.

Let's hope the biopsies are benign. And that Ringo and Paul continue to clone themselves into new t-cells for me.

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