He’s Back!

Published 22, Aug, 2012

Brian the Shochusucker wrote a 13-part story for us on his experience of living with HIV in Japan, after being diagnosed while working there. We caught up with him and asked how he has been doing since. Here is his report

He’s Back!

So what's new Campers? I hope you are all enjoying your summer and staying cool.  I am in Japan, and it's hot and humid on a daily basis. So staying cool is heavy on my mind.  

For those of you who may not know me,  I'm known as The ShochuSucker. I wrote a 13-part series on PositiveLite.com that started almost a year ago this September. It was about me and my first year living with HIV.

For those of you who followed the story? Good to see you again.

Writing the story was an emotional journey. It caused me to account relive some difficult times, but put a smile on my face for all the good times too. I was and still am so grateful for the people who I met and who have enriched my life since this all began.

So what's new with me?  Coming up to Year Two with HIV is a lot easier than that first year anniversary. Many of the friends I mentioned in the story have become deeper friends  and, as I see it, will be life-long friends.

I started a new job last April and it’s been a true blessing. It’s very close to home, so I don’t need to worry about the overcrowded Japan trains. The staff and kids I work with are great. Having a job helps my mental health so much. When I was not working, I found I had too much time to think. My thought process would lead to darker areas of my life. It would be easy for me to get very down and become withdrawn.

When life gets you down . .

Becoming down still happens.  I think being down for a couple of days can be just a case of the blues. However, when I get really withdrawn and find myself sleeping a lot I may be dealing with something more.

On twitter a while back with two good friends, (whom I have mentioned before in the stories I wrote here) it seemed to me all three of us were a bit down. We shared how being in such a place made the good days seem a whole lot better. And it wouldn't take much to make us feel better. We wouldn't need a trip to Disneyland; maybe someone just sharing a kind word with us would work.

For me I just need to pause and say, "Snap out of it” to myself.  I need to make a decision to cheer up and move on. It helps for me to look at what I have in my life and not what I don't. To be grateful for the things and people in my life. Not about those who have hurt me or friendships lost.

"Life is a gift. Life is short. Now let's live this short gift of life we have been blessed with!"

Before I was diagnosed . . 

I'm going to change gears here and share how HIV was a part of my life before I knew about my own diagnosis. I did touch on it in Part One of my story, but I'd like to share a bit more about it.

About eight years ago I went to the States from Japan to attend my grandmother’s funeral. She had lived to be over a 100 and had a wonderful life.

It was a sudden trip so not many people knew I was in town. One of my childhood friends was having some health issues  and I really wanted to take the time to see her. She was living with her mother who was helping her and taking care of her very active two-year old son. I was taken aback by how my friend did not look like herself. She was someone I considered to be one of the strongest women I knew. She used to be a star basketball player in High School, black diamond skier, mountain biker, and she even beat up a guy in a bar while defending her friend. She was tuff as nails.

However this young twenty something woman had transformed into a frail seventy year old looking women.  I  had never seen her so thin. Her mother looked at me with such a lost expression of not knowing what to do about her daughter.

We talked for a bit and I was soon on the phone with a friend with a medical back ground. After sharing with her all I was seeing, she was in the car and on her way over.

After her arrival she put us all in motion to get our friend to the ER. On the way she suggested to my friend to get tested for HIV. I thought it was a bit of a stretch, but ruling out all possibilities was a good idea.

She was put into ICU that night and remained there for three days. She had severe pneumonia and could hardly breathe when we had taken her in.

The test came back and she was diagnosed with AIDS.  She had breast-fed her child for over a year and we feared the worse for him.  They had him tested and this cute, active little two-year old was diagnosed with HIV also.  It was so much to take in. At times I just wanted to shut my mind off. I did not know a lot about HIV and AIDS. I wasn't sure if this meant they were dying or what.

To jump ahead to today they are both doing great. That little boy is almost ten years old now, is involved in Cub Scouts, swimming, soccer, baseball, football, skiing and the list goes on.  His mother is doing well too. She was super supportive of me when I found out about my own HIV status.

She also got her son involved in a summer camp for kids living with HIV. Most of the kids are unaware of their illness and she says nothing is really spoken about it at the camp. It's just a place for kids to come together and have lots of fun. She told me it was great that there was such a camp for her son. However she said it was sad to see how many kids were there.  All living with HIV. They also provide lots of support for the parents. And for my friend she has learned a bit more about being an HIV-positive family from this wonderful program.

I asked her about when she would share with her son about his own HIV status?

Her reply was very simple. "I will  know that day when it comes." She said he does know there is something about his body and blood that needs to be checked by doctors. To take his medicine. Always to wash his hands and be careful of germs.

Talking ‘bout my generation . .

I think my generation can still be a bit traumatized by the words HIV or AIDS. Some of us can still be haunted by the memory of losing a loved one to this disease. Hearing from a doctor "You have HIV." was a death sentence. 

 However today we have a new generation that is not that phased by the word “HIV”. This can be positive in producing a more accepting and less judgmental community. But it can also lead to people getting complacent in preventing the further spread of the disease.

The threat of HIV is as real today as it has always been. Yes, there is great care and treatment available to many and those of us living with HIV can live a long and healthy life. But having a lifetime of taking meds and dealing with concerns about sexing it up with new or old partners is not fun.

We must still be vigilant. It is so easy to get a bit too relaxed about it, as I’m finding out. HIV used to be the subject of every other thought in my head. Now there are days I forget I even have it. “This is progress" so my counsellor says. I do still need to be mindful of my condition – but not too much. The down days I talked about earlier tend to result from my over thinking HIV and what it has done to my life.

It is important for me to see what I have now. Life could be so much worse.

Well this was a bit of a ramble on my part, jumping from topic to topic . . ..

I wish all who read this well. You are in my thoughts and prayers.  Please keep us and our families affected by HIV in your thoughts and prayers. Especially the poz kids in summer camps this summer. Also a big high five and hug to the people at PositiveLite.com who make this site possible.

I hope to drop by again soon with another ramble-ramble story, LOL. Peace!