Tuesday, 27 September 2022

From 50 Cent to 1 Pound on the BBC

Tuning in to BBC

Let’s just take a break from this tummy upset that has overstayed its welcome and seek a sense of mirth that I apparently missed in the news until it appeared on one of those American night talk shows.

Perfection Plastic Surgery and MedSpa is the business of Angela Kogan who amongst other things does help put the long in schlong quite perfectly, or so it seems. For that, she has gained some notoriety and a lawsuit, because she has in her promotional material suggested 50 Cent (Now to be known as 1 Pound in the light of the crash of the Pound Sterling), was a client. [Independent: 50 Cent suing Miami doctor for allegedly suggesting rapper had penis enlargement surgery]

There is a picture of them together somewhere and the inference from 50 Cent is that she has suggested that he tuned in to the BBC. I cannot say how many channels can be tuned into, but this public display of phallic endowment and the disputations that follow can quite easily lead respectable blogs like mine into the abyss of tawdry lewdness.

Please, don’t

Now, if this does make it to court, I doubt the core aspects of discovery would be limited to proving whether 50 Cent was a client, for anyone with serious legal chops would be expected to ascertain if indeed there has been an enhancement whether cosmetic or radical and who might in his history have tuned the knobs on his television to watch more than a live performance on the BBC.

I adjure anyone who reads and listens, please, go to court on anything and everything, but never on the premise of submitting your manhood as evidence, it never has a happy ending, regardless of what you are packing. At best, frighten the living daylights out of her and find a settlement, for you will never be able to sustain an objection when the jury is curious.

If I recall, this blog did once find a doctor offering these same services, it is heartening to know that both male and female specialists are in the game to ensure that the result is fit for purpose, whatever, that might be.

Blog - Hello Dr Dick, my friends need a ... (2015)

Monday, 26 September 2022

I remember this tummy ache - II

I hate this feeling

As I thought about writing this blog, I felt I had written about the same thing before, only that I did not realise, that was almost 15 years ago. Then, when I wrote about it simply brings to memory the many episodes of this same discomfort I experienced in early childhood.

Blog - I remember this tummy ache (2007)

I have had a few occurrences of it recently, my remedy is sometimes lying face down with a soft pillow tucked under my abdomen for some relief and if that does not work and I do not feel the need to evacuate, I just make cups of milky sweet tea to drink, eventually, it subsides.

It’s that tummy again

These rotten tummy aches that from childhood I have failed to get any diagnosis for apart from the proverbial pat on the head with the assurance that it would soon go, is something I have somewhat learnt to live with whenever it happens.

Today, it started from dawn, in the waking hours; a mild and radiating discomfort that I felt would get worse, and it did. The ache does not incapacitate, but it tires and wears you out. Three cups of tea later, I was beginning to feel better though occasionally, that pain intensified that I bent over double and groaned out loud.

By midday, it had gone but I felt sore from the discomfort which does not seem to have cleared up into the evening. Maybe, I should consider getting a second opinion about it; a thought has crossed my mind. Any of them would indicate a continuous or chronic condition, but something may not even happen for months or years after a few hours, you do wonder.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

I was a hostage to pain

Pain was a deafening cacophony

My remembrance of this day thirteen years ago seems to be a constant rewrite of an event I have written about almost every year on the 22nd of September because it was when I was admitted to the hospital for the treatment of AIDS presenting as fungating tumours prominently on the sole of my left foot and starting to manifest on my right sole.

The fungating tumours were Kaposi’s sarcoma, an aggressive skin cancer that without treatment could quite easily kill you off, if not for its metastasis, the pain can reach such unbearably significant levels, you might as well give up.

At the time I was admitted that Tuesday morning, the only way to alleviate the pain I was suffering was to keep my foot up, for if at any time, my foot went below my waistline when not on the hospital bed, the surge of pain was such that I winced, sometimes bellowed, and definitely cried. The strong painkillers I was on did not seem to arrest any of the pain.

Sometimes, pain does not respond

I was put on a morphine patch, but within two days, it was interfering with my digestive system, I could not keep my food down. Eventually, oxycontin seemed to work, though the nurse thought I was demanding more dosage than was recommended. Unfortunately, there is no way of measuring pain apart from what the patient tells you of how they feel. Much as I seemed to have a rather high pain threshold, considering how I have suffered before admission, I was in quite excruciating pain.

The admission brought me under the best medical supervision you could find for the treatment of HIV/AIDS in the Netherlands. The consultant spent considerable time with me, explaining what they understood of my condition and how it could be treated on the proviso that I could tolerate the treatment and consequently pull through. He also estimated with the progression of the disease, if I did not respond to treatment, I probably had 5 weeks to live.

Laughter for pain to go

Pain itself can drive you delirious, for when I left the hospital, I was on 4 different types of painkillers, each addressing a different centre of pain, the more critical one was the pain of cancer for which I was prescribed Fentanyl, and it was to deal with the pain, but I was still in pain. When I told my consultant, after surmising that it should have been sufficient, he doubled the dosage and that worked.

Yet, there were other lessons I had to learn, the Fentanyl patch was to be applied to the skin and I had it on my chest, the smooth part of my breast, but I did not know it could fall off during the 7-day application, and it did one Sunday as I returned from church. The pain came like a torrent on a vengeance, I had only one immediate solution whilst I waited for the new patch to kick in. I laughed deliriously, my ex-partner staying with me and caring for me, thought I had lost it.

The laughter was releasing endorphins and that was reducing the pain, not totally, but sufficiently. When my nurse came the next day, she said, I could get a skin patch with adhesive to keep the Fentanyl patch in place. How I was not told that before, I cannot tell.

Getting off the pain medication

By January, the cancer lesions had totally disappeared and in its place was pinkish fresh and tender skin once the necrotise skin had been cut away. It was not until April that the pain had totally gone, but I had to wean myself off the patch by halving it and keeping it on for twice the recommended dosage over another 3 months before I was totally free of painkillers.

I can only write of my own experience of pain; it was the only thing that occupied my consciousness for most of the first week in the hospital. Once I began to take my mind off it, I could also begin to see beyond my plight, I learnt a lot about understanding what facing death was and how much the body seems to endure, for strength and resilience do come from somewhere and now that you might have trained up for it.

I blogged through the time I was in the hospital, and the first blog I wrote was In hospital to kill the pain, and kill we eventually did, but it did not come easily, it told radical treatments and close to 6 months. That I am writing that story in another guise 13 years on is a testament to the human story. Many moments of pain come in to upset us, but with the passage of time, they can become just a memory and one for which one can be exceedingly grateful for coming through.

References

Blog - Reflecting on 20 years after an HIV-positive diagnosis (2022)

Blog - One Tuesday morning in September (September 2021)

Blog - A decade from AIDS to life and living (September 2019)

Blog - Hospital: Testimonies and phlebotomies (September 2016)

Blog - A certain death from cancer loomed large (September 2015)

Blog - In hospital a year on (September 2010)

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Reflecting on 20 years after an HIV-positive diagnosis

 “In a perfect world, the positive would be open and the negative would be open-minded.” From a Grindr profile.

Preamble

Do not be afraid to take the test

Face up to the new reality

Avail yourself of all the help available

Do not be afraid to ask questions and seek clarification

If the medicine is not working for you, say so

It is always your body first before it is their guinea pig

It is your life, do not be ashamed of living it

Do not only survive but strive to thrive

Tell a story, your own amazing story

The day I knew

I write this today, not as a celebration, yet I am living witness to and a beneficiary of such amazing human ingenuity. Without certain advances in medicine and pharmacology, there would be nothing to celebrate.

Twenty years ago, on a cold Friday morning, I visited my local Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic in Amsterdam, to receive confirmation that the blood test I had taken almost two weeks before had indeed tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and with that, alone to bear the news of my new circumstances, the 20th of September 2002 became a date to remember.

The booklet I was given after my HIV diagnosis on 20/09/2002.

I cannot say for how long I had been infected with HIV, I had gone for a regular check-up since I was in an at-risk category and for the first time, I decided to take the HIV test, then resolved to receive and accept the result. For at other times including in the UK when I had gone for other sexual health screenings, I had either declined an HIV test or asked not to be informed of the result either way.

Medicine leads the situation

The said date comes with a medical result rather than an assumption or some premonition of my status, the science and the medicine with the essential expertise must always lead the determination and the management of any infection or disease.

Whatever the symptoms might be, until medical intervention has had its input, you do not have a diagnosis, it worries me that even as recent as 6 months ago, someone approached me to ask if his symptoms were indicative of being HIV positive just because I was also HIV positive. 

I am not a doctor, there is no way I could confirm or give any reassurances, he had to go for the test and be ready to attend to the reality of the result and the further consequences of having that possibly life-changing information.

Those that went before

How I became HIV positive is beside the point, I subscribe to the AIDS Memorial Instagram page and picture after picture speaks of the lives of people touched and lost to HIV/AIDS, amazing, talented, beautiful, extraordinary people cut down in their youth, mostly at a time when there was nothing medicine could do for them.

We celebrate them with purpose and fondness, for What Is Remembered Lives, they were people like me and literally in the same age group, I met many who passed on in the 1990s. Their experiences and lessons learnt contributed to the body of knowledge that has defined what HIV medicine has become.

Then I consider the reasons why I allowed HIV to ravage my body for 7 years before I did anything about it.

Fear

Initially, I was afraid of the truth, for if I had taken the test earlier and the result was positive, what benefits and advantages in society would I lose and how would that knowledge impact many aspects of my life? That fear is real, and it comes from an understanding of how society easily ostracises things they do not understand. Strangely, I was not afraid of dying.

Blog - In Telling: Beware of pill rumours (2022)

Stigma

When I learnt that I was HIV positive, I had to be careful with who I shared the news. The first person I told was my pastor when I returned home. When I told a friend which whom I had sexual relations going back a few years, what I got was constant abuse and vituperation, it was vicious and unrelenting, I could not tell if it was he could no longer meet me as he used to because he never once did reveal to me if he had contracted HIV along with the likelihood that I might have contracted it from him. We move.

Knowledge of what HIV was then and even now is still poor, and this is also in the LGBTQ+ community, there are many advances in medicine and drug formulary that manages this virus, but you still hear or see people use clean and by inference, you are dirty if you are HIV positive.

Worse still were people ready to use that knowledge to blackmail or threaten with exposure and harass with the law, and I have seen my share of that.

Blog - Dealing with sexuality and HIV stigma (2017)

Blog - Experience is not enough to teach you to understand things (2020)

Blog - Normalising HIV Challenge against stigma (2020)

Denial

I suppose this was my greatest undoing for when I learnt that I was HIV+, I did nothing about it, the booklet I was given along with phone numbers of doctors to contact went onto my bookshelf as I quietly contemplated what my future might be.

When people told their stories of what drugs they used and the attendant side effects, the thought that I would need to regiment my life to such strictures, privations, and suffering, did not appeal to me, I desired a more leisurely life and sought the community of similarly affected people who did not discuss it, but indulged themselves.

Blog - When I had the murderous cancer of denial (2020)

Reckoning

At the time of my diagnosis, you were not immediately put on any therapeutic treatment, certain indicators had to be met to qualify, however, by 2008, my health had begun to deteriorate so much that I seemed to ignore or just not notice what was happening. These changes were observed by those who saw me from time to time, usually from one holiday to another.

On my left sole, a patch appeared that looked like Athlete’s Foot and I treated it as such, but all fungal treatments did not alleviate the problem, it became sore and painful that I walked about with a tightly bandaged foot, still full of fear of what it might be and in denial of what it really was.

I tried everything but the medical route to address the matter to no avail, as the pain became unbearable, I made an emergency call to my doctor, as I could no longer wait for a regular appointment.

At the first sight of my foot, she immediately said, “This is serious, I need to refer you.” She dressed the fungating tumours as she made the appointment to see a specialist, the result of which was a hospital admission 6 days later with full-blown AIDS and my foot being consumed by Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Living

Once the seriousness of my situation was determined, I was admitted to the hospital on the 22nd of September 2009 and began antiretroviral (ARV) treatment on the 30th of September 2009. My consultant gave me a reality check. “We can treat this,” he said, “but it depends on how you tolerate the treatment, if you do, you’ll be fine, else, you probably have 5 weeks.”

I took my first course of chemotherapy on the 5th of October 2009 and 6 subsequent courses to the 8th of February 2010. During this course, the cancer lesions had completely healed by December and the HIV viral load was undetectable, my CD4 count which was at a nadir of 20 struggled to rise beyond 200 for years, now it is over double that.

I have taken a more studious and responsible approach to my medical situation since 2009, being quite aware of new treatments, and changes that might be beneficial and seeking the best outcomes for my wellbeing.

Beyond the medicals, I decided I would not live as if I was dying, for in whatever time I have left, I could live a fulfilling life. I have done a postgraduate course, travelled the world, fallen in love, and am planning a new chapter in life.

With reference to the booklet, I was given on the day of my diagnosis, on skimming through, the expected reactions after a diagnosis were denial, shame, anger, fear, sadness and depression, guilt, and confusion. I told the nurse who was crying at my plight, that this booklet is missing the most important message on such a life-changing event, the message of hope.

Before I put the booklet away, I wrote on it, HOPE, BELIEVE, LIVE and that is what I have done since then.

Gratitude

I am thankful for the grace of God that has sustained me, the love of my partner, Brian who in immeasurable ways has encouraged and buoyed me in difficult times much as we share the reward of happiness and companionship.

My best friend, Kola who never let me fall to the ground, the de Wolf family, my neighbours who were there to love and bear me up, John Coll, of blessed memory, and my ex-partners, Marc and Steven, still there with all consideration and friendship, old friends as Peter, Kayode, and Ola, new friends made who have brought new perspectives with the celebration of life, Bisi and Funmi.

My longsuffering parents, troopers and allies in ways beyond compare, my siblings all, prayerfully supplicating on my behalf, I suppose, there is a lot to celebrate about life itself. Yet, this story can never be fully told, at least not in a blog, it is just a sketch of what life has been.

References

Blog - A primer on cancer and chemotherapy (2009)

FOR AKIN - …on bravery, honesty and thriving. (2017)

Blog - How I battled HIV stigma (2021)

The Hospital blogs (September/October 2009)

In hospital to kill the pain

Golden red and painless

The looming abyss of a deep biopsy

Seeing hospital meals again

Getting off the pain train

Crutches on the drip

A relocation from the cacophony

Scuttling cancer with chemo

Nausea abates by suppository

A slumbering machine operator

Waiting for chemo

A life of cytostatic ostracism

I'm alive after my autopsy

One more night

Home - At last

Friday, 16 September 2022

Thought Picnic: We are at peak mourning

Alright, here we are

The British expression of the veneration for the dead is quite fascinating to watch, for in the 8 days since the passing of Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, the pomp, pageantry, ceremony, and performance that has greeting this period of mourning before her funeral has plumbed excesses rarely seen anywhere.

If the Queen were a Roman Catholic, she would be well on her way to beatification long before she has been interred. We are suffocated with coverage that could abandon common sense for sheer mass hysteria and uncontrolled genuflection.

Indeed, there is more grief for the immediate family of the Queen, and for the nation, is the realisation that a lady who has defined a major part of our national life is no longer with us. For her service and duty, we gather to pay our respects and honour her.

What I well see

Having great influences of another culture in my upbringing, a death at 96 is not considered sorrowful, rather a celebration of first a long life and then congratulations to their survivors for outliving their parents. I find myself at confluence and conflict as both my British and Nigerian influences wrestle with the spectacle that greets me.

At one time, I did think of travelling down to London for the laying-in-state, but after reviewing the rules and the prospect of being in interminably long queues for the prospect of a fleeting moment of bowing before a laden catafalque, I advised myself of the better participation in witnessing the civil and religious royal proclamations, along with signing the book of condolence at Manchester Cathedral.

For the living to be

I never had the occasion to meet the Queen, not that it was ever an ambition or desire, except for others who might if the situation presented itself would celebrate it. If perchance, one did meet with royalty, maybe there would be some interaction and conversation that in this case is absent from the dead, except if one were to indulge in necromancy.

My counsel informs that this performative exercise in public grief is hardly a front seat row and more an acquiescence of the establishment to gauge the popularity of the institutions that undergird it, as there is an enumerator somewhere seeking to use the numbers to convey a point.

To king I vow

All this does not make me any less a monarchist, I am quite comfortable with the unimaginative consistency of a hereditary constitutional monarchy that puts the excesses of political chicanery in check as much as it can without interfering with the system, than to radically change the system to a republic. What we need is a reform of our voting system to be more representative of the electorate and the less use of patronage to pack the House of Lords full of chums, plutocrats, and influence peddlers.

The gift of television gives a wider view and where opinion is grating, I can mute the volume.  As for the new royal household, it is a work in progress and all the preparations for this event are still left to some cack-handed courtiers who by trying to maintain intrigue and mystique almost always leave the royals caught rather flatfooted. Before I put pen to paper to reveal character flaws that were once rumoured of.

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Elizabeth II, The Queen

Change has come today

Many tributes shall be written about the woman born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary who became Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the other Commonwealth realms.

In a reign that spanned 7 decades and 7 months, many of us have known no other monarch, our anthem asked God to save the Queen, our coinage and postage stamps a side relief of her face through the times of her reign, our pound notes with her face beaming up at us, she represented constancy and stability that seemed would never end.

Records for the record

Her sense of duty continued to the very end even in her ever-increasing frailty, she did not flinch as other monarchs in continental Europe abdicated for their heirs in Spain, the Netherlands, and in Belgium. She represented an old-fashioned call to service and handling of responsibility that is rarely seen in leadership today.

It is with sadness that we mourn the passing of the longest-lived and longest reigning British monarch amongst other superlative records to list, the defining of the Second Elizabethan Age might well rival in consequence the First Elizabethan Age for how England changed and became a world power.

She becomes he

Maybe, there are times she should have intervened, but let history judge that, she lived above the fray of politics, asked 15 Prime Ministers to form a government and in her longevity gave perspective to the many who took office that their time was just a fraction in the consequential length of her reign.

Her death might well unite this divided nation in grief, but the machinations of her sometimes-calumnious governments has left the country in no greater shape than when she ascended the throne with the future looking quite bleak for citizenry and subjects, but things will turn, I believe.

As we usher in the reign of Charles III, we hope that it brings a new sense of hope and encouragement. The Queen has joined her ancestors and may she find eternal rest with the memory of her walk in life never fading.

Long Live the King. In an age where pronouns matter, she becomes he, her becomes his, and her becomes him, and the House of Windsor endures. May the reign of King Charles III and his Queen Consort, Camilla usher new prosperity in our nation. God Save the King.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Keith Shearer - The memories

Meeting at a pub

After Boris Johnson’s last address as Prime Minister in front of 10 Downing Street, I was clicking through a few things as you do online before I in the confluence of many thoughts decided to search for ‘Keith Shearer Architect’ on Google.

I went out with Keith in 1991; we met at The Prince Regent on Liverpool Road in Islington, one Sunday afternoon around Easter, I could not account for what brought him up there from South London where he lived. I was housesitting for a friend who had gone to Mexico on a street off Caledonian Road, so this pub was my local even without much event.

Until I met Keith there, I never struck up a conversation with anyone, I guess I was just seen as someone who came in, ordered a drink, and sat in a corner until the closing hours. Then Keith came to say hello, we struck up a conversation and he invited me over to his place.

A friendship becomes

Later that evening, he brought me back home where I was housesitting and after he left, I noticed that he had secreted a £20 note under a book on the table. This was when I was still looking for work and trying to stick to roles in computing rather than doing something else.

After that, we met up a few times, I was invited to a party with his friends and soon we became an item, and I moved in with him on Christchurch Road in Tulse Hill. Our domestic arrangements were easy, as he had a lodger who just could not be kicked out of the kitchen for the want of trying.

Keith was an architect with a firm in North London and he quite daringly in my view rode a bicycle to work when cycling on the main roads in London was not fashionable and quite desperately unsafe.

Tremendously talented

He was also a polyglot, he had such an ear for languages, I was just fascinated in not only his ability to speak languages but to write in Arabic, Cyrillic, and Japanese kanji. I have now read that he spoke Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Italian and Serbo-Croat. I believe he spoke many more languages and one afternoon he bought a Yoruba language book and started making sentences, he was that gifted.

When I eventually found a job, Keith helped me with all the formalities in getting references from Lagos and all the preparations I needed to start before I found my own accommodation, including the move to my new place. I guess from then we began to drift apart.

6 years later, I returned to live in London from Ipswich and basically had an apartment on the next road from where he lived. We met up a few times and after 2 years in London, I was back in Ipswich and then in the Netherlands for over a decade. We did not keep in touch.

The memories to remember

However, Keith brought me new experiences because I attended my first gay pride with him, learnt more about gay history from him, and my first encounter with someone living with AIDS was a friend of his who had returned from France to spend his last days, desperately trying to write his story for which he needed some computing support, which I provided.

In many ways, I was naïve, not too understanding of the dynamics of gay relationships and was left to my devices most of the time. When I returned to the UK, I did try to contact him again, but my Internet searches indicated he had moved out of London.

The unexpected discovery I made this morning was that Keith had passed on in May 2021 at the age of 65. That was quite a shock, he had suffered a heart attack and I would have said Keith was one of the fittest men around and definitely of his peers too. It is sad news, but I remember Keith for his sense of fun, his tremendous help that was needed for me to settle down in the UK, his desire to try new things and his easy speaking voice that concealed a bundle of talent and ability.

May his soul rest in peace. James Keith Shearer, 1955 – 2021.