Today I want to tell you about a friend and colleauge who died on November 27, 2010. I found out yesterday that he was gone and I'm pretty much still in shock, thinking about him and wondering what we all wonder - why?
I met Randy several years ago in the context of our work. He and I have both been working in the HIV world for many years - me full- and part-time for pretty much the last 20 plus years of my career. Randy, however, had a different stake in his work...he was always working to make life better for people living with HIV because he was a person living with it.
He had passion for this work - and he was tireless in his efforts to deal with the stigma, the medical issues, governmental inaction, and other barriers in order to make change, to make things better for every infected person. Long hours on the San Francisco HIV Health Council, founding the Coalition for National AIDS Strategy and so many other areas of important work - action and energy, even when he was physically and mentally drained. Randy was smart - intellectually and politically. He could get things done and he really cared.
We shared several areas in which our lives intersected. Randy and Lee (his husband) have a beagle, Darwin. Jim and I love our beagles - as you know. I met Darwin a time or two and was most impressed with his manners, which our beagles are seriously lacking. Randy did tell stories of very stubborn behavior which is so "beagle" - that made me feel some better.
I should also mention that - as fits his energy and penchant to action - he and Lee organized an annual Beaglefest. Held on Angel Island, the event drew up to 200 beagles and owners! We weren't ever able to attend but loved the idea and wished we could have taken Jazmin, Ranger and Scout too!
A couple of years ago I worked at the Open Door Community Health Center in Crescent City. My job was to be a case manager for infectious diseases - which meant working with people living with HIV and those infected with Hepatitis C. Coincidentally, Randy told me he'd been diagnosed with Hepatitis C - and, as with most folks, his diagnosis came years after the original infection, which had been silently damaging his liver over many, many years. He was surprised at the diagnosis, but determined to go through treatment. A brave man, I thought. Hep C treatment (pills everyday and an injection of interferon weekly) is nasty hard. It is chemotherapy, though not very many people call it that. Side effects can be awful - nausea, weakness, fever, extreme fatigue and more. In combination with HIV, treatment is tricky and even more difficult.
After some time, Randy decided it just wasn't worth it - the side effects were too terrible. I'm sure his decision was made with full knowledge of the potential future impacts on his health - he was an avid Internet (and other sources) information gatherer. But Randy was so focused on living life to the fullest that I'm sure it was just too difficult to give up his days to the treatment regime.
Then another and more awful coincidence: I was diagnosed with breast cancer and Randy was diagnosed with anal cancer. Over last summer, we became "cancer buddies." Although our diagnoses and treatments were pretty different, chemo and radiation were shared experiences. I was writing a blog and he wrote a blog. We emailed and talked a few times on the phone. We shared doctor and medical system stories - and talked about life with cancer.
And now, just a few months after his final diagnosis, Randy is gone. I don't know what the final events were - I hope that whatever happened, he was in no pain and that he knew Lee and their love until his last breath. I am so sorry and so angry that Randy is dead. Such a smart, dedicated, loving man should not be lost to our world.
I'm happy to say that all is well in my treatment world. And, Jim is here at Joy's this weekend - a very good thing!