David Ross Patient – “I’m talking about realistic positive.”
After I was diagnosed with HIV in 1983, I took a drive out of Las Vegas to Mt. Charleston, which is about 17 miles outside town, to find a nice cliff to hurl myself off.
I step up to the ledge crying with a Shirley Bassey song in my head. I’m about to jump, and I hear a voice inside telling me, “David, you don’t need to die.”
“Get a little closer to the edge,” the voice tells me. I’m right on the edge this time and I’m literally about to jump when I hear the voice shouting, “David, you do not need to die!”
I sat down and started sobbing a snotty mess. I realized either I’d done way too much acid in my day, or it was an intervention from a divine being, or I was having a psychotic break.
I chose to go with the divine being, and asked myself, “What is it that I need to know about my body?”
I decided there must be something I can do. I’m not powerless in this situation. What can I do?
It dawned on me to model long-term cancer survivors. I started doing intensive research into what they did to survive.
I looked at things like diet. I looked at attitude. I did the whole Louise Hay song and dance. I pretty much tried everything and every experimental program. We went over to Israel to do the egg albumen process. We went down to South America. We literally traveled the world, trying to find a so-called “cure” or at least a treatment for this disease.
It was the most empowering experience realizing that there were people who, despite being given a stage-four terminal cancer diagnosis, were able to reverse the symptoms simply by what they put into their bodies and into their mental attitude. I’m talking about realistic positive. “Okay, I’ve got this thing. There’s a possibility that it could kill me, and if it does, let me plan accordingly for that. There’s also a possibility that I could live. Let me plan on that as well.” It was a matter of doing both.
After the suicide attempt, I decided to fulfill my dream of owning a home. I was 22 years old. I literally went out and bought a home with a 20 year mortgage. That was a symbolic way of seeing myself alive, having paid off that mortgage in 20 years.
What I did was I simply studied food. I studied nutrition. What does my body need in order to do its job properly? How can I support it as best as possible? That’s basically what I did. That’s how I got my CD4 counts up, because there was no medication.
In those days, all we were on was Bactrim as a prophylactic, and the PCP. That was it. There was nothing else available. I was on the original AZT clinical trials. I started at Duke University and then moved down to the University of Miami with Doctor Fischel. After about six months I noticed it was destroying my body.
There were about 1,800 of us on the program, and I was one of two people that decided to opt off the program voluntarily. My doctor told me I was going to die and that all these horrible things were going to happen.
You know what? My health started to improve. I got better and better. I no longer needed a cane to walk around.
I realized there was a lot to be said for the role of nutrition and also the mental side of being a positive, realistic individual.
Make sure you put good stuff in your body and also make sure you have got a really good attitude all the time. Try and find the humor in the situation. There’s always a funny side to something. It doesn’t matter how bad it is, there’s always a funny side.
Currently, my CD4 count is up at 450-500, but that’s also because I’ve been on large amounts of cortisone, which has suppressed my immune system. About five years ago, I developed psoriasis and eczema. They couldn’t get it under control, so they just kept jacking up my cortisone and prednisone intake to the point where I was taking 96 milligrams a day for a period of up to about four years. Then I started to notice my bones ache, my joints were starting to ache too. I couldn’t walk properly. Obviously it was the long-term side effects of the cortisone and prednisone.
I was introduced to yoga by a wacky friend of mine from Oregon. She was over here doing work with a weeding co-operative in one of the rural communities and we had a chance meeting through an orphanage. We became very good friends. As a result, she built a home on our farm. We have a place out in the bush in the middle of the lion country for want of a better word. She built a home here. As the course of our friendship grew, she was the yoga master, having practiced yoga for about 40 years. Her name is Judy Miller.
Judy said to me, “Well, you really should try this.” I always thought yoga was more of a spiritual practice than a physical thing. I was actually trying to get her towards it and she said to me, “Let’s do this. Let’s try it.” Within probably a week I was completely hooked. I just loved how it made my body feel. I loved taking the time to concentrate. I could put on my favorite pieces of music and move to it. Yoga became my love affair.
Then I decided, “well, I travel the world. Let me do yoga wherever I can do yoga – in the most unusual places of the world – and that’s exactly what I did.”
Everywhere I went, I taught people yoga. Since I dealt with a lot of very fundamental Christian people with deep religious values or in Muslim communities and places like that, I couldn’t call it yoga. I called it ‘lymph drainage exercise’ and people latched on to it, because it is. I say to people when I’m doing my yoga, I’m praying to God. This is the time I choose to communicate with God. It’s a time I chose to communicate with my inner self, work through my issues. It’s a spiritual practice without being a religious practice.
For me it’s about the discipline. Being in my body. I spend so much time in my head, that I forget that I have a body as well. I practiced yoga for an hour and a half to two hours every day for almost 12 years before I had to give it up to osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Yoga put me in touch with my body. It put me in touch with my spirit. I miss it something terrible. I wish there was stuff I could do. Unfortunately I’m not in the position to do it now, but my intention is when I come out the other side of this bloody mess that I’m going to start practicing my yoga again, no matter how limited my body is.
To be continued…
2nd part of the David Patient interview series with Mark Kalina M.D., Dawn Morningstar, & Hung Tran.
Photo credit: Judy Miller & David Patient.