Doctor Tells Me I Have HIV

Some of you are expecting a joke here.  Like HIV stands for “Hilarious Internet Vegetarian” or something stupid like that.  No, this time there’s no joke.  Last week at a Kaiser in West Covina, I was told that I have HIV.

It’s not easy for me to put this into words, and it all happened so fast.  Just over a week ago, things were going better than ever.  I was finally back home after weeks on the road, had just won a $1,000 comedy competition, and was feeling, physically, in the best shape of my life.  I even thought to myself, “Man, this is like the best my life has ever been. I’m… Happy.”   My advice to you all is never have this thought.  Or else you’ll soon find out you have HIV.

I’m at the gym on a pleasant Sunday, when I feel some eerie chills.  I decide not to push it and return home, noticing a sore throat brewing.  So I think, “Oh, I must have the flu.”  My advice to you is to never think this thought.  Unless you want to have AIDS.

I take it easy that night, and the next day I wake up to find some strange bumps on my fingers.  I think, “Weird, I must have been bitten by a mosquito.”  If you ever think this, you’re a dead man.

Over a few hours the bumps spread, covering my hands, and soon I notice some around my mouth.  My girlfriend says, “I think you should go to the doctor.”  Yikes!  My least favorite word.  (Doctor. Not girlfriend. Love you!)  If you read my blogs last year (you probably did not because I suck and nobody cares about me) you’ll know I don’t trust doctors, because they prescribe you acne medication that makes all of your hair fall out and then they blame you for it, as if you need that when you’re already all stressed out from doing 1,000 days of comedy.   So I tell my girlfriend “I think I’ll be okay,” and then she notices, “Sammy it’s on your feet now.  And… Oh god, no… Your butt.”   My butt?? I grab the phone, sobbing, screaming to Kaiser: “PLEASE HELP!”

She drives me to West Covina Kaiser, where I wait two hours while they try to connect with the Northern California database to get my ID.  Advice to Kaiser patients: if you are a NorCal member, don’t get sick in SoCal.  It’s not worth it; you will die in the time it takes for them to search your name.  It’s like SoCal Kaiser still has beef with NorCal Kaiser over the word “hella.”  So, hella hours later, the rash now covering my body, the nurse takes me to the doctor’s room, while asking advice for her niece trying to get into stand up comedy.  I give her the good ol’ “hit the open mics and work hard!” while she stares at my mouth covered in lesions and decides to tell her niece to go into improv.

The doctor enters, takes a look all around my body and gasps like something has gone horribly wrong.  I ask as she stands behind me, “Is it a rash?”

She hesitates. “No… I think it’s syphilis… And HIV.”

I’m thinking, “Wait, did you say syphilis???”

She hurries out, “I’m going to get a second opinion.”

“Thank you God!”   I’m going to pretend like she was spelling out ‘hives’ and got distracted midway through.

She leaves and another doctor enters, examines me and gasps, like she chose the wrong door in a haunted house.  She leaves and the first doctor slips back in.  “So, we both talked, and agreed… It’s syphilis and HIV.”   WHAT??  Case closed?   No blood test?  No goodbye to my family, no chance for a “Doctor Tells Me I Have HIV” blog post?

“Do you have sex with women or men?  Or both?”

I don’t get it, why is she changing the subject now?  I’m not interested in her.  Well, I’m going to die anyway, and I’ve never been with a doctor: “Women.”

“When was the last time you got tested?”

I sigh, embarrassed.  “A few weeks ago, but I don’t get my results until tomorrow.  It’s one of the free clinics where you have to call in.”

She’s unimpressed. “Have you been getting sick a lot recently?”

I sigh again.  Ugh.  “Yes, five times this year already.”

She shivers like we are on CSI. “Oh my.  I’m sorry, Sammy.  I’m really sad to see this.  This must be HIV.  I’m going to get one more doctor to confirm.”  She leaves and I sit in the room for what seems like a day, trying to figure out who gave me HIV.  Why I haven’t noticed anyone dying on Facebook.  Wondering how I’m going to tell my girlfriend.  Unless she gave it to me, in which case she may have already died in the waiting room!

A new doctor comes in, and I’m ready for him to finish me off and send me home with full-blown AIDS.  He takes a look and says, “I don’t think this is syphilis.”  Whew! So it’s just HIV! What a relief.

“This looks like hand, foot and mouth disease.”  What the?  I’ve never heard of that, it sounds horrible.   If I didn’t know anything about diseases and someone offered me HIV or hand-foot-and-mouth disease, I’m choosing HIV in a heartbeat.   He continues,  “A lot of toddlers get HFMD, but adults with compromised immune systems can as well.  I’m going to give you a blood test for HIV.”  Argh, never late.   Bless Kaiser, their motto is “Thrive”, and apparently you can’t spell ‘thrive’ without H-I-V.

I limp to the lab, as my feet have graduated from pimples to blisters (that reminds me: congratulations to you recent grads! This is what real life is like). They draw a bottle of blood from my arm, as if I need to lose any more t-cells. I walk out to tell my girlfriend their HIV verdict, and she snaps “Who the fuck have you been cheating on me with!?”  Guess it’s not her.

I do my show as normal that night, knowing it could be one of my last, so I really push my mailing list sign-ups. I stay up at night, trying to think of what I did earlier in life to deserve this, and the only thing I could think of was: comedy.  The next day I call in for my STD test results from a few weeks before. The lady answers, “So you were tested for gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, and HIV.  Here are your results.  Gonorrhea… Negative.”

Whew.  Wait, does this mean the other 3 are positive??

“Herpes… … … Negative.”

Why is she pausing for so long between results?   Is she just a slow reader?  Probably not the best for this job.

“Syphilis…*sigh*… Negative.”

Ugh, just tell me already!  I’m so panicked about HIV I feel like the 1980’s over here!!

“HIV… … … ………………..”

Yes?  Hello? Are you asleep? Did you die of AIDS? TELL ME!!

“… Negative.  Thank you for calling, goodbye.”

I drop the phone and throw my fists in the air like I just beat a life-long battle with AIDS (By the way, if you’re upset by the misleading title of this blog, take it in literally and then realize that it’s a little f*cked up you’re disappointed I don’t have HIV.  You’re angry that for three minutes you thought I had HIV?  I thought I had it for 24 hours!)  I’ll tell you, I’ve never been happier to find out that I have hand, foot and mouth disease.   Having found out that I wasn’t cheating, my girlfriend stayed with me and took care of me all week.   I was itching, burning, oozing puss from sores all over my body, but I loved every minute of it, sharing my progress in gross Instagram pics.  I learned that the best way to cope with HFMD, or any disease, is to first think it’s HIV.   Kaiser will help you with that.

I want to make it clear that I have no idea what it’s like to really have HIV, and I don’t think HIV is a joke at all.  If you take anything from my story (other than that doctors are evil aliens sent from another planet to destroy us and you must remain vigilant), it should be this: stay strong!  We all get sick, and it sucks.  HFMD was the worst virus I’ve ever caught, and I still don’t know how I caught it, but I know I survived it.  This whole experience made me realize how much more powerful I am than a virus.  It helped me remember that without my body, a virus doesn’t even have a place to live.  It’s like my child, it should be thanking me for feeding it and staying up with it late at night.  And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let my child scare me from living my life in my own home or going out drinking with the boys to forget it exists.  No way.   Viruses need hosts.  And I’m a national feature.

Day 921: Doctors: do they really care?

I come from a family of doctors. Both of my grandfathers were surgeons, and I have 5 aunts and uncles in the medical field. My family was expecting me to be a doctor, but I quickly decided to avoid that path after watching one episode of Scrubs.

There’s a number of problems with our medical system, and most of them I don’t even know about. We first must question, why do people become doctors? Is it because they really want to help people or do they want the good money, or the title MD. Surely there’s a few who do it for the good cause, in which case we must question, are they really helping people? Or are they just going through the motions of the system. Doctors (in the western world), learn all about the components of our body, the things that happen with it, and the things they can prescribe to help. That’s what doctors use, knowledge of the body, and knowledge of and ability to prescribe medicines. If we all had that knowledge and ability to prescribe we wouldn’t need doctors. But of course, that knowledge takes years and years to build. That said, the process the doctors use is very logical, very syntactical. Do the symptoms fit into a certain category? What possibilities can we eliminate, to deduce what the exact ailment is. Once we are certain (to a degree) of what the ailment is, what are the options to prescribe. We know that medicine X is used to cure disease Y, so if Y, then X. Simple as that.

Problem is, everyone is different, and causes of disease aren’t always crystal clear. Thus, treatments will not affect all patients the same. Different patients can have different side effects, and even if some of the bad side effects are rare, they still occur. This is just comes with the territory of the current medical system. Someone is bound to suffer from side effects here and there.

When I was 16 I suffered from acne and the doctor prescribed tetracycline, an antibiotic. It worked like a charm, cleared up my acne and I was off it in months. 10 years later at 26 I break out bad again, and get tetracycline, again works like a charm, but in the middle of my term, the pharmacy informs me that tetra is no longer available and they have to give me its brother drug, doxycyline. I’m skeptical but I take it and it works, but it just doesn’t feel as clean. I get nausea and it just feels like something is different. 500 days of comedy later I decide to get off of it. I know, that’s a long time to be on an antibiotic.

After a few months of being off of it, I start to break out again. I try to get tetracycline from Canada, but it comes and looks super sketchy, and is post marked from India, so after taking 1 and feeling weird I quit. I go to my doctor and ask if there’s an alternative to doxy. He says he can give me the sister drug minocycline. Sounds good, anything else I should know about it or is it the same? He said it’s pretty much the same thing.

After about a week on minocycline I start to feel really depressed. But I thought it was just because of my life situation. I have a mild anxiety attack, and start loathing comedy, moreso than ever before. A few more weeks in I notice my hair is starting to fall out at an abnormally high rate. I think, oh no, the stress of comedy is making me lose my hair. I start getting nauseous more often too, again thinking that it’s comedy. 7 weeks into minocycline, all of these symptoms continue to heighten and I start to think that I’m dying. I take a trip to the Bay where a few people tell me I look like sh*t, and then I get really scared. What’s going on with me? Why are the rings under my eyes extra dark and deep? Why is my skin a weird brown with splotches. Why am I losing hundreds of hairs a day, and my scalp tingles, and feels chemical-ly? I finally wonder, hmm, maybe it’s the minocycline. I google ‘minocylcine hair loss rings under eyes’ and BOOM, entry after entry comes up. Even nausea and anxiety and depression! Wow, glad I figured that out. The doctor didn’t seem to mention it. I get off the mino instantly. But the effects still persist. It takes months for the hair cycle to be complete, and week after week I’m losing more hair. I’m doing my best to not stress out, eat well, and relax and get sleep, but the hair just keeps falling. Over a month after stopping mino, I’ve lost about 25% of my hair. Having thick hair originally, no one has seemed to notice so far. But if it continues, I will be bald by September, right when the 1000 days hit. People will be like wow, that’s what 1000 days of comedy does to you. But if you look at a picture of me from Day 1 to Day 850 I virtually have the same hair, and now because of some antibiotic…

My thought processes go back and forth like this, and looking up people’s horror stories on the internet doesn’t help. ‘Minocycline ruined my hair forever!’ say some people. I go to my doctor and say, what the hell? He says, this tends to happen, but it is rare, and then asks me if I want to go back on doxy. I say no! I ask for a referral to a dermatologist. I see the dermatologist, who I also ask if my hair will grow back, and she says its all in my head, my hair looks normal, and insists that I go back on doxy. NO! Don’t you get it? I don’t want your stupid antibiotics! I took one and it may have potentially altered my chances at an acting career forever, don’t you understand? I perform every night and now I don’t even want to go out of the house anymore, because you guys prescribe stuff that makes people’s hair fall out! She says she doubts its the drug and asked me if I was going through stress. Is 850 the magic number where your hair starts to fall out from comedy? I don’t think so, it’s the mino. Meanwhile the acne is back, and now its antibiotic resistant.

So, my hair is falling out, I have mutant acne, and I’m in my home stretch of the 1000 days when people want to interview me, have me on shows, and give me press, but I don’t even want to leave the house Why is it happening this way?

Meanwhile what is my doctor doing? Thinking of me and the misery I’m going through from a drug he offered me? No. He’s off offering more drugs to more people. Or at home with his wife. I don’t think he is a bad person or has bad intentions, in fact I think he really thought he was trying to help me. So who’s to blame? Me for taking drugs in the first place, and continuing to seek them from my doctor? The pharmaceutical companies for making sh*t that makes people physically deteriorate? Obama? Who? WHO?!!