Thursday, April 8, 2010

When Crypto Creeps

I have a couple of reasons why I hate January.

1. I hate January. It's the month of the year when I feel the lingering spirit of Christmas (though that doesn't say I'm a Catholic) lol

2. I hate January. It's the first month of the year and if I don't start it right, it will just ruin the rest of the year.

3. And lastly, I hate January for it makes me one year older.

Last December I started taking ARV and logically, the meds will take effect at the end of December or something.

Let me tell you some tips on how to manage some of the side effects of taking ARV, anti-TB and cotrimoxazole as prophylaxis.

1. Nausea and vomiting - you can take Plasil 30 minutes before meal. It is a small medicine you can buy over the counter. You can try sucking - yes, sucking popsicle sticks so you won't get dehydrated. I personally like the orange flavor. Eat frequent small meals. No Spicy. Don't drink a lot of water in the morning. Do not immediately lie down on your bed. It's better to sit on the sofa. Rest. But you can slightly rest you back on an elevated pillow. But if you are planning to travel, take Bonamine. Always carry mentholated and hard candy because it helps with the vomiting. It usually takes two to three weeks before your body adjusts to all the medication.

2. Headache - you can try Mefenamic acid. (It didn't work for my extreme headaches though - I'll tell you later why).

3. Itchy rash - first, call your doctor. You're might be allergic to your meds. Buy Caladryl. It is a pink lotion to be applied on hives. Wear loose pajama so you won't scratch your skin. You can also take antihistamine. I like Zyrtec. It doesn't make me sleepy and it is cheaper than Loratodine.

4. Difficulty sleeping - this one is tricky. My doctor didn't want to prescribe me anything that would make me sleepy. But there are those nights that I wanted to sleep, safe and sound, badly. And I remember taking Benadryl syrup. It is an antihistamine. And it makes me sleepy. So if I can't sleep well at night, I take one teaspoon and it initiates my sleepiness. The good thing is Benadryl tastes sweet.

5. Stomach pain - drink you medicines after a meal - a meal that isn't too oily.

6. Fever - call and inform your doctor.

I started taking Efavirenz last December 28. It took effects on me after two days. I felt dizzy. Really dizzy! D-I-Z-Z-Y!

I waited for two weeks monitoring the effects of the meds I'm taking. I am having a hard time sleeping. And I vomited a couple of times (especially in the morning) so I went back to Dra. D to have a check up on January 13. I told her that I can't take the headache. It was ripping my head. The mefenamic acid didn't work so she gave mre Naproxen. I also started feeling neck pain. Turning my head just a little became a very painful task to do.I also had a hard time walking/balancing because the tip of my toes became numb. I'm telling you It wasn't easy - plus the headache and nausea I've been experiencing those last few weeks.

Dra. D told me to meet a neurologist. She suspected that I might -might have meningitis - cryptococcal meningitis to be exact. It could be also an IRIS - or Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome. It means that my immune system (IS) is recovering fast and as my IS recovers, it targets the bacteria/fungi/virus that my IS hasn't detected before. So now that my ARV is helping (hopefully) my IS, the asymptomatic bacteria/fungi/virus becomes symptomatic. My immune system now sees those pathogens that have been creeping into my system and its tendency is to attack them. It's complicated. So anyways, she asked me to take a Blood Calas and see the neuorologist she has referred.

I was supposed to meet the neurologist at St Luke's on January 19 but around January 14, I started having double visions or diplopia. I wasn't able to tell it at first because I thought I was just dizzy.

January 15. 12:00 in midnight. My chest became tight. I can't breathe easily. I had shallow and short breathing. So I told Negra about it. And because we can't sleep that night, we decided to go to Makati Medical Center to have the Blood Calas. He drove the car. Carried me. Not really carried. Inalalayan. Well, I can still walk but the Efavirenz I took at 11pm made me dizzy and I was having a hard time walking because of my numb feet and diplopia. We we're able to do the test but the result will be out around noon. We went home.

Around 3am, I am on my limits. Negra was telling me that if I'm still having difficulty breathing, he will rush me to St Luke's. I said I'm fine. I said I'll sleep na. But we made a deal. If I'm still having difficulty breathing after an hour, I will let him rush me to St Luke's Emergency.

4am. Negra asked me again how I feel. I said I'm doing OK but it was obvious that I wasn't. So I had no other option but to follow our deal. Negra and I went to St. Luke's Emergency Room.

To cut the story short, I admitted to the doctor that I am HIV positive and I have to see this neurologist but we can't wait because of all the crap that was happening. I was confined then. They did a lot of tests (including the Blood Calas which I already had at Makati Medical Center).

I tested positive to the meningitis. But they have to make sure of the specific cause - was it bacterial (TB), fungal or viral or combination of all?

To cut the story even shorter, I stayed at St Luke's for 4 days. And the bill was soaring high, excluding the doctors fee etc etc. We spent P170, 000 just for 4 days.

To cut the story at its shortest, Negra and I talked to Dra. D what happened and she advised us to go to RITM for the treatment. It will be way cheaper.

So we waited until all the lab test results came out before going straight to RITM. I was on wheel chair then because I can't stand straight, and of course I can't walk (logic) LOL haha

So I was carried to an ambulance. It was fast. With all the wang- wang! Yes. The ambulance siren.

We reached RITM around 4pm. I was with Negra and our house help, let us name her - Karen or Gina. Anyways, when Ate A knew I was brought there, she immediately went to see me at the emergency room. She's just so sweet. :P

So, we went upstairs to my room. It was as big as the room of St Luke's but has a terrace. The place was quiet.

There was no TV, or radio. And the pillow isn't that soft so I had a hard time sleeping that night.

Not that I am choosy. In fact, I am grateful because the guy who pushed my wheel chair was funny. And when he knew that I needed a reclining bed, he looked for a reclining bed somewhere in the hospital and had it on my room. haha. I said to Negra, what we needed to bring are pillows and a comforter. There was no aircon but the air was cool. I liked it better.

A few days later, Ate A asked me if I wanted a television. I said yes. But one of my friends, let's name him Dyosa has a spare one. And Negra brought it to my room. Isn't that sweet :P

The treatment would last for 3 weeks or so. And you know what, I will be celebrating my birthday at RITM. Isn't that sweet :P (Now I am sarcastic, but nonetheless, still happy) haha

Now, I am thinking if I will put details on the treatment with my cryptococcal meningitis. Probably on the next entry. But I will give you a hint. Everyday, for three straight weeks, the nurses and doctors had to look for a vein for my medication. Yes. IV everyday. Haha (btw, I didn't know that IV can be injected on or through the foot).

Negra visited me 5 times a week. Usually at night because he had work. And Karen stayed with me even if she didn't know what I was going through. Some of my new found Poz friends also visited me. You know who you are. And all the nursing students from different universities whom I have entertained, wala lang hehe stay sweet as always wink :P

Reminiscing all those things doesn't change how I feel towards January. But thanks to you January for the New Year. Thank you for making me appreciate my friends. Thanks for reminding me how much I love to live another year. And lastly, thank you for making me one year wiser.

PS. I don't know who owns this video, but I just love her. At first I thought of putting Stronger by Christina Aguilera. But I like this song more. Basta may word na "Stronger" OK na yun haha

Friday, March 26, 2010

One Step at a Time

If success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, then there will be more success this summer - summer na, El NiƱo pa.

December 12, I had a new boyfriend - lets call him Arvie.

Lol. Kidding.

I mean totoo that I entered a relationship and it is with Arvie (ARV). They are 2 kinds of pills which I needed to take 11 in morning and 11 at night.

I was prescribed to take Lamivudine+Zidovudine (it comes in one pill called combivir) and Nevirapine . What I needed to watch out for is if I am compatible with nevirapine. It is a lifetime commitment so dapat lang we are compatible right?

When I first took nevirapine, I waited for 2 to 3 hours before I could tell that there is "something."

Define something - itchy feeling that started manifesting as pantal.

I got scared because it's my 1st line and I wished not to try other pills.

I stick to my routine but everyday it was like that, and on the 9th day, ayun, I got fever. I called Dra. D and she told me to stop taking nevirapine but continue with my lami/zido.

I did research to know the possible options or alternatives to my old regimen. I looked for reasons to give myself "scientific explanations" that nevirapine and I are really not meant for each other.

After a week, I went back to RITM to get my "rebound". He's name is Efavirenz (you can call it sustiva). I liked it because the packaging was good. Orange. Vibrant. So e-FAB. And the good thing is, I only need to take efav before bedtime.

I fixed my protocol.

3 myrin tablets before breakfast (for my TB)
1 800mg cotrimoxazole (for my prophylaxis)
1 lami/zido - to be taken twice a day, 11am and 11pm (for HIV)

As soon as I changed my ARV to efavirenz, my fever stopped. And there was no "something". No rashes. But it can make you really dizzy, sometimes nauseated.

I told myself to give the pills time - or time for myself to get used to the side effects of the new pill.

I needed to endure the dizziness.

I needed to persevere - but not necessarily perspire. Eeeew!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Christmas Party

I won't be disclosing details in this entry. Bleh! ;P

- except for the fact that I saw a few familiar faces.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

9 Teens

Today I went to RITM but before leaving the house, I was frustrated with how blotchy my foundation was. Yes, I meant cosmetic foundation. It's not that the consistency of my Mary Kay foundation was bad. In fact, I love how it dries on my skin but the shade is way lighter than my skin tone now. I tried to fix it with my Prestige Perfectly Matte pressed powder but to no avail, I can't save the look for a picture-perfect complexion. I'm 23 years old and I've already mastered putting foundation since I was 19. I was frustrated. Argh! Then I rest my case.

Anyways, I was scheduled for my CD4 count test last December 8. I went to RITM on time. It usually takes a day or two before the result becomes available.

December 10, Negra accompanied me to NKI to see Dra. D to know the result of my CD4 count. A healthy person has a normal CD4 count ranging from 500 up to 1500.

I won't pretend that I wasn't hoping (more of wishing) for a high CD4 count so when we reached Dra. D's clinic, I was really nervous. It is as if my life is on the line. How would I react if Dra. D tells me that my count is just 300? Haaaay. Sana at least higher than than.

I sat on the chair, hoping Dra D would stop my agony... but she doesn't have the result yet. Argh! Then, she called someone over the phone (maybe Ate A?) to finally get the lucky number.

Binaba nya yung phone.




The next few words she uttered were, " Kelangan na naten mag-start ng ARV."

But I needed to hear a number :(

My eyes pleaded for an answer.

It was fast. She said, my CD4 count is - 19.

I was in shock! Then, I quickly recovered my shattered thoughts - tried to smile. I needed to show Dra. D and Negra a facial reaction other than my blank face. It was a smile that shows my teeth, grinding each other. I can hear my heartbeat. Can they also hear how fast my heart beats?

Negra did the talking while I was trying to calm myself.

I said, just breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. And slooow exhale.

We left the clinic quietly. I joked Negra, "Hindi man lang 3 digit number or at least higher than my age which was 22" Kaloque!

Well, I've read stories of people having a CD4 count of 6 but are still oozing with energy. Yeah. Yeah. Pero bakit 19? Of all the possible number. (Sana kahit + 1 para nag 20). Hahaha

We stopped by Kenny Roger's. Ganado ako kumain. And I'm telling you, if you saw me that day, you really can't tell that my CD4 count is less than the total number of my fingers and toes ...

Actually, you can't tell I'm a poz just by looking - I was using the right foundation shade then.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I opened my facebook account and one person sent me a message, "When I watched friends of friends saw your eyes and no wonder you are part of the optimists." In my mind, ano daw? I was trying to decode the message. I failed. I went back to the person's profile to at least find a clue. It was private. hmmmmm Does he know I'm positive? I don't know. Maybe I'm just over analyzing it. Lastly, part of the optimists? Was he pertaining to the literal sense of the word optimist or something else? I was left with confusion. I was intrigued.

November 16, I went to RITM. I met Ate A and told her I was instructed by Dr. D to too see her. Ate A asked me a few questions. She was light to talk to - baklang babae.
She was fun. It was fun.

Before leaving the clinic, she invited me to come to an event dated December 11. It was a Christmas party at RITM. And the theme of the party - FASHIONISTA. Hahaha I said yes. I would love to meet more pozzies or what Ate A refers to as pusit (pusit = pusitibo = positive). I laughed as I recall the gay lingo hipon (sarap katawan, tapon ulo). I don't wanna miss this event - an ocean of pozzies :P

I did what I needed to do. I got my prophylaxis and I had my schedule for CD4 count.

I went home in a very light mood, in fact, excited. If you find that optimistic then so be it. With regard to the message I received on facebook, I just hope it's flattering.

Meeting Dra. D

After the confirmatory test, the doctor referred me to Dra. D.

A week later, Negra and I went to see her. She is one of the heads at RITM but we went to NKI where she has a clinic - it's closer to our place.

As we entered the room, Dra. D thought of Negra as the patient - then we laughed. It was a good warm up before dealing with the more serious issue.

I explained everything, my confinement and that I just finished the first month of my TB treatment (usually it lasts 6 months). She instructed me a short-term plan.

1. We will reassess my condition with the TB medication after one more month.
2. I have to schedule tests at RITM
3. Get my prophylaxis

A lot of questions are rambling on my mind . Why can't I start ARV drugs right away? Is it for free? What tests do I need to schedule? And what? Prophylaxis? Rule: Isa-isa lang.

First, it's advisable to start ARV medication after TB medication (unfortunately that was not my case - let me tell you later).

Are the ARV drugs for free? Yes, hopefully it will be like that forever.

What test? It's CD4 count and it is for free but you need to have it scheduled at RITM.

Lastly, prophylaxis is usually an antibiotic as safeguard from any further complications like pneumonia and other OI (opportunistic infections).

For someone who has just learned about this condition, it's pretty normal to have lots of questions. The doctors can't answer everything. But the internet is a good friend. Just don't read too much. Some are just plain scary :)

Why blog?

WARNING: This is a plain record. A simple track.

6 reasons behind this blog:

1. Boredom.
2. To record what I have been through.
3. To track what I am going through.
4. To plan what I will be up to.
5. To have a channel for my random thoughts.
6. I'm just bored.