What I Owe Andrew Reeves

The 3rd of June 2011 was a significant day in my life.

It was a gloriously sunny day, much like today, but I was in no mood to enjoy it. I was full of depressed turmoil and had been since I’d discovered I was HIV+ just before the general election the previous year. For four months I had struggled and failed to take my HAART medication that would sustain me for the rest of my life. In desperation that week I had booked a cheap hotel in North London and a train journey leaving that afternoon so I might have some solitude to decide what I was going to do. In truth I felt I had two options, either to attempt to save my life or end it.

I had packed everything I required the day before so I had nothing to do that morning but distract myself until I needed to catch my train. I waked and backed, showered and shaved, made some breakfast and logged on as I frequently did when I had no pressing morning engagements. I very quickly noticed both on Facebook and Twitter that something was wrong amongst my liberal brethren. It reminded me of that dark winter’s day a few years previous when the news of Neil Trafford’s death had spread. I messaged my good friend Lucy Watt and she swiftly responded, informing me that Andrew Reeves had died of a heart attack the night before.

Quietly devastated I calmly skinned up, walked to the pond at the bottom of my parents garden and sat in the wooden chair known as my father’s throne. As I smoked my spliff, silent salty tears fell from my face. To my shame I couldn’t help feeling I was next and wondering how everyone I knew would react to my selfish suicide. I sat there a long time before I pulled myself together.

I caught my train that afternoon and as I crossed the country from west to east I couldn’t stop thinking about all the encouragement Andrew had given me over the last year. The previous summer I had a subtle internet breakdown (see Calling Valhala) which largely and thankfully went unnoticed except for two people, one of whom was Andrew. Over the course of an hour they both spurred me to pull myself back together. I realised my mistake in showering my facebook status with my misery, deleted the post, messaged them both telling what I done in order to protect myself and thanking them for catching me. They both messaged me offering support and encouragement but Andrew went further.

He told me about a similar traumatic experience that had happened to him when he was my age. He also described how he got through it and rebuilt his life. He gave me both hope and more importantly his mobile number telling me to call him whenever I needed support. I was too stupidly shy to do so but he never gave up on me, frequently texting to ask how I was. Hell he even badgered me to apply for some jobs that were coming up in his patch. I feel such an idiot for politely dismissing his help.

As the train pulled into Swindon, Neil’s childhood home and resting place, that quiet calming voice within, that some might call God but I am astute enough to know is the core of my soul, rebuked me.

“How can you be so self-centred as to think only of your pain? You spurned Andrew’s concern and support in life and now you consider rejecting it in the wake of his death, to selfishly place your turmoil above those who for some unfathomable reason love and value you, just so you can know the blissful peace of oblivion. Is that how you’re going to honour Andrew’s memory? Grow up. Take responsibility for yourself. Be that brave boy you have always been and endure. You have survived too much shame and heartache to throw it all away on a whim.”

As the train continued its journey I rallied my courage which had been absent for so long. I got to Paddington and via tube and bus made my way to the Amhurst Park Hotel. I checked in, showered, skinned up and crossed my Rubicon. I have always had difficulty taking medication but that night I downed them and more importantly they stayed down. Then I went outside into the hotel’s garden and smoked my spliff as the sun set to my memories of Andrew’s soulful laughter.

So that’s the debt of honour I owe Andrew Reeves. That’s why in my subsequent post seizure frailty, and with the help of Anders Hanson, Mark Cole and Lucy Watt, I left the safety of my hospital bed to attended his Memorial Service at the Islington Union Chapel. I needed to pay my respects. By his death he spurred me to avert and postpone mine. I am eternally grateful that I was fortunate to have met him.

Tonight there is a vigil in Westminster, by the statue of George V in Old Palace Yard. It’s for the Equal Marriage Bill, something I know Andrew would support. Unfortunately for financial reasons I can’t go but I’ll be there in spirit. And in spirit I believe Andrew will be there too. While I watch the debate on my laptop, I’ll be lighting a candle in remembrance of a friend I knew all too briefly. Who sadly didn’t live to see us take another step forwards towards our rainbow. I’ll be tending two flames tonight: One in my home and the other in my heart.



“What’s Past Is Prologue”

Posted on Hywel ap Dafydd’s Facebook Timeline.

1 December 2011

I am HIV+ & I will not be a prisoner of stigma.

“I’m going to make this disease regret the day it caught me.”

Terry Pratchett

8 December 2011

Cheers everyone for Birthday Wishes. You know for most of this year I didn’t think I’d see this day. Now I’m pretty confident I’ll see many more. Thank you NHS.

Life. Best. Gift. Ever.

23 December 2011

Yesterday’s emergency MRI shows continued improvement. How’s that for an early Christmas gift!? Sure & steady will win this civil war.

25 December 2011

Breaking News: I can write. I can fucking write! It may only be as legible as a doctors but that is 6 months of agony lifted. I shall write Blue Letters again

*Tears of joy*

28 December 2011

On the 14th day of Nuetropenia my Brain said to my Immune System, “Get a fucking move on & recover!”

Immune System replied, “I’m going as fast as I can! I have been under constant assault for the last 2 years. Besides who developed Lymphoma due to too much haste!? It doesn’t help that Bone Marrow is stoned from all those drugs Mouth keeps swallowing.”

Mouth interjected, “Hey! It took me 3 decades to master the art of swallowing.”

Bone Marrow sniggered, “Swallow!” Mouth snapped, “Grow Up!”

Right foot continued to snore.

30 December 2011

My HIV viral load is 50k. Considering how long the test takes I am probably already “Undetectable”. For those who don’t know “Undetectable” means that there is so little of the virus left in my body that medical test don’t pick it up. It is still there but in amounts too small to see.

My New Years Resolution for 2011 was to become Undetectable. This is one resolution I’m going keep. This Year. Next Year. & Every Other Year until I no longer need to.

31 December 2011

Hey 2011, I just wanted a little chat before we part company.I’ve got to hand it to you, you’ve certainly come the closest to bookending my existence. Not since 1994 have both Brain & Heart lost so much hope. Body certainly has never faced such an onslaught. But Life Force, well he is a monster and it will take something special to devour him.

So Archon, nice try but for a decade & half I have had an appointment with 22nd December 2012, The AllNow & I’m not going to fall at the final hurdle! This is after all a rescue mission. Sakyamuni Endures.

2011. Your. Sentence. Is. Up.

4 January 2012

Bombshell Time!

Yesterday my Doctor told me what to expect from the next stage of my treatment after the chemotherapy is complete. For those who don’t know I have Cancer in my brain caused by the HIV. IT IS SURVIVABLE! 75% Probability of Recovery! But there’s always a catch…

The next stage is a course of radiology to stop the cancer from returning. It carries the risk of memory loss. I am an Experiencialist. I believe I am the product of my experiences. If I lose memories I lose my Self! That is worse than Death. This is the most profound attack I have ever endured & I will not be found wanting. I have a plan…

Over the remaining months I am gong to record every experience I can remember. Contributions will be appreciated. I have lived my life with the aim of filling my Autobiography & now aged 33 the irony of writing it to preserve my Self is not lost on me. This is possibly the greatest challenge I will ever face & I intend on making it my greatest achievement. When Life drops you in the Shit, Grow Roses!

“The Great Work Begins.”

“This is a Rescue Mission.”

“Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light.”

23 April 2012

My CD4 count (white blood cells that produce antibodies) was 40 this time last year. In January it was 54. 2day it stands @ 410, that’s halfway back to normality (men have a range of 800 – 1200).

*Tears of Relief & Joy*

29 April 2012

Well the evidence is now undeniable even for such a cynical pessimist as me. I am one tough, little bugger.For the last year of my life I have had AIDS, and yet with no Immune System I have survived Cancer. In. My. Brain!

No matter how dark things get, Never give up Hope. Life finds a way. And when it can’t, make it count!

This has been another hard won Lesson of Life brought to you by Sakyamuni, “The Professor”, School of Hard Knocks.

(On Sabbatical, Orbiting the Rings of Saturn)”

29 April 2012

I wrote this status 6 months ago. I am very grateful that my brothers did not have to post the alternative.

In response to being called “awesome” 29 April 2012

Actual your wrong. You are the awesome one along with every resident of these wet & windy isles. I have never been more proud & relieved that I was born a European, had I not I would not be alive today.

I owe my life to the dedication and care of the NHS and the financial sacrifice of the British Taxpayer who paid for it. This isn’t my victory, it’s yours! You all have saved me from an evenings irresponsible stupidity and that is a debt of honour I intend to repay in whatever way I can.

I have been given the greatest gift anyone can give another. I have been given a Future.