Issue 14 • Winter 2022

Page 24

my body: an experiment with longevity AUTHOR Julene Tripp Weaver Having lived with my HIV diagnosis since 1989, I credit my survival to viewing my body as an experiment. When I got my diagnosis it was assumed I would die early. That was the norm. There were no good an‐ swers. Because I was a budding herbalist, studying herbs and herbal remedies, it was natural I turned to herbs. For twelve years I used alternative options and watched my lab results de‐ cline at a slow and steady rate. The early marker, a CD4 blood test, monitors T cells or the white blood cells that fight in‐ fection. In the One on One pro‐ gram at Public Health my name was not attached to my lab re‐ sults. Eventually, I got one of the best AIDS doctors in Seattle through a referral from a co‐ worker where I worked in AIDS services. All the AIDS doctors were busy with full panels, so a referral helped. One of my most impor‐ tant decisions was to keep my status private, even at work, and not share widely, it took too much energy and put me at risk of stigma. By January 2002, with my CD4 count close to 50 (well be‐ low the marker of 200, when it’s

advised to take Western medi‐ cations) an eye infection started while I was on vacation. Visiting my partner’s family in Atlanta, during the Martin Luther King holiday, my right eye started to itch and get red. I thought it might be pink eye. Being out of town without my remedies, I did nothing. It spread from my eye across my skull on the right side of my face with growing sharp agonizing pain. It was nothing like the pink eye I had before. Finally home, three days later, I made a hot compress with goldenseal to keep me till morning. First, I called in sick, then called my doctor. He said he could see me that afternoon. My partner drove me to the office. My head was too in‐ flamed to comb my hair. Turned out I had shin‐ gles, which occurs in quadrants. Those of us born before the chickenpox vaccine became routine (in 1995) are suscepti‐ ble. With an active case of chickenpox, which I had as a child, the inactive varicella zoster virus lies dormant in nerve tissue waiting to reacti‐ vate. My eye was so painful and swollen I was afraid I would

lose vision. With medication started and an eye patch, my partner made me tea with skull‐ cap, white willow, California poppy, St. John’s wort, astra‐ galus, and a couple drops of Polk root tincture. The next day my acupuncturist made a home visit. He suggested my doctor prescribe steroid eyedrops to protect my retina. But for that I needed an ophthalmologist ap‐ pointment, and I could not bear going out again. Both medical profession‐ als recommended ice packs in‐ stead of heat for the swelling, so I switched to comfrey poul‐ tices, which we had in the freezer for emergencies. My acupuncturist gave me an herbal formula for inflamma‐ tion. Swollen and discolored, my eye looked like I’d been in a fight with a hard punch. On Western antibiotics for sixteen days, through the scabbing and itchy hell of healing, I used clove oil on my scalp and Bella Donna homeopathic tabs under my tongue. I took colostrum, milk produced during breast feeding to support the growth and health of an infant, to strengthen my immunity against

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