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Hope: The Most Caring Gift
By Rev. A. Stephen Pieters
In AIDS caregiving, the most caring
gift is hope. In my twenty years as a pastor and
chaplain, and in my fifteen years as a person living
with AIDS, I have repeatedly seen the strength, joy, and
empowerment that hope brings.
Through my work as a chaplain, I have come to realize
hope is necessary for every person's life, whether we
are living with a life-threatening illness, or working
as Caregivers. Hope is important to our own self-care.
Hope is also important in maintaining an environment of
hope for those we care for. For all of us, hope is an
essential ingredient to the quality of life, as long as
I survived AIDS, Kaposi's Sarcoma, and lymphoma back in
the early 1980's, a time when few people survived AIDS
beyond two years. First diagnosed in 1982,I lived
through two kinds of cancer, hepatitis, CMV, pneumonia,
Epstein-Barr virus, Valley Fever, candidiasis, a variety
of fungal infections, herpes, shingles, adrenal
insufficiency, neuromuscular problems, peripheral
neuropathy, and wasting syndrome. My cancers went into
remission in 1985 while on an experimental drug, suramin.
I got well in 1986. With today's treatments, I now have
an undetectable viral load, and a CD4 count that hovers
around 900. I am "clinically well in all respects",
according to my physician, Alexandra M. Levine, M.D.
Hopelessness is a natural reaction to a diagnosis of a
terminal or life threatening illness. Hopelessness
happens when we feel helpless to do anything about our
situation. Hope happens as soon as we begin to discover
how to help ourselves. Despair is passive. Hope is
active. Hope happens when we take responsibility for our
lives, and take action.
Dr. Levine gave me hope by inspiring me to take action.
She made me realize if I was going to have any chance of
survival, I had to stop lying around depressed and start
doing the work of healing. My mission was to stay alive
long enough for them to find a way to manage the