Brakes

Every once in a while our bodies have ways of suggesting that maybe it’s time to ease off a bit.  I’ve been going hard this year, getting music projects going, pushing my physique just a little bit further, continuing to build a life with Jesse, trying to keep up with family and friends, and debating my futures — both musical and in adult work.  All of these have necessitated some travel, and as much as I love being mobile, the travel itself and time away from Jesse add to my stress levels.  We won’t even touch on what the political climate in the past year-plus has meant stress-wise; I know that has affected far more of us than just me.  So it’s been a heady year.

When my body decides to drop such a hint, I often don’t get the message until that hint is applied with a sledgehammer.  Sure, I’d seen a few warning salvos shot across my bow; there’d been a spate of curious 24-hour “flu” episodes over the last many months, but they seemed to resolve with a little sleep and a good overdose of multivitamins.  So while Jesse and I were in Australia helping push for marriage equality, trans rights, and approval of PrEP (travel + work = stress), it’s not hugely surprising that in the last few days of the trip my body laid down the law.  It started with fever and chills, and then the left side of my hip started to swell.

A doctor in Melbourne prescribed antibiotics in hope they’d be enough to get me home without getting worse.  After more than 24 hours in transit (and getting very creative with those little airplane pillows to try to be at least a little comfortable) we arrived home, and in a day or so my regular doctor sent me to the emergency room.  I was admitted to the hospital, CT scans confirmed the infection, and that evening I was in surgery.  A three-inch-long and inch-and-a-half-deep incision was made in my left hip and over a cup (>250ml) of fluid was removed from a Swiss cheese of abscesses in the muscle.  In the weeks since I’ve been dealing with a series of wound packings to encourage the resulting aperture to close from the edges inwards.

And it’s been healing far faster than expected.  I was released from the hospital after four days with a wound vac tethered to the sealed dressing, which I’d understood I’d have to carry around with me 24/7 for at least four weeks; this past Monday they deemed it no longer needed after only two and a half weeks.  I’m now just taping an antiseptic pad and sterile gauze over what’s become a very shallow small aperture.  I’m becoming a lot less concerned that this is going to adversely alter my “topography” back there and am starting to almost look forward to seeing how interesting a scar this is going to leave.  Maybe I’ll finally have a good excuse to get a first tattoo?

I know what a few out there are going to say, that those of us in these adult and sex-related industries are disease-ridden and hence this comes as no surprise.  Or that my “gross steroid overuse” must’ve induced me to use unclean needles with bad injection technique.  All of these potentialities were discussed with the doctors, all of whom had reservations about claiming any of these as a cause (as a rule, of course, they all cautioned me away from steroid use); none of them quite fit the circumstances.  The one physician to whom I had to explain the distinction between Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis did raise a good possibility which I’m looking into, that I’ve simply been stressing my system enough that I had some hiccup with my immune system; if that’s the case, everything is working fine again now, but I’m told to be alert.  The doctors do confirm however that the speed with which I’m healing is best attributed to keeping active and healthy, eating well, and staying physically active.

It’s not my intent to make this a political post, but I do note with gratitude that, if this had happened to me five years ago when I had no health insurance, I would either be finding myself owing $90K+ in medical bills, or knowing my own stubbornness and pride, I’d be disfigured when I declined medical attention, or possibly simply dead.  The docs can’t identify a particular cause for this, and “spontaneous” instances of this sort of infection are not unheard of.  Anyone who thinks some manner of universal health care to protect you from unforeseen health issues isn’t as important as universal police protection from crime or universal fire department services to protect you from the next door neighbors you didn’t know had a meth lab in their basement (or maybe you did?) is a heartless hypocrite.

So I’ve been spending the last few weeks simply listening to my body.  Not that it’s been quiet about its demands: I swear for the first two weeks I slept about 75% of the day, and I was ravenously hungry for the balance.  I did start back at the gym gently last week, and am relieved to say that, despite the setback, my body’s only enjoyed a fairly mild slippage into its more inclined bearish form.  I figure by mid-May I should be back to something like how I was when we left for Australia.

The kicker is that I keep essentially two freelance careers, music and porn.  For both careers, payment comes at the completion of a gig.  This was a slow winter for either work for me, then Jesse and I spent a month advocating and representing in Australia which didn’t bring in any income.  I’d been counting on returning home to two immediate jobs, and had to bow out of both.  That happened right at tax time.  And I’m sure I’ve not seen the last nor most scary of these accrued medical bills.  My wallet is feeling mighty slender at the moment!  Hence I’m scrambling on a few projects to hopefully bring in some cash next month.

This weekend Jesse and I had our first public appearance together since my misadventure, at Ghislain Rousseau’s last Montreal party Silver Bear.  Ghislain’s been an amazing friend for years, and we’ve felt ourselves lucky to have been part of a number of his events.  These will be missed, and we were honored to be asked to appear at his last.  It was also good for my heart and psyche to know that I’m not hopelessly maimed, LOL.  In two weeks we make appearances at events in Denver; maybe I’ll be ready to risk a jockstrap by then?

The other suggestion being floated by a few friends relates to the fact that over the years I’ve accrued a lot of •stuff•.  Clothing, books and printed material, leather gear, you name it.  Having moved four times in the last eight years, I’ve been no stranger to donating large boxes of excess to HIV-benefit consignment shops like Housing Works in NYC, Brown Elephant in Chicago, and Boomerangs in Boston.  Some of this stuff isn’t the sort of stuff a second-hand shop would know what to do with, though.  I have three really nice sets of leather bondage cuffs, for instance, of which I only ever really use one.  My buddies point out that many of you might like a little “piece” of me, and maybe I could set up a sale page or an eBay account, and hope that a little cash coming in there might take a bite out of these bills?  Watch this space, lemme think about this.

So as I finish writing this, it’s been a bit over a month since symptoms first appeared.  Reflecting on what I’ve been through, as painful and inconvenient as this has proven, in the end I have to acknowledge my gratitude.   That’s thanks not only to Jesse and all my friends who’ve taken care of me and the fans who’ve known about this and sent best wishes.  It’s gratitude that this happened at all, and that it happened in a time in my life when I could deal with it.  It never hurts to be reminded how delicate one’s place and accomplishments in life are, and how easily toppled they can be.  It never is a bad thing to be reminded that I am not infallible.  But what I’m realizing is that I’ve had the gift of a month to meditate on my perspective in life, the directions I’ve been moving in, on what is important and what is distracting.  The way I was bludgeoning my way through up until now, this reflection was only wanly and half-heartedly being done.  Hopefully I’ll know to indulge this more in the future, and preferably before my body has to slam on the brakes.

44 comments

  1. Lyne says:

    Well friend, you don’t post often, but when you do it’s always a treat! A treat I say because you write beautifully. Very different from Jesse, and I love it. It saddens me to see what you had to go through and what you are suffering right now. I wish you luck in in your recovery. I would be very curious to see what tattoo you would get on that scar. If you decided not to get a tattoo just know that there are creams to make scars disappear without plastic surgery. I’m proof it works, cause I was bitten in the face by a dog and the scar is home. Hugs from Montreal. Lyne

  2. Vic Davis says:

    Thank you for sharing the experience you’ve had with your health. I’m glad you’re getting better and wish you only the best. Do take care, we want you around for a long, long time!

  3. Charlie says:

    Sometimes looking for the reason is a good thing, sometimes not. Sometimes things can be prevented. Sometime not.

    What is important is recovery. Nurture yourself and let others nurture you.

  4. Anthony Johnson says:

    I am glad to hear that you are doing better and that you have great support. I have health issues that have developed over time and if it were not for the support of my husband and our friends I would be lost. Remember to take care of you. I am sure with the help of Jesse and your friends you will make it out of everything okay.

    P.S. You have the support of your fans, like me, as well. 🙂

  5. Lee Duval says:

    Dirk, I’m sorry you had to go through this & so happy you have Jesse to be there by your side.

    Not long ago, I was in the hospital for 3 months with spinal miniginis lost a lot of weight & had to learn to walk again.
    I totally agree, that times like these makes us sit back & evaluate our lives.

    Glad you are doing better & back in the gym, I recently got back in the gym & it’s rough, but I’m loving it.

    Big hugs to You & Jesse

  6. Peter says:

    At least it wasn’t devastating like cancer. I will pray for you to have a 100% healing. God knows that super sexy body and sweet face are still a turn on. Rest and relax and let Jesse tend to you naked or in a French Maid outfit. At least it didn’t affect your organs (internal and external) especially your hot ass and grand piece of man meat. Should I send a silver bell for you to have by your bedside so you can ring it for Jesse to come to your beck and call? Just watched Audition from Titan. You were as hot as ever. I really liked you in “After the Heist” as well. Love and hugs. Peter

    • Dirk says:

      No, indeed, I was lucky it was benign enough to be easily fixed, and that I was able to clear it before it spread to joints or bones. However, I think Jesse would take poorly to being rung for like he was the butler or somethjng… Besides, I tend to go reclusive if I’m sick or healing; I’ve got this feline inclination to curl up in a dark warm corner and lick my wounds…. LOL

  7. Scott says:

    Dirk, thank you for sharing, I’ve been concerned since someone asked Jesse about the hospital bracelet you were wearing in one photo and he declined to talk about it. I understand his position and don’t blame him, but I’m so glad you let us know you are okay. I understand how stress can cause illness, I ended up in the ER during a tour of Navy recruiting. Take care of you, and give each other a hug for me.

  8. Stacey Eastwood says:

    So happy you’re in the mend. Vest wishes to you and Jesse. Hope you can find time to truly just relax and have no stress. I need some of that also! With love from Phoenix.

  9. Stacey Eastwood says:

    So happy you’re on the mend. Best wishes to you and Jesse. Hope you can find time to truly just relax and have no stress. I need some of that also! With love from Phoenix.

  10. Paul McLaughlin says:

    Hi Dirk. I missed your Australian dates somehow life got in the way. However as luck would have it i am currently in Denver on holidays from Melbourne! I was ecstatic when I learned you were doing appearances in Denver. Hoping you have healed well and you can wear a jockstrap
    Looking forward to seeing you xxx

  11. Terry ( Naill on FB ) says:

    Dirk please take care of yourself. Years ago I collapsed from total physical, emotional, and intellectual collapse. Spent a month in hospital the first 3 eere in medical induced sleep @ 20 hrs a day. Not good. I honor you guys for all your hard advocacy work along with your dual careers.
    But human bodies need down time to recharge the batteries. Mine ran out and I never want to go through that again. I will never get those 3 weeks back.

  12. Steve says:

    Wow Dirk I had no idea that you were going through this. Hope your feeling better soon.

  13. Harry Martin says:

    Dirk, so sorry to hear of your recent — and I’m positive scary — health problems. I’m happy to hear you weren’t tethered by that machine. As a Realtor for 20 years and a freelance editor for 5, I know the pain of self-employment tax. Your essay was very interesting — and impressive. You have great usage of the language. 🙂 Best wishes for the future and better times ahead.

    Harry Martin
    Escondido CA

  14. Carlos C. says:

    Dirk: I started a yoga practice a few years back, and one of the first things I learned is to listen to one’s body, it is smarter than we are. I’m very happy your on your way to recovery. My most positive wishes to you and Jesse.

    • Dirk says:

      I miss yoga. Had an amazing teacher in NYC, and just haven’t been able to practice as regularly since I left NYC. Something to start reworking into the agenda… Thanks!

  15. Andrew says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about your illness. Thank you for sharing. I hope you get well and feel much better soon. Please do take care of yourself.

    Hugs from Seattle,
    Andrew

  16. Tom Anderson says:

    The difference between employing a security force to protect individual rights and a socialist medical system that redistributes income, is that the latter violates our individual rights, while the former protects them.

    As far as stress goes, This year has been the first in over eight (under Obama) and before that (under Bush) that I have not felt overwhelming stress and dispair over the state of our great country. We now (under Trump) may have a slight chance to re-establish such American values as calling things what they are rather than what we want them to be. We shall, of course, see. But I haven’t been this happy over the natioanl political landscape in a generation. BTW, we don’t need government intervention in order to get excellent healthcare. We have a chance at this if we can get the government out of people’s lives. I hope you get better. And yes, steroids are a bitch. Consider not using them. They work too well. They enlarge your heart muscle and they also thicken your blood. There is a reason why so many roidheads die young.

    • Dirk says:

      Political point understood, but a police force is paid for by taxes, no? If higher-income folks pay higher taxes, and if we’re right in the suspicion that lower-income eschelons of society tend to require more assistance of police, isn’t that your income paying for their protection, or as you say, redistribution of wealth? And no worries about the steroid use; the fact that some “fans” will accuse me of “gross steroid overuse” doesn’t mean I actually use them.

      • Tom Anderson says:

        Citizens earning less wealth do benefit in innumerable ways by living in a society where others have the freedom to earn to their potential. I benefit hugely because large corporations make a lot of money creating and selling medicines and providing advanced technology. I benefit hugely by living in a society where my rights are generally protected by police and military. I also pay taxes to support these forces. But if I pay 10%, a businessperson earning a multiple of what I earn should not have to pay 40% to 70% percent of his income in taxes. He should pay no more than 10%.

        But the essential moral issue is whether government should have the power to force people to conduct their lives in ways they oppose. Either men have rights or they do not. I believe they do. Men (and women, of course) have a right to their own lives, to live their lives as they choose and not how government wishes. The only possible moral purpose of government is to protect individual rights. Otherwise, people must be left free to pursue their own interests, just in case they do not violate the rights of others. Forcing doctors to work for my interests is not a moral course of action in my view.

        On the other issue, steriods, I did not mean to suggest that you did, in fact, use them. I can see for myself that you do not “grossly overuse them.” You would look much different were that the case. Also, I may not be on sold ground in claiming that steriod use thickens the blood. I was thinking more about testosterone, which does, in fact, thicken the blood. I know because I went on some testosterone therapy more than ten years ago. The doctor overprescribed and I ended up having a fairly minor stroke that affected my cerebellum, and therefore, my sense of balance. I have fairly recovered, but I have not recovered fully back to my earlier state. I did use low doses of steroids for about a year–a development that led to low T when I stopped and necessitated the T-therapy in the first place.

        Steriods do work quite well; they work too well, because they affect all muscles, including the heart. Consequently, there are legitimate reasons for not using them, although I completely understand why men would wish to use them during weight-training.I understand why gay men, in particular, would find steriods especially attractive. Who doesn’t want to look like a physical god?

        I would not comment on your private relation to Jesse save for the fact that you and he have, as we say, put yourselves out there as a paradigm of contemporary gay male partnership.

        I do not believe men are “wired” for a monogamous sexual relation. I don’t dispute the fact that men have such relationships, that they are possible.

        But it is true also to recognize that men invariably wander from their wives, either in thought or deed, and they wouldn’t do this if they were truly monogamous. You don’t claim to be monogamous, obviously, since you work in the gay porn industry where sexual expression is its raison d’etre. Looks to me as if you have an awesome, yet challenging, relationship, and it will probably work long-term precisely because you can “have your cake and eat it too.”

        In a lot of ways you and Jesse have achieved a perfect gay male partnership, whether you are married or not. Alas, yours is the only one of its kind I’ve heard about, but it is certainly true that gay couples do work out programs where their sexual needs can be fulfilled while still loving each other and supporting each other. Too early to say whether such is a genuine cultural, sexual development, or merely a temporary phase in society.

        Wouldn’t it be nice were gay men to give up their unending search for youth and deal with the facts of their reality, that man is more than just a sexual being, and while sex is important, in the end, it is not the most important thing about life?

  17. Nancy says:

    In a time where my own body feels tired and agressed this article really speaks to me. In these times of struggle you are blessed to be surrounded by loved ones. Nice to read you’re going better. Very thoughtful of you to give your time to such an important cause like HIV. No matter the scar on your body you have a beautiful soul and that’s the most important. God bless you.

  18. Frank says:

    God be with you!

  19. Joel Barrett says:

    Thanks for this transparent post Dirk. So sorry to hear of all these challenges. I’m glad you’re learning to listen to your body.
    We always enjoy seeing you in Kansas City when you’re visiting here. Keep up the good work!

    Joel

  20. Eckehard says:

    Sorry to hear that and good to read that you are slowly feeling better. All th ebest wishes for your recovery. Looking forward seeing you guys again in Berlin. Take care and listen what your body is trying to tell you 😉

  21. make sure your infection didnt get into your hip bone . stay on a antibiotic for awhile please . my mother died from the same thing but i got into her bones .

  22. Don Howard says:

    Here’s hoping you experience a full recovery. Two thoughts:

    1. A scar can be kind of sexy. Don’t sweat it.

    2. You have lots of friends and fans who would be eager to support a new cd. As your fantasy Prince Esterhazy (My fantasy, not yours!) might I suggest this as a source for new income?

  23. Frank LaPiana says:

    Thanks for the up date. I am a Boston fan of yours and I sure would buy one of your things on e-bay.

  24. Scott Nixon says:

    Sounds like you’ve had an eventful couple of months, to say the least!! Dirk, I’m very glad to hear you’re feeling better & better each day; hope Jesse is taking good care of you ;-D ;-D
    And of course this is one more argument in favor of Universal Healthcare! Keep taking care of yourself, Dirk.

  25. Daniel says:

    Hey Dirk…. glad to hear you are on the mend. You will always be a sexy guy , scar or not.
    We have a mutual friend who suggested I contact you….( you are on the cover of one of her books) . I thought it might be a good idea if you came over to the UK and did one of our reality shows.. Big Brother, I’m a celebrity get me out of here, etc. You would be perfect and they would raise your profile and be a bit of an earner.. . Just a thought..

  26. Lori Hall says:

    Very happy you are recovering so quickly. Best wishes ❤️

  27. Shirley "Quinn says:

    Hi Jack, sorry to hear that you haven’t been well, it sounds like an absolute nightmare. I am so glad you are on the mend, having those medical bills though- youch. I am so glad we have the NHS in the UK, although its groaning under the pressure and needs for funding. I particularly appreciated it when my appendix decided to misbehave !

    I’ve been listening to your music on Soundcloud and I absolutely love it. My particular favourites are: Sonata for Violin and Piano, Sonata for Flute and Piano 3 and Concerto Grosso 5 Finale for Double String Orchestra, Piano, Harp and Timpani. You are such a talented musician and wow, so versatile, being able to compose for such a variety of instruments. I don’t play any instruments myself, prefering just to listen. My hubby plays B Flat Bass and Baritone in a brass band and sometimes conducts and from my conversations with him just how difficult composing is.
    Have you produced any CD’s of your work, if so are they available to buy?

    Take care Jack and hope yopu are fully fit soon.

  28. Dave F says:

    WOW! Thank you for sharing such an emotional and personal experience. I am glad you are listening to your body. That has always been my motto since I use to run and my knees started telling me I had to quit. Now I lift and still take it easy when the body is saying that it needs rest. Glad you are on your way to recovery!

  29. Preston says:

    I enjoy your updates . Let us know how the music is going soon.

  30. Milo says:

    Hey Dirk,

    Huge fan here. Smart man listening to your body. Take care of yourself so you can back healthier and stronger than ever!

    Milo

  31. Joe says:

    Hope you better soon Dirk. Many people wish you get to health. We love you. Thanks for sharing. When you going to BALI, indonesia ? We wait you here at indonesia.

  32. Brad M says:

    Wow, Dirk, just read of your situation from Jesse’s latest email…so glad that you’re recovering. I have often wondered about the stress you placed on yourself and, to some point, your relationship with Jesse.
    What a blessing to have such a guy in your life. I guess this has given you two a bit of ‘together time’ to strengthen each other.
    Blessings to you both.

  33. Frank says:

    Wow, I had no idea! Scary stuff to go through,& as one who knows almost nothing about American healthcare , I’m glad to be in Canada, despite the fact it’s sometimes slow. Does that make me a socialist? No. But isn’t a country supposed to invest in it’s people, not rip them off for “high” society?! In any case you are a remarkable man, you have my best wishes

    • Dirk says:

      Now what’s wrong with being a Socialist? Just because conservatives have made it a four-letter word doesn’t mean I can’t stand for everyone chipping in to pay for a police force we don’t all need to equal benefit, or to subsidize the post office, or to pay for upkeep of roads many of us will never ourselves drive on, or pay some paltry salary to a teacher of children even if I’m unlikely to ever have kids. This is part of living in a civil society. Why suddenly healthcare is such a scare-tactic issue “o my god they’re spending your money on that guy over there and his health problem!” when those same people have no problem with “they’re spending your money pretending to try to solve the problems of people in the Middle East” for instance… Somehow I smell a hole in someone’s logic.

      • Frank says:

        Hold on man! I am a social democrat type! I don’t have all the answers, I just don’t want to go into huge debts. In 1993,Canada hit a debt wall, that was scary because then we could have the potential to go the way of Latin America.Invest in your people, a country is only good if we put money back into the hands of the working class, helping those in need. Glenda Jackson, the British actress is a prime example… in any case , one thing we can agree on, we both have a good heart! Best wishes, Frank from Lumby,BC, Canada ??!

        • Dirk says:

          No no, that wasn’t meant as any indictment of •you•! That was just me grumping about the malification of what seventy years ago was a term for largely popular and socially positive movement. It’s then compounded by using “socialism” as a slur… Now it can’t be applied to anything to which it actually applies… But yea, I see that you and I are on the same side of the plow here. ?????

    • Frank LaPiana says:

      Happy Birthday Dirk

  34. Peemster99 says:

    Ugh, what an awful experience. And bravo for explaining how important access to insurance is.

    And if I get a vote, I would be 100% down with a gear/toy sale. I always need more perverted stuff, especially if it’s for a good cause!

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