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.