Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Farther On

Last month I shared this message with cherished supporters the old fashioned way, with gratitude to my dear mother-in-law who always includes a book of stamps with her donation check. Posted here to my equally treasured sponsors who prefer virtual communication and with pictures and hyperlinks to kick things up a notch :)

“But the angels are older
They can see that the sun's setting fast
They look over my shoulder
At the vision of paradise contained in the light of the past
And they lay down behind me
To sleep beside the road till the morning has come
Where they know they will find me
With my maps and my faith in the distance
Moving farther on”
-          Jackson Browne, “Farther On”
Hope is now tangible. Emory Vaccine Center beneficiaries of our 2012 AIDS ride bubbled over with excitement when speaking of promising results in their research to vaccine against HIV and stop the virus  HIV-fighting drugs had reversed the presence of HIV in a newborn, securing for her a life no longer at risk of AIDS. Yes, hope is alive after a long, dark winter. Even so, as the darkest day of this past winter drew near, I lost it, literally and figuratively.

 The silver cuff adorned my wrist each day and night for more than 15 years as a visible expression to me and the world of my commitment to fight HIV (as engraved) “until there’s a cure.” AIDS hasn’t been cured so what was the meaning in this? Was it permission to retire to my garden - yield the battle to those better equipped to make the mega-impact needed to kick this beast? …Not getting any younger… Tired... No fonder of asking friends, let alone strangers for money. It was too easy to take the bait so I released my motivation, confirmed by the absence of a scuffed up silver bracelet.

Yet I wasn’t relieved; I was devastated, not because I’d lost a sentimental memento but because its absence was premature. I long for the day this bracelet comes off for good, when HIV no longer ravages the world and bikes are ridden solely for pleasure but that day hadn’t come. The 2012 CDC fact sheet: New HIV Infections in the United States confirms that HIV infection rates from 2007-2010 changed little from the previous decade. Treatments have successfully evolved to extend lives at a cost not yet fully realized. Holes in the dike have been sufficiently plugged.  Now it’s time to finish the dam.

There’s no end to the number of worthy causes pulling at heartstrings and pocketbooks, and escape for me is nothing more than a temporary state of denial. Ten days after its disappearance, my bracelet turned up on the bottom of a laundry pile. I dropped to my knees at the sight of it, filled with the knowledge there would be more miles to ride, more money to raise, more hearts to open and heal, until there’s a cure.

This May I’ll return with the Puget Sound Riders to spend a weekend cycling 200 miles through Georgia in support of the fine, innovative HIV/AIDS research at Emory University through the AIDS Vaccine 200. My gratitude for your contribution to this effort extends far beyond mere words. It’s as energizing as a good workout, as inspirational as a good book, and all the motivation necessary to move me farther on.

Thank you for your commitment to end AIDS and bring hope to the journey.

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