Public Speaking for the First Time

Posted September 8, 2014 by

Who would have thought that a timid and self conscious mouse like me would get up and tell my story of how HIV/AIDS has affected my life? I grew up in rural Ontario, where we planted corn, had a huge vegetable garden and pigs to feed. I think I had a pretty normal childhood. I attended the local high school when AIDS hadn't even been heard of yet! sort of makes sense that my first exposure as a HIV positive speaker would be to a grade nine class in Paris, Ontario. My hands shook, my knees wobbled and my brain was mush. My thoughts were .....OMG what have I got myself into?!

Many eyes were focused on me, anticipating my disclosure and putting a face to this disease that they were just hearing about. In those early days I too was struggling to understand it myself. However, I certianly could tell them how fearful I was, and that my biggest support came from my partner, Gordon, who was also positive himself.

You could almost hear a pin drop when Linda, our Support Worker, introduced me. The students seemed leary about what they should ask, so Linda decided to start the dialog by asking me some questions. I was grateful for her help. You see, for me, imaging the audience in their underwear wouldn't even come close to steadying my nerves! (Over the years, however, I have learned that the audience wants you to succeed; they are not as critical as you think they will be. I have also learned that pauses have affect.)

It is February and I am anticipating another opportunity to share with another class on Monday. It is the weekend and suddenly I have what I thought was sinus headache, followed by intense pain. Seventy-two hours later I am dignosed with Shingles.'' Shingles!!! I'm not over 70 how can this be? Who knew!!!"  I guess my body was trying to tell me something.....I couldn't handle any more stress! Yep! I got the message... or did I? Five weeks of unbelievable pain and itching, both my eyes swelled, my forehead was infected from my scratching. I showered at least 6 times a day because the heat gave me some tempory relief. I was put on an antibotic and demerol.Whoo hoo! I would be talking to someone and doze off in the middle of a conversation, waking minutes later to continue my sentence. I walked off the back porch like I was walking on water, nevermind the three steps that were there. Gordon took good care of me. And the students sent best wishes. Most people you hear about who have shingles usually get it around their mid-section, but I just had to be different! The virus followd the nerve endings in my forhead, around eyes and up into my scalp. I was told by a Doctor just this year. that I was lucky that I didn't lose my vision.

Surprisingly, the scars don't bother me because I know that Gordon and my friends and family love me unconditonally.

To me they are signs of the battle I am still fighting. As for public speaking again, I'm not sure right now... maybe somewhere down the road.As for this platform, I like it alot.