In 2008, we will celebrate 15 years together. Our annual Holiday Cards embrace diversity with a multi-cultural/multi-faith inclusive, secular and atheist-friendly message. You can see past cards on our website. Up until a few years ago, we also wished “Remarkable Ramadan” but because of a quirk of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan migrates through the seasons (this year it was Sept. 13 to Oct 12), so this year’s omission is one of timing, not because we aren’t inclusive of Islamic faith.
In many ways Vinny is more active and happy than he’s been in years. He’s still living with AIDS and end-stage liver disease from hepatitis B. He is also now diagnosed with narcolepsy; like the tin man, he can get stuck mid-action. Back in July, he was hospitalized with aspiration pneumonia from falling asleep while drinking water.
In 2008, Mark will have been HIV-positive for 25 years. He’s positively not dead yet either (wink). But this last year has been a difficult one. His HIV disease is still well managed, but as we wrote last year, in October 2006, Mark was also diagnosed with hepatitis C genotype 1a/1b and polycythemia. Thanks to speedy diagnosis and an aggressive 48-week Ribavirin/Pegasys (alpha interferon) treatment, Mark will be one of the lucky few who become actually cured of hepatitis C by the time you read this. The next step is unknown; how quickly will he recover from the toxic consequences from treatment and to what level of function will he rebound to?
Being largely homebound has given Mark the opportunity to focus on his writing again, including starting a new book, blogging for POZ, a few public speeches and Alternative Conflict Resolution training as a professional Mediator. We’ve both become more involved at Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist.
I’m sorry to write that Mark’s sister Linda Demichele’s fiancé, Andy Zartolas, died on November 26 after a really difficult year (both for Linda and Andy). Andy had a kidney transplant back in 1993, and his on-going story was inspirational. He really knew how to battle chronic illness the way we have. Andy was wise, caring and his encyclopedic knowledge, conversation and dry sense of humor will all be missed.
For our latest news with all the details, web links for more information, lots of photo galleries, and Mark’s various writings, visit our website: www.MarkandVinny.com