In 1986, I left Toronto and moved to New York. I fell head over heels for a man in 1988. We wanted to make sure we didn’t transmit HIV to each other, so we got tested. I felt healthy as ever. However, my test came back: HIV positive.
As a child with cystic fibrosis, I was hit with this adult issue of mortality – something no 5-year-old should be worrying about. When I was born in 1971, the median survival rate for women with CF was 20 years old. I’ve chased that median age of survival my whole life.
My illness was something that happened to me, but I was still under there. I had to come out from under that shadow to figure out who I wanted to be even if I was going to die in a few months.
My life changed significantly when I realized I was in control. I’ve decided I’m going to retire earlier than originally planned so I can scratch things off my bucket list now that it is deeper than before. I know if my cancer returns, I’m going to have a big blowout funeral party and obviously attend it myself.
I have experienced the deep dark caves of depression and the sky-reaching highs of mania. I’ve even experienced life beyond the scope of reality during psychosis. Despite the overwhelming obstacles my mental illness presents, in a way I’m still grateful for my psychiatric disorder.
Nicole Naimer is an intern at Healthy Debate as well as a Health Sciences student at McMaster University. Complex illness is familiar to Nicole and her family, and she is passionate about writing stories of strength and resilience that emerge beyond disease.