If you’ve read through the acknowledgements for Queer Rock Love, then you know there’s a brief addendum at the end:
In May 2015, Katy started taking Harvoni, a new med for hepatitis C. As of this writing, her viral load is undetectable.
The treatment ended in July, just as the book was going to print. We had to wait another three months for the final verdict. Two weeks ago, Katy’s doctor called. “You’re cured!”
That night, Katy and I just stared at each other. “Whoa. I can’t believe it,” we said again and again. Katy lived with hep c for more than 30 years. She endured multiple rounds of pyrrhic treatments that left her body worse off than before. Our entire relationship has been circumscribed by the fear that her time was short.
Of course, any of us could be felled any day by a bus or a bomb or a malignant cell. I believe that we should live each day as if it was our last, but I’m not actually very good at it. When Katy was at her sickest, I spent a lot of my time fretting over future funeral bills instead of enjoying the time we had left.
Eventually, Katy’s death and I came to a kind of detente. It was always there, a fact of life, but it didn’t steal quite so much from the present. Now I wonder what lessons I’ll carry with me in this new time horizon?
The technical term for Katy’s prognosis is SVR, which is short for “sustained virologic response” (not to be confused with SRV, which is short for Stevie Ray Vaughan, whose life was cut short by a helicopter crash).
Sustained virologic response sounds like a status update, not a final verdict. And I’m okay with that–perhaps even more comfortable than I would be with a more triumphant-sounding diagnosis, which might leave me looking over my shoulder, worried about getting sideswiped by some unforeseen circumstance.
Right now, I feel happy and relieved and grateful for the health insurance that made this treatment possible. (Thanks Obama!) I’m so glad that Katy doesn’t have to live with all the shame and fear that were hep c’s constant companions.
Sometimes I dare to imagine what a longer future together might feel like.
My heart feels like a hermit crab tentatively extending a tentacle beyond its shell.