This has been quite a year of change for the two of us.
Our income dropped $2,000 a month last December when Wes' 5-year private disability policy ran out. But we are blessed to be living longer than we ever would have dreamed when he took out that policy in 1987.
Wes changed medications in February because he was just too exhausted from his rigid CrixivanTM regimen. His new "triple combination lite" -- without a protease inhibitor -- has kept his viral load undetectable throughout the year.
Late in January, we both got a thrill when writer Juan Palomo featured "Wes & Tom's Cool Site!" in USA Today. (We've now had 21,000 visitors.) The article also gave us a glimpse of how other cultures perceive AIDS when our long-time Vietnamese housekeeper -- who we'd always thought knew about our health situation because we never hid it, but particularly because of our openness with laying out all our medications for the day -- very politely and honorably quit after reading it. He explained in his limited English that he was afraid of catching AIDS from us. We tried to reassure him that we had never and would never do anything that would put him at risk. But he was afraid. And our efforts to find educational materials in Vietnamese were unsuccessful.
With the health prospects for people with HIV brightening the previous year, we found ourselves pondering what to do with our lives. How to re-tool ourselves if we were going to live longer than we heretofore expected? Tom decided to go back to school and get some graduate school prerequisites out of the way to make working on an MBA possible. He also started consulting more. Wes, through one of life's exquisite coincidences, found a computer volunteering job at an AIDS treatment information center called The Center for AIDS where he could both be useful and also refresh his technical skills.
These two decisions required some fairly major restructuring in our lives. First, our office had to be physically remodeled to create a study area for Tom. It is gorgeous now thanks to Tom (who handles essentially all the home-improvement projects). Second, our computer systems were revamped to mimic those that Wes would be working on -- largely by moving to Office 97 and Windows NT. (We also upgraded from Pentium 90s with 32mb RAM and 28.8 modems to Pentium 166MMXs with 64mb and 56k modems -- plus two dedicated lines for the Internet.) Third, and most important, our new schedules required new flexibility in our roles. (For example, Wes was introduced to grocery shopping and other wonders of modern life.)
May found Wes visiting our friend Alan Chiras in Massachusetts and friends Robert & Mary Dante in Toronto.
Summer was a busy and exciting time as we moved "Wes & Tom's Cool Site!" to our very own Internet address, "www.westom.com/coolsite" Related, this will be the last paper version of our annual letter as all future ones will only be available online. This will be more enjoyable for us, as the letter -- though a labor of love -- is quite a production event. If you have an e-mail address, please send it to us. For our friends who are not online, know that we still love you.
Fall was tougher. Tom's mom needed a valve replacement. (But it went well!) Wes ventured out to San Francisco for Folsom Street Fair and returned to his annual pneumonia diagnosis. (It had been coming on for months.) "What had brought on this pneumonia?" you might ask. Play along... You can guess this.. Yes! Wes had another barnacle-style sinus infection. This led, of course, to his fourth sinus surgery. (October and November were essentially lost for Wes.)
While this was going on, poor Tom was not only dealing with his mom and Wes being hospitalized, he was also enduring a particularly grueling calculus class. But he persevered, trudging through it day by day until... by the third test... he scored a 104! (There was a bonus question.) We're both very proud of him! That was shortly followed by news that he'd been accepted into graduate school for January to work on an MBA.
With Winter came improvements. First, we both stopped smoking. Then, in response to Wes' toes getting cold, we ordered $1,500 of insulation under the house (only to find out the night before the installation -- in this year's funny irony -- that the cold toes appear to be medication related). We also had a new heating and air conditioning system put in (with a cool electronic filter to help Mr. Nose). Lastly, Houston got an improvement to its political landscape when our acquaintance Annise Parker -- openly lesbian and highly qualified -- won an at-large position December 6th on city council!
We hope you've had as exciting a year as we have!