A Patients View

Hi I’m Harlon,

I grew up in Streetsville when it was a farm town and I used to pick strawberries where Highway 407 is now. Being young and gay and understanding and exploring my sexuality was difficult, I had no role models and there was little support at the time. I was afraid that I would grow old and lonely or I would get beaten up. The former hasn’t happened, the latter did, but as we say in the gay world “I will survive”.

I went to the University of Waterloo and started my studies in Mathematics. Who knows what they want to do with their life when they are 19? I had more important things on my mind, like managing my acne.

I switched to Economics in which I earned a B.A. in 1987.

Then I moved to Vancouver to find myself. The same year I learned I was HIV+. At that time, the realistic prognosis was two years at best then a horrific death with visions of people carrying signs that said AIDS was a punishment from God. If there is a God, she expresses herself through nature. The signs didn’t make much sense to me but the outfits the people were wearing that carried them did. My doctor at that time told me to make the most of the time left.

That’s what I have been doing ever since.

Then I backpacked through Africa for six months in 1989 from Cairo to Capetown.

I moved to New Orleans for a year because I wanted to write a book. I worked as a bartender, and I thought I would become an author, the lovechild of Anne Rice and Tennessee Williams.

I moved back to Toronto and was living to die, but I didn’t die.

So I would take on bilingual customer service jobs at call centres that had benefits so that if I got sick I would not be a burden and when I saved enough money, I would travel some more.

In my late 30s it occurred to me, fuck, I am not dead yet. I returned to school to explore my passions and began by studying Zoology at the University of Toronto and finished with a Master’s in Forest Conservation. I did my research on the South Island of New Zealand where men are men and sheep are afraid.

I had the most amazing dog in the world and his name was Otis. I cleared HCV while doing my Master’s. I had an extremely difficult time with adverse events from the treatment. I fainted twice on the Go Train Station platform on my was to classes , I lost 55 lbs and the ability to sleep and for a few days I thought I was Hilary Swank and was trying to find my two Oscars. Good news is I found my t-ball trophies.

I managed because I had support. Support from my family, my friends, my classmates, Otis, my nurse, my G.P. and my Liver Specialist. I respect Doctors and Nurses and my dog was my best friend.

I cleared the virus and I graduated at the same time. I wanted the forest to be my office. Instead I ended up as the accidental patient.

In 2007 I was appointed Patient Member on the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Committee to Evaluate Drugs.

Here I am now and I have met so many amazing people, I have seen so many beautiful places. I couldn’t have done what I have done if it weren’t for support and I also believe in the therapeutic value of hope and laughter.

I am caring by nature and I care about nature.

My favourite movie is Network. I love great writing and great acting. Faye Dunaway pulled off quite the hat trick with Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown and Network.

My favourite book is The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

I want to travel more and I love being in the water.And from time to time, I ask myself:

If a tree DOESN’T fall in the forest, does anyone hear it?”


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