Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

AIDS: Mike Barnes: Overcoming heartache
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2012-01-18

This article shared 6834 times since Wed Jan 18, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


He rarely cries anymore, despite decades of personal and professional pain and heartache, combined with many, many deaths. Mike Barnes is cried out, he says, the direct impact HIV/AIDS has had on him over the past 26 years.

Barnes, 55, was with his first long-time partner, Donald Hendricks, from 1984-'89. Hendricks was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 and died in 1989.

Barnes was then with Sky Bixby from 1989-'97. Bixby learned he was HIV-positive in 1995 and died in 1997.

Barnes is now partnered with Bart Rarick, a relationship that started in 1999. Rarick, 53, has been HIV-positive for 22 years, and the last five have been a "living hell," Barnes said, as Rarick has endured serious liver issues, caused by his HIV and cancer treatment over the past two decades. Rarick has dropped from 170 to 125 pounds and even struggles at times getting out of bed or eating.

Barnes also has been a bowler since the mid-1980s in the local gay leagues, which have lost countless former participants over the years to HIV/AIDS. Plus, Barnes is a pharmacist at a Lakeview Walgreens, so he has met customers who became casual friends during their battle with HIV/AIDS—until many died.

Barnes learned last April, after a gut infection got worse following a routine shoulder surgery for arthritis, that he too was HIV-positive.

"Everyone always wonders why they're here in life. After Sky [ died ] , I figured that must be my lot in life: I'm here to take care of HIV guys," said Barnes, who lives in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. "There are not a lot of mid-50-year-old gay men, because so many of them died in the 1980s. That's why I sort of feel like a survivor.

"HIV/AIDS has been devastating over the past 25 years, but also has brought me joy because I feel, at times, like I have been able to beat the virus."

The battle Barnes fights now is alongside Rarick, who measures daily successes with simple ventures, such as leaving their house—as Rarick did one early January day—and not for a doctor's appointment.

After meeting in 1999, Barnes and Rarick quickly realized that they had many of the same values, as each was raised in Michigan. They became really good friends, and then started dating. Ultimately, they became, "best friends," Barnes said. They moved in together in 2000.

"It was a fun trip until five years ago," said Barnes, who vividly recalls the exact moment their lives changed.

It was April 15, 2007, and they were flying home to Chicago from Palm Springs.

"On the flight, I could see that something wasn't right. He look fatigued; he looked awful," Barnes said.

The next day, Barnes convinced Rarick to go to the doctor, "and that's when, literally, all hell broke loose," Barnes said. "They thought he needed a liver transplant, but discovered his liver actually was really healthy."

However, he had circulation issues in his liver and many blood clots.

"That has been our constant issue since [ 2007 ] ," Barnes said.

Rarick is now just trying to put weight back on, which is no easy task, Barnes said. He was a flight attendant for American Airlines, but has been on a five-year leave of absence, the company limit.

On Jan. 8, Rarick was awake most of the day and able to feed himself, "and for someone who hasn't done [ those two things ] in a while, they are big things," Barnes said.

Rarick also in early-January backed off his interest in dying.

"He was ready to go, ready to die. We had had many conversations [ about death ] because he wanted to die when he was happy. He had gotten what he wanted out of life, including our relationship," Barnes said. "But then, almost out of the blue, he decided it wasn't time to die, that he said he still had things he had to do. Mostly, he doesn't think I'm ready to live by myself, yet."

Barnes, who has lived in Chicago since 1983, sees a mental health counselor himself to help his emotional roller coaster. He also views himself as, "the world's best caretaker." But still, "it's been very tough, very very tough for me."

But Barnes has friends for support, plenty of close, supporting friends. Or, as he says, "some of the best friends in the world." Including "the ultimate faghag, who is proud to be called a faghag."

Barnes and Vicky Wagner met in the late-1980s in the gay bowling league at the now-closed Marigold Lanes. They were immediately attracted to each other's spirit and sense of humor, Barnes said.

Wagner, who is straight, is still bowling side by side with Barnes—for a team long known as the Gutter Queens.

"She would do anything for me, literally anything," Barnes said. "She is one of my main pillars—through the death of my parents, the death of my dog, losing my last partner, and now through the struggles with Bart."

And there have been plenty of struggles over the past five years—with rock-bottom coming between Christmas and New Year's 2010. Rarick went into the hospital for a routine colonoscopy and almost died, Barnes said.

During surgery, doctors nicked a vein, causing excessive bleeding.

"We really felt that was it," Barnes said.

The struggles have changed Barnes' approach to life. Normally, a detailed, planning person, he now doesn't—or can't—look farther than the next day.

"I live one day at a time," he said. "I can wake up and he's [ doing ] really well, or, I can wake up and he's really bad. So, we don't make plans. Not even a week ahead. There is no planning ahead," Barnes said. "That's very frustrating, especially for a guy who likes to plan every step of his life."

Barnes learned he was HIV-positive last April and, despite years of unsafe sex, was "surprised" at the news, especially since he was HIV-negative two weeks earlier.

Barnes had a gut infection following shoulder surgery and his doctor ran an HIV test, just to re-confirm that HIV was not an issue.

Sure enough, a resident at the local hospital had his result and asked, "Is your partner around?"

Startled, Barnes replied, "Why do you need my partner?"

The resident answered, "We'd just be happier if he was here."

Barnes knew what he was about to hear. "I guess that tells me what the answer is," he said to the resident.

"I didn't really care [ about the test result ] because I've dealt with [ HIV ] so much, for so long that I almost feel like I've been positive for years," he said. "I was disappointed more than shocked [ at the test result ] because I just felt like I was one of those people who would almost be immune to HIV.

"But I knew there was a chance," of being infected.

Barnes said he enters the New Year "very, very healthy," other than "normal growing old issues." He still bowls every week alongside Wagner, a stress relief and escape from HIV/AIDS for Barnes. He also anxiously awaits spring to return to his passion for gardening—an at-home oasis away from HIV/AIDS, where he planted more than 700 tulips in 2011. Barnes and Rarick have won the gardening contest in their 70-unit housing association for the past two years.

Victories are few, have been few, for Barnes—but he battles on.

"I don't know how I do it, I just do," he said.

This story is part of the Local Reporting Initiative, supported in part by The Chicago Community Trust.


This article shared 6834 times since Wed Jan 18, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Cleve Jones, founder of AIDS Memorial Quilt, honored with Lifetime of Commitment Award on World AIDS Day
2022-12-03
-- From a press release - SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Nov. 30 & Dec. 1, 2022) — The National AIDS Memorial marked World AIDS Day with a national observance at the 10-acre National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco, honoring AIDS activist and ...


Gay News

Pritzker administration announces highly effective HIV treatment coming to Illinois in 2023
2022-12-02
-- From a press release - CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced today on World AIDS Day that a new, long-acting HIV treatment called Cabenuva will become available to thousands of ...


Gay News

World AIDS Day: GLAAD releases 2022 State of HIV Stigma Study
2022-12-01
-- From a press release - (New York, NY - December 1, 2022) GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is releasing its third annual State of HIV Stigma ...


Gay News

GLAAD responds to renaming of Monkeypox
2022-11-30
-- From a press release - (New York, NY) - GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to the World Health Organization (WHO) announcement recommending a new ...


Gay News

WHO renames monkeypox
2022-11-29
On Nov. 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that monkeypox has been renamed "mpox." According to a press release from the organization, "both names will be used simultaneously for one year while 'monkeypox' is phased out. " ...


Gay News

Peppermint barks while Broadway bangs, and all the other dish to start the week
2022-11-28
"I love Broadway. I love what they do—Broadway Cares, but I also want to say the show is extraordinary!" —Nicole Kidman's impromptu speech after bidding $100K to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS for Hugh Jackman's hat after ...


Gay News

Chicago's COVID level returns to 'medium'; boosters/shots encouraged
2022-11-26
According to the latest information on the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) website, the city's COVID-19 risk level is now at medium level. In a news release, the Chicago Department of Public Health explained Cook ...


Gay News

Transgender Day of Resilience: Town Hall panelists tackle allyship, discrimination and immigration
2022-11-23
Brave Space Alliance (BSA), Life Is Work (LIW) and Chicago Therapy Collective (CTC) hosted three free events across the city that they named—TDOR Weekend: A New Era, Together— to celebrate ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Grammy nominees, Gabrielle Union, Trevor Noah, Brendan Fraser
2022-11-20
Out Magazine compiled a list of some of the 2023 LGBTQA+ Grammy nominees. Among those on the list were Brandi Carlile (who earned another seven Grammy nominations this year, raising her career total to 25), Lady ...


Gay News

Lambda Legal challenges anti-HIV military policy
2022-11-13
Lambda Legal filed a legal challenge to the U.S. military policy that prevents people living with HIV from enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces, according to a press release. The current policy requires that applicants for ...


Gay News

Center on Halsted hosts health resource event for LGBTQ+ seniors
2022-11-11
Center on Halsted hosted How to Plan for your Changing Health Needs, a Senior Citizen Resource Fair with a particular focus for members of the LGBTQ community on Nov. 8. A host of representatives from medical, ...


Gay News

National AIDS Memorial names 2022-2023 Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship recipients
2022-11-09
-- From a press release - SAN FRANCISCO, California, Nov. 09, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The National AIDS Memorial has announced its 2022/2023 Pedro Zamora Young Leaders scholars, its largest and most diverse class ever, providing ...


Gay News

QPOC and transgender elders become focus of grad school student's master's thesis
2022-11-02
When we think about how LGBTQ+ age, helping people feel connected and "seen" is just one of the many ways a community can care for LGBTQ+ elders. It can contribute to their mental health as they ...


Gay News

Santa Speedo Run Northalsted to return, has raised more $500,000+ for Chicago's LGBTQ+ community
2022-11-01
-- From a press release - CHICAGO (Nov. 1, 2022) The Santa Speedo Run Northalsted is back with a full afternoon of events that begin at noon on Saturday, Dec 3. Proceeds from the annual event benefit Center on Halsted, Chicago's LGBTQ ...


Gay News

SAVOR Matcha Cita
2022-10-31
Just steps from the Morgan stop on the Pink and Green lines is a heavenly place. And if you don't believe this writer about Matcha Cita (1017 W. Lake St., with an additional spot at Studio ...


 




Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS






Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.