Written by BLC Prevention and Education Specialist Caitlin O’Gallagher
This is the second portion of my interview with Pat Quinn, BLC member Rob Quinn’s mother. In the first half of our conversation, Pat shared with me her experience learning about Rob’s diagnosis and what she finds most inspiring about Rob’s work as an advocate for people living with HIV. If you missed the first post, catch up here! Here is the second part of our conversation:
Pat had explained over and over again that she just accepted her son for who he was, regardless of his diagnosis, and was there with him through thick and thin. When I asked Pat where she gathers the strength to be such a pillar of support for Rob and his four siblings, she commented that she thinks she was just born to be a mother and doesn’t know how to be anything but loving and supportive to her family.
Pat spoke about families who write off their children when they come out as gay or disclose their HIV diagnosis and reflected on many of Rob’s friends who had that exact experience, and for whom she became “Ma Quinn.” Pat mentioned that she connected, through Facebook, with another mother of a man diagnosed with HIV and that they keep in touch periodically. She shared that she remembered the mother having almost the same reaction to her son’s diagnosis as Pat did to Rob’s: it didn’t matter because he was still her son. Pat remembers being struck by their similar, supportive reactions. We talk so much here at the BLC about the importance of social support and having people in your life that you can talk to about the good stuff, the bad stuff, and all the stuff in between. It’s clear that Pat is able to be a great trusted support for Rob, as well as many of his friends. Both Rob and Pat will be the first ones to tell you how important they have found it to be able to lean on one another. As is clear from Pat’s story, the importance of trusted supports and confidants – whether they are your mother, a friend, an old co-worker, or even your mailman – when receiving an HIV diagnosis and living a healthy life with HIV simply can’t be understated.
In that same vein, I asked Pat what kind of advice she would give to a parent or family member who has a loved one who was recently diagnosed with HIV. Pat was sure to say that she can’t give universal advice because everyone is different and will handle the situation differently, but if she could say one thing it would be, “that’s your child – he’s your baby – and you should love him unconditionally no matter what.” She has seen what her unwavering support has provided Rob and realizes how essential it is.
Pat and I ended our conversation by her sharing with me some of who she is and what she likes to do in her spare time. Pat loves to read, especially when it comes to the newest literature on HIV as well as cardiovascular health, she enjoys watching TV, doing puzzle books, and playing games on her iPad. Pat’s story as a mother of someone living and thriving with HIV was inspiring and really reminded me the importance of having supportive people in your life who are willing to stand by you as you fight the stigma, stand up for what you believe in, and just be whoever it is that you want to be.
Thank you SO much to Pat and Rob for your honesty, openness, and willingness to fight the stigma!