Live Aid at 35 — and Me at 65

It’s #LiveAid35 today — memorable for that milestone event, and also as my most important birthday. A friend drove me to my parents’ home so I could go to a diagnostic specialist doctor. I’d gotten progressively more ill over several years, seen 5 different kinds of doctors.

None could figure out what was wrong. Constant fatigue, down to under 130 pounds (not good for being 5’11”), mysterious symptoms. Thankfully, my parents were ready to send me to Mayo Clinic but found a local “House MD” kind of doctor. It took 6 weeks of tests and questionnaires.

I lost track of how many office visits and horrific tests I endured. But the doc came in one time and smiled: “Good news and bad news. The good news is we have a diagnosis. Bad news is, the minute you walk out this door, you’ll probably never be able to get medical insurance.”

He diagnosed the first of what would eventually be five chronic health conditions I’d have. I also had malignant melanoma and clinical depression. This changed the course of my life, after more than a decade of not knowing what was going wrong with my body. In fact, if not for that trip and my diligent parents, I’m certain I wouldn’t be here to celebrate turning 65.

But the whole process began with that trip home, laying on a mattress in the back of my friend’s van, tuning in to bits of the Live Aid broadcast. I’ll eventually write more about both topics — navigating life with multiple chronic health conditions and the Live Aid milestone.

The way I see it, Band Aid/Live Aid events constitute a paradigm shift in philanthropy. People seemed to want to be more directly involved in charitable giving to aid those caught in the 1984 African famine and not leave it all to governments and NGOs. I wrote an overview with thoughts about this significant shift on this page.

This isn’t to say the changes in trajectory were all good, but that we need to acknowledge a culture shift took place. We should try to understand its roots and fruits, and I’m looking forward to doing so in due time. But for today, I’m remembering #LiveAid35 and thankful for still being alive at 65!