YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Living to Run : AIDS Victims Discover the Courage to Compete

September 08, 1985|NANCY GRAHAM | Times Staff Writer

When Tom Proctor runs in today's 10-K AIDS Benefit in West Hollywood, he will be observing what he describes as "a celebration of life and living." The 35-year-old running and marathon coach is director of the event. He also has AIDS.

This is the kind of thing Proctor has wanted to do for a long time, but never had the courage to try. He said accepting his illness has helped him develop the courage to organize the run.

He was told he had AIDS a year ago.

"I actually was running in the San Francisco marathon with a purple spot on my cheek. It was a symptom of AIDS called Kaposi's sarcoma. I had been very afraid of AIDS. I finished the 26-mile race and went to the doctor that week and found out I indeed did have AIDS.

"I was afraid I would start having a second-class life. But I found that I now procrastinate less than before," Proctor said. "I take things seriously.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 12, 1985 Home Edition Westside Part 9 Page 4 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
The names of Tom Proctor and Bill Dry were reversed in a photo caption that accompanied a story Sunday on a race to benefit AIDS victims.

"I started doing track work, getting things accomplished. I started doing 220-yard dashes, 440-yard and 880-yard dashes more regularly, and my times were coming down. I thought my body was deteriorating and I ran the fastest 220 in my life last year."

Bill Dry, who also has AIDS and who will run in today's 5-K event, said the discovery that he was suffering from the illness has changed his perspective on many things.

The 37-year-old Dry, a Santa Monica resident and former Los Angeles school teacher, found out that he had AIDS last March. Although he had jogged for several years, he said, "I never quite had the courage to run in a race. One thing you find out when you have a serious illness is that you don't have everyday fears." He participated in the July 28 Los Angeles walk-a-thon benefit for AIDS.

"Right after the Los Angeles walk-a-thon, I met Tom. He's a much more serious runner than I. He inspired me. He helped me get shoes, assured me I could train.

"There is a bottom-line decision you have to make. Does having AIDS mean your life is over or does it become a challenge that makes life more meaningful?

"Since I've discovered I have AIDS I have had wonderful experiences with old and new friends and family. Because life means so much to me, it's much easier to give love."

Proctor said his family "is a little more old-fashioned and they are embarrassed by this, my having this illness and by my being gay." He said, however, that he called his family and told them "how important it is for them to be here. My sister is coming from Des Moines, my brother from San Diego and my mother and dad from Sacramento.

"There are times when you look at your mortality or death and say it's just a transition. It can be very frightening."

Turning to Dry, he said, "Learning to deal with that fear and loneliness, it's a validation that you are strong and courageous. It carries out to other areas of your life. Whereas I was a little timid before, I find that if I can deal with life-threatening decisions, I can deal with anything."

Dry said having AIDS has been "a real education" for him.

"My first reaction when I found out I had AIDS was fear. Extreme fear of being an invalid. That is the popular conception."

Proctor said that the media emphasizes the unfortunate and tragic cases of AIDS. "Most of the people I have met who had AIDS are not tragedies. They are like Tom and me, leading normal lives and enjoying living."

Bothe men have suffered some of the physical effects of AIDS. Dry has periodic flu-like symptoms. Both have Kaposi's sarcoma, a type of skin cancer. They agree that keeping busy and helping others staves off bouts of depression, although Dry said he has learned that he must pay attention to his body and rest when it tells him to.

Dry is studying for a Ph.D. Proctor is, among other things, starting an acupuncture group (using disposable needles), working with a mental imagery and meditation group and producing AIDS-awareness seminars.

Today's 5-K and 10-K runs and walk-a-thon will begin with a warm-up at 7:30 a.m. at West Hollywood Park. Registration is from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.

A block party and awards presentations are scheduled for about 11 a.m.

Entertainment and refreshments will be available after the run.

All proceeds will be donated to Los Angeles organizations that help victims of AIDS.

Los Angeles Times Articles