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Massimo Rowse-De Franco - 'Friends can put you on the path to recovery'

more: Personal stories, Opinion, Personal stories/Opinion

24th January 2006

One man's story...

Friends can put you on the path to recovery – as one man discovered.

Depression, not disease, is often the killer. That is the view of Massimo Rowse-De Franco, or 'Max' as he likes to be called. He has been fighting HIV, hepatitis C and cancer in recent years – but hasn't given up.

His life's journey has been a painful one. When he was four, his parents divorced. He was sent to an orphanage in northern Italy. 'I spent the next eight years not understanding why I was abandoned,' Max recalled.

At 11 he started boarding school, where he claims he was sexually abused. 'Desperately seeking acceptance', as a young man he started taking drugs and sharing needles to be part of a peer group.

Respite centre

Eventually he came to London. He gave up drugs, got married, started a family and even found a job. But in 1987, he applied to become a blood donor – and found he had HIV and hepatitis C.

Thankfully, neither his wife nor his son were infected. But she decided to leave him in 1995.

Max went to a respite centre in Cornwall. There he met 'a wonderful woman' called Sarah, and they got married.

In 2004, Max fell ill with cancer. 'I was depressed and looking forward to heaven,' he said, 'and I don't know what would have happened if someone suggested euthanasia.

Intensive treatment

'But I had a son, a wife and lots of friends who wanted me alive.' After intensive treatment, Max found himself on the road to recovery. In addition, his HIV and hepatitis were on the retreat.

'It's depression that kills you,' he said, 'because it makes you give up. For someone to say, “I've had enough, I want to die”, they must be suffering from depression. When my family and friends were around me, they were crying because they didn't want me to go. That gave value to my life.

'What I'm really afraid of is that some people might want to die because they are alone.'

Story reproduced courtesy of CARE:

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