Day by day, Kerry Shapiro and Sunnye Sherman live with the insidious illness of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
There are good days and bad days for Shapiro and Sherman, who were featured in the Sept. 4 Health special report on AIDS. Thanksgiving was a good day. They had dinner together at Sherman's parents' home in Silver Spring, along with a gathering of family and friends.
"Some days, I literally can't get out of bed," said Shapiro. "Then I have days when I do get out and run around and do errands. It just depends."
Shapiro hopes that an experimental anti-viral protein called interferon, which he receives at the National Institutes of Health, is holding his cancer -- the rare Kaposi's sarcoma -- in check. His weight is about the same as it was in September, but his stomach bothers him a little less than it did at that time. He's extremely sensitive to cold now; any outing on a wintry day sends him home shivering.
Sherman came home in November from her latest stay at the clinical center at NIH, where she had been hospitalized with a type of pneumonia that afflicts many people with AIDS and can be fatal to anyone with a weak immune system. It was her fifth bout with pneumocystis.
"No one has ever survived that many," said her mother, Ina Sherman. "Three is a miracle. We nearly lost her."
But now she's home.
"I feel better than I have in the past seven months," said Sunnye Sherman.
She is still taking a maintenance dose of an experimental drug, which helps fight off infections but has nearly robbed her of her hearing. Normal conversation is next to impossible, but a special hearing aid enables her to converse over the phone.
Still gaunt, Sherman has gained 14 pounds since returning home. She receives hyperalimentation -- a high-calorie, high-protein "soup" pumped directly into her bloodstream through a tube.
"She's not well," said her mother, "but we're very pleased to have her home."
And her attitude?
"The best," said Ina Sherman. "Her attitude and her sense of humor are beyond compare."
Jack Mitchell, another person with AIDS featured in the Health report, died Sept. 10, four days after his 38th birthday. It was two months after his brother, Richard, died of the same disease.
More than 100 people gathered the following Saturday for Jack Mitchell's funeral at the Church of the Pilgrims near Dupont Circle. His longtime friend and lover, Chuck Bailey, gave the eulogy.
"No matter how ravaged by this disease," Bailey said, "he never lost his caring for others with AIDS. I can still hear his voice, no matter how faint toward the end: 'How's Sunnye?' he'd ask. 'How's Randy? How's Jim?' . . .
"Jack, you were an artist in so many ways -- with paints, with feathers, with food, with friends."