Mum's lived for 11 years with the HIV timebomb.
Yet for 11 years, the Glasgow-born mum-of-three has lived with a timebomb.
Caroline contracted the HIV virus after a short-term affair. At 28, doctors told her she had six years to live - and that she would die a slow, painful death.
But Caroline doesn't yet have full-blown AIDS - and is still fighting fit.
She remembers: "I went along to see my GP because I'd found a lump in my breast and, on the spur of the moment, I decided to get an AIDS test.
"The doctor told me if I heard nothing, then to assume that the test was clear.
"That was in August 1985. When I tried to make an appointment with my doctor a couple of months later, I was told I'd been taken off his list.
"So I went to see another doctor to ask why. On Christmas Eve 1985, he told me I was HIV Positive.
"His actual words were: `Do you know you have a death sentence hanging over you?'"
THE full impact of her illness didn't hit Caroline right away. When she was diagnosed, her two sons and daughter were five, six and nine, and she was living with a long-term partner.
She says: "My boyfriend was immediately tested - and he was clear.
"I'd only slept with two other men in the few years before that, so I had to contact them."
One of the men was tested, and cleared.
But the other told Caroline: "If I've got AIDS I'll kill myself."
And that's exactly what he did.
Caroline says: "I knew from his reaction that he suspected it and two years later he committed suicide.
"So I'm almost 100 per cent sure that's where I got HIV. I was angry at the time, but I can't afford to waste my energy on anger any more."
After her diagnosis, Caroline went off the rails for a while, although she held down a high-powered job.
She says: "At first, I thought if I ignored the fact that I was HIV Positive, it would go away.
"But once I discovered where I had got it from, I had nothing left to concentrate on.
"I still lived a normal life, but all the time I felt as if this timebomb was ticking away inside me.
"I felt different from everybody else. I felt that if people knew, they wouldn't want to know me, they wouldn't want to come to my home and eat my food or sit beside me at work.
"A lot of people totally give up when they're diagnosed - I didn't, I just wanted to escape for a while.
"After a year or so, I decided I had to do something with my life, and went back to college to do an intensive computer course.
"My boyfriend was wonderfully understanding, and stuck by me, but by 1989 our relationship was dead and we split up.
"That was very frightening. All of a sudden, I was alone. No-one else knew, and the reality of it all hit me very hard.
"It was then I decided to start telling people. I was tired of pretending, and hiding such a big part of myself from everyone I knew."
Caroline vividly remembers the day she told her daughter.
She says: "It was the worst day of my life.
"My daughter was 16 when I sat her down and told her. She cried hysterically for three hours and there was very little I could do to comfort her."
CAROLINE has been told by her doctor that she's a "non-progressor", which means she could remain free from AIDS for years yet.
She says: "At first I'd spend hours looking for lumps, rashes or spots.
"I'm coping better now than I ever have done, but sometimes I'm walking down the street, quite the thing, and it hits me all over again.
"But I'm making plans for the future now - I'm going to Australia for six months next year - and I can confidently look forward to things."
Caroline has been in a couple of relationships since splitting with her boyfriend, but the reactions from men have been mixed.
She says: "It's so difficult to know when to tell people. You can't predict what reactions are going to be - it's a lovely piece of gossip.
"The first boyfriend I told was after we'd been seeing each other for about six months, and the relationship had to move on.
"When I told him, he just nodded, and changed the subject. It was as if I'd told him I was a Gemini!
"We saw each other for quite a while after that, but he wanted to go and get a test every three months, and that made me think he wasn't handling it as well as he thought.
"People don't want to get involved with me in case they get attached and I die - and I fully understand that.
"But it's not a nice feeling knowing that someone is scared of having sex with you.
"Most people will never know the kind of rejection HIV brings - it takes a really strong person to deal with it."
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Aug 21, 1996|
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