Handling second chances is subject of book

Handling second chances is subject of book

By: E’LOUISE ONDASH – For the North County Times

Randall Neece celebrated his 55th birthday last month and swore he’d never complain about getting older again.

That’s because the Emmy Award-winning television director and producer never expected to live this long. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, and by the mid-1990s, was planning his funeral and making provisions for his partner of 24 years, Joe Timko.

“AIDS was a death sentence back in the early ’90s,” Neece said recently during a phone interview from his home inLake Tahoe. “There really wasn’t any hope. It was ‘How long can you keep going before one of the infections gets you?’ My health had deteriorated so badly that, even if a drug did come along, I was so far gone I thought I wouldn’t rebound.”

Neece thought the end had come in 1996. After cheating death several times, his blood tests showed that his viral load registered at an astronomically high level. He put his affairs in order and waited to die.

And then a miracle happened.

The FDA approved a new “cocktail” of drugs known as protease inhibitors, and within a month, Neece’s viral load was zero and his T-cell count had risen. Suddenly he had to think about the future.

“I thought, ‘Now what the hell am I going to do?'”

How he dealt with his second chance —- not an uncommon problem today, thanks to effective cancer treatments and medical technology —- is the story Neece tells in “Gone Today, Here Tomorrow” (Authorhouse; $15.95).

There are a lot of things to consider, he said. How do you learn to relive, rebuild relationships and make your life count? How do you deal with the debt you thought you’d never have to pay? What about the possibility of recurring disease? Do you tell new friends about your illness?

“None of us knows what will happen tomorrow, but … I now have perspective on what’s important,” Neece said. “I want people to know that no matter how bad things get, they can turn out better.”

Neece’s second chance meant an opportunity to dramatically change his life. He and Timko left the Hollywood life behind and decided to build a “Disneyland for dogs.” They bought 5 acres near Malibu, built waterfalls, a bone-shaped swimming pool and puppy playgrounds, and were open for business. His clients are the pets of some of Hollywood’s biggest names.

“One of the nice things about this book is that it doesn’t have a sad ending,” Neece said. “I hope it will be an inspiration to others. I think the book has a universal message and hope people see it that way.”