Jim Goebel is lucky to be alive, and he knows it.
For more than a decade, Goebel, who is HIV-positive, refused to take his daily nine-pill regimen. He got back on his meds four years ago after a gallbladder attack he calls "the scare." But when hip pain drove Goebel back to the doctor, an MRI revealed cancer -- specifically a fibrotic lymphoma -- was squeezing his aorta closed.
Goebel needed insurance and health care, which he just couldn't get at his job caretaking at a campground in Tennessee. Somehow (he doesn't remember how), he got the phone number to St. Louis Effort for AIDS and gave them a call, hoping someone in his hometown could tell him what to do.
"It's probably because of Effort for AIDS that I'm still here," Goebel tells Daily RFT during his break volunteering at the LGBT Center. The nonprofit set him up with the one thing he says he desperately needed: a primary-care physician.
"Had I not found medical treatment, I probably wouldn't be here," he says. "Now, I'm physically here -- not just healthy and living, but I'm here volunteering now."
On Thursday, St. Louis Effort for AIDS will hold its 21st annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser, when 150 St. Louis restaurants donate some or all of their proceeds to help local people living with HIV and AIDS.
"It should be a bigger deal," Goebel says about Dining Out for Life. He says he never realized how important -- or how financially strapped -- nonprofit orgs are until he became a client of Effort for AIDS and started volunteering at the center.
"Every little dime for these nonprofits, every little dime helps," he says. "Unfortunately, I don't have many dimes to give. But I have time.
"So if you don't have the time, give the dime."
Goebel knows how those dimes can help. Today, after working with Dr. William Summers at South Hampton Healthcare, Goebel's viral loads are undetectable, and the rest of his health numbers are stable. His cancer is gone -- for now, at least. He even has a whole new set of teeth after his jaw bone got infected.
See also: Slideshow: Dining Out For Life
But St. Louis Effort for AIDS gave Goebel more than just a doctor. It has been a source of support and understanding from day one.
"Just sitting and talking to Steve [Houldsworth at Effort for AIDS] was a big help," he says. Houldsworth promised to help Goebel the day he arrived in St. Louis, Goebel remembers, and he kept his word.
So for all the St. Louisans who plan to dine out and fight AIDS this week, Goebel has a message:
"Thank you," he says. "That's the least I can say. Thank you, and tell your friends."