Diagnosed with Hep C in 1980 (non-A, non-B hepatitis)
Some of us know how we got hep C and others don’t. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if you got it by accident, or if it was self-inflicted. The fact is that you have it now, and it’s your choice what you’re going to do about it. I chose to fight it.
I got hep C back in 1973 from the pneumatic vaccine guns they used on us in the military, and I was diagnosed in 1980 when I went to give blood. At the time they called it non-A, non-B hepatitis. They didn’t know much about it, let alone have any kind of treatment for it, and it would be years before they did.
I’m a 100 percent disabled veteran, and I’ve never hidden or been embarrassed by the fact that I had hep C. Why should I be? Nobody ever asked how I got it, and it wasn’t any of their business anyway. Also, my friends don’t ask me a lot of questions, because I’m old and grumpy. I use to be young and grumpy when many of them met me, so they’ve learned to put up with me and my ways. I look back now and wonder how many of the people I’ve told over the years even understood what hep C was. I have to admit that I didn’t really understand much about it myself.
I lived with hepatitis for years. It wasn’t causing me any health problems that I knew of, and there wasn’t a treatment for it anyway. I just continued with my life as usual. I can’t say how much I would have changed the way I was living had I known more about hep C, but I can’t change the past, so it’s water under the bridge.
In late 2003 or so, I had an appointment at the Veterans Administration and happened to mention it to one of my doctors. By that time, they had interferon treatment, and I was referred to the infectious disease clinic. I thought, “Infectious disease clinic? Who, me?” That’s when what I had been living with really sunk in. I started asking a lot of questions and very quickly found out what living with hep C could do to me over the long run. Some people can live with it for years, as I did, with no real problems; others can have liver damage very quickly.
I started peginterferon treatment in late 2003, and went through 11 months of the worst hell I could have ever imagined. I’m 5’8” and had dropped to 126 pounds by the time it was over; I almost didn’t take the last three shots. I swore one of them was going to kill me, and they almost did. It so affected my state of mind that when they wanted me to do the newer treatment, I had to think about it. Many people have run across the horror stories of that treatment when researching the new ones. There’s no comparison between the two, so please don’t let it figure into your decision to treat.
I consulted my doctor in 2015 and told him about my reservations because of what the interferon had done to me. He explained that there was only a 30 percent cure rate on the last treatment (thanks, Doc), and there was almost a 100 percent cure rate on this one. Then he looked at me and said “I’m going to cure you this time,” and I asked if he was going to try to kill me while he was doing it. We both laughed, but I still had reservations about it.
I started researching the treatment and stumbled onto HEPmag.com. After a lot of reading and gathering facts, I made the decision to treat. I started in October. Four weeks later my first labs were undetectable and my liver functions were back to normal. My treatment is over now and I’m still undetectable. I never thought I would see that day. I can honestly say this was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.
If you have hep C and are considering the treatment, talk to your doctor. There’s no better time than now.
I would like to thank everyone here at HEP for all your support; the knowledge you have is second to none. You got me through this, made me wiser (although I’m still old and grumpy), and I couldn’t have done it without every one of you. Thank you.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Intelligent, determined, blunt
What is your greatest achievement?
Getting to this point in life
What is your greatest regret?
I don’t have any.
What keeps you up at night?
If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?
To have been more informed about hep C
What is the best advice you ever received?
Don’t ever give up, don’t ever quit.
What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?
There are too many to name; every one of them has left their mark on me.
What drives you to do what you do?
I’m too stubborn to go quietly into the night.
What is your motto?
Live life on your terms, and enjoy it.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
An otter; they’re playful, and free spirits.