Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Diagnosed with Hep C in 1995
I’m a 56 year old woman living in Australia, but I am originally from New Zealand. I had a very dysfunctional childhood, and was a confused teenager with no confidence and very low self-esteem. I had a son when I was 16. I tried to be a good a Mum, and was lucky to have relatives who helped with his care.
When I was about 19 or 20 years old, I tried all sorts of drugs. I used injectable ones a few times with a couple of very good girl friends who I was living with. I met my husband around that time, but he didn’t support my using drugs, so I stopped, and began a different stage of my life. We moved to Australia, and got on with living a normal life. We had a son in the late 80’s, got married, bought a house, worked hard, and so on.
In the early 90’s, I donated blood and got a letter from the blood bank informing me that I had tested positive for hepatitis C. I was hysterical. I thought I was dying and ran off to the doctor who reassured me that if I lived a healthy life I would be fine. So, I exercised, ate healthily with limited takeaways (fast food), and tried to keep my weight in the healthy range, which was a challenge. I certainly didn’t drink like my friends did, but I did drink. When it came to using drugs and alcohol, I fought hard to keep my party-loving side subdued. If I hadn’t been diagnosed early, I’m sure my poor old liver would have ended up quite damaged.
My doctor sent me to a specialist who eventually talked me into treatment with the triple treatment using interferon, ribavirin, and telaprevir. Oh my God! It was the worst time of my life. I was very sick, and hadn’t told anyone other than my husband what was going on. I honestly thought I might die. Luckily, I had an early viral response and only had to do treatment for 24 weeks. I don’t think I could have done any more treatment beyond that. Thank goodness, I cleared the virus. I hated every moment of treatment and a year later, I am still having a hard time dealing with post-treatment symptoms. I am glad the virus is gone but I wish I had waited until the treatment was a lot gentler than the triple therapy. My life is slowly becoming normal again.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Strong, intuitive, cynical
What is your greatest achievement?
What is your greatest regret?
Not knowing at a young age to say “No”
What keeps you up at night?
I used to stay awake all night worrying that my son might have hep C. He is now 26 years old, and I just informed him that I was hep C-positive when I was pregnant with him. He was tested, and the results came back negative.
If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?
Stigma. The general population is misinformed. They think it is a drug users disease, which carries a stigma, and that hep c can infect anyone, anytime, and anywhere. They think that you can catch hep C by drinking out of the same bottle, sneezing, kissing, touching, and so on.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Exercise daily and eat a healthy diet with lots of raw vegetables, fruit, nuts, and avoid takeaways (fast food)
What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?
Nonna on the Hepatitis C Australasia site forum
What drives you to do what you do?
What is your motto?
You can do 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?
I would be a dog living in Australia. In this country, most of us treat our pets as if they are part of our family; they are loved and cared for accordingly.
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia