Matt Starr
Matt Starr

Hartland, Vermont
Diagnosed with Hep C in 1995

A good place to start my story was before I knew I had hepatitis C. Twenty years ago I was cruising along, teaching grade school, enjoying the beginning of my marriage, running marathons, pedaling century rides on my bike in beautiful Northern California, going out for music and dancing, camping, and enjoying dinners and gatherings with friends before we all started having kids.

But that all changed soon after my first-born son arrived. My early college years of partying had left a souvenir, as I had contracted hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease that leads to cirrhosis of the liver and a host of other serious problems.

I had no symptoms then, but the disease slowly began its onslaught; ten years later, I had a severely damaged liver. With this new challenge came an inability to move fluids through my body normally, which led to a big, swollen belly, weakness, and other health problems.

Soon after my doctors recommended that I begin a course of strong medications that might – if I was lucky – stop the hepatitis virus and render it inactive. I did what my doctors told me, but the side effects left me even weaker than before, and I lost whatever vibrancy I had before the treatment began.

I made it through five months of the ten-month prescribed treatment, consisting of injections and oral meds. However, the meds weren’t touching the hepatitis, and the side effects were destroying me. In 2007, I received a liver transplant.

After the transplant, another round of ribavirin and interferon was prescribed, causing even more harsh side effects. It was pretty brutal, and didn’t work in the end. Last year, I tried the newly approved treatment combination of Sovaldi and Olysio, which seemed to be working, but failed in the end. Three strikes, but I’m not out. I am hoping to find a way to get the recently released Harvoni, but so far, Medicare is denying me. The price is exorbitant, so we are working the edges to get my hands on these new breakthrough drugs. Hope still reigns.

I understand how life sometimes puts us through unexpected twists and turns. I went through major changes when hep C became an extreme problem, and eventually I needed a liver transplant. The changes I was forced to face were significant, but the process is the same for everyone regardless of how the rug is pulled out from under them. Emotional and personal changes bring up feelings of fear, isolation, and loss of control.

Things were very hard for a while. However, through the hardships, my healing journey had begun. Here are some important steps on my healing journey:

  • I found more depth and healing through my spiritual practices of yoga and meditation.
  • I addressed the health of my liver systems through the use of homeopathic, naturopathic, acupuncture, and energy-based body work, along with the advice and expertise of those in the medical community that I trusted.
  • I made changes in my diet, relying more on plant-based food and Ayurveda principles.
  • I returned to regular exercise in the pool and on the forest trails, with acceptance of the benefits of moderate vs. intense effort.

As a result of these changes, despite the life-threatening health problems I faced, I became a more whole person. By and large, my relationships improved, and I became a better father and husband, and overall a more complete being.

I feel grateful for this precious life, in whatever form it presents itself to me. I love my life, and want to help others, in spite of circumstances, love they life they live. I am now a certified CTI health and personal life coach, helping others suffering from negative personal and health issues, and working in variety of ways to help my brothers and sisters with hepatitis and other diseases. I have found that by accepting and appreciating what we have, rather than focusing on what we don’t have, can allow us all to find deeper peace in our lives.

Starr Wellness Coaching

What three adjectives best describe you?
Optimistic, seeker, helper

What is your greatest achievement?
Escaping my self-destructive youth to become a great father and leader of those who suffer

What is your greatest regret?
Drug use as a young man that led to my hepatitis and liver transplant, and the pain it caused my children, wife, dad and other family members, as well dear loved ones in my circle

What keeps you up at night?
Nothing really; I am at peace.

If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?
That I could still have my extreme outdoor lifestyle

What is the best advice you ever received?
Love yourself; then you can love others truly.

What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?
Not something I really think about, but maybe Gregg Allman

What drives you to do what you do?
The hope that others can benefit from my mistakes and my story

What is your motto?
Love the life you have; anything is possible.

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?

My still-at-home teenager, wife, dog and cat, and one photo

If you could be any animal, what would you be?

A dolphin