Diagnosed with Hep C in 1999

In 1980, I was 23 and needed emergency surgery to save my life. I was bleeding internally and had lost so much blood that I needed a blood transfusion. Little did I know that this lifesaving procedure would later put my life at risk, because the blood was contaminated with hepatitis C. After living many years without knowing I was infected, I learned I had hep C in 1999 because of a routine work-related medical exam. Further testing revealed that I had genotype 1a hepatitis C. At that time, treatment used interferon and my doctor refused to treat me. He said I didn’t have enough support at home. I was depressed about this and found a therapist and a psychiatrist to talk about my feelings about living with a disease that I couldn’t get treatment for.

At the time, I was working as a medical assistant and clinical technician, going to college part-time to achieve my dream of finishing college. I told my college counselor about the darkness and hopelessness I felt over living with hep C. I thought life was unfair. I was having a pity party. Eventually I realized that I could either give up or live.

Some days were harder than others were, but I kept on working and going to college. When I told people that I had hep C, they’d hurry to get away from me. Because of hep C, I am even more isolated than before. Now my new doctor wants me to take the newer drugs.

I am looking at the new drugs to see if they can cure me. I read that doctors were trying Olysio (simeprevir) and Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), which has a better cure rate than peginterferon, ribavirin, and Sovaldi. I hope my doctor prescribes this for me. I don’t want uncured hep C to take 15 years off my life.  I learned that there is financial assistance from the makers of these drugs for those who cannot afford the treatment.

There is much more awareness about HIV than there is about hepatitis C. I just wish people really understood that if you have hep C, you are not a risk to them via casual contact. I also want hep C patients to know that the best thing you can do is get the immunizations for hep A and B.

So, I am going to try again to get the meds and cure hep C once and for all. I have to battle this illness for myself, my son and my granddaughter.  I want to see my granddaughter get married. My son contacts me all the time and asks, “Did you go to the doctor?” I haven’t yet. I am waiting for some paperwork to bring to my doctor. If my insurance refuses coverage, my doctor will appeal it. I am not going to give up.

What three adjectives best describe you?
Loyal, compassionate, caring

What is your greatest achievement?
Getting in the International Honor Society and making the dean’s list in college in the top .5 percent of my class

What is your greatest regret?
Not saving my money for times when I could no longer work

What keeps you up at night?
Stress and worrying about picking the right hep C treatment

If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?

Not being sick and tired any longer

What is the best advice you ever received?
Never give up. There are new medicines coming out soon.

What drives you to do what you do?
My son, sister and granddaughter. I want to set an example, showing that when faced with adversities, one can survive. Never give up your dreams or let anything bring you down.

What is your motto?
Never stop believing and never stop living because of an illness.

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
A soft and plushy throw I use all the time.

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

An elephant, as they are gentle and have feelings like humans