Chicago, Illinois

Diagnosed with Hep C in 1985     

In 1985, a week after my wedding, I became extremely sick. I was barely able to get from the bed to the bathroom to the couch. I was nauseous, couldn’t eat and felt as though the blood in my veins was hurting. It took a team of doctors 10 interminable weeks to finally diagnose me with acute hepatitis; it took me another six months to get better. During that time, I confronted my mortality and really thought I was going to die. I was terrified.

During the next couple of years, I transitioned from the acute phase to the chronic phase of this insidious disease. During those two years, my daughter Celine was born. I believe that the love she awakened in me became the reason for my survival and the catalyst for charting my course back to wellness and wholeness. What was diagnosed as hepatitis non-A non-B was officially labeled hepatitis C in 1989. We now had a diagnosis, a better understanding of this virus, but still no cure. I went searching for cures and tried every alternative therapy out there, but to no avail. My disease was progressing, and my fear was once again increasing.

Over the years, I learned the hard way to partner with the disease instead of fighting it in vain. When I made peace with my reality, the quality of my life increased. I became my own advocate for my health and took full responsibility for it. I educated myself on my condition, on the cures that slowly became available, on their rates of success and side effects. I changed my diet, my lifestyle and my priorities. I made decisions based on science and intuition. I modified my behavioral patterns and states of mind, which had kept me identified with, and limited to, my sick self.

As I worked on that, I discovered that I was so much more than just a victim of this virus, a patient waiting for a cure. I started to regain my passion for life. I found joy in the little things again. My heart expanded with new appreciations and filled with gratitude and compassion for myself and for others. I became a warrior of wellness, taking full responsibility for the quality of my thoughts and my actions. I created a nurturing and supportive inner and outer environment, which, in turn, ushered in a great sense of peace, love and joy. The virus was still within me, actively attacking my liver, according to the blood test results. But, I was living full out.

I continued to grow and to integrate new perspectives, new modalities to nourish my body, mind and spirit. I felt an immense sense of freedom and love. In the spring of 2015, I decided that it was time to treat my hep C with a newly approved drug that had few side effects compared to prior treatments that I had rejected. A few months later, this miracle drug slayed the dragon (as my hep C tribe would say!), and I am now officially cured and discharged from my hepatologist’s care.

There is definitely a transition that happens after the cure. We are so relieved and happy to get rid of this dragon, but we can’t live with hep C for decades and just overnight shed the identification with being sick. It takes time and reassessment to reconnect to our true desires and reimagine the life we really want. I encourage everyone to get treated now and wish you all the very best on your own quest for wellness and empowerment. Life is too precious and way too short to let our challenges hinder our ability to live our very best life, amid any circumstances!

Toni Feldstein is a Hep blogger and her website is Integral Bloom.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Courageous, passionate, persistent

What is your greatest achievement?

Living my best life through it all, anchored in love

What is your greatest regret?

Not having spent enough time with my mother

What keeps you up at night?

Excitement about life

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

Letting fear take over at the beginning, for at least the first 10 years!

What is the best advice you ever received?

Choose love

What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?

Dr. Don Jensen

What drives you to do what you do?

My desire to love and to be loved, to connect with people based on what unites us

What is your motto?

It’s all about the love

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

A picture of my children, Chad and Celine

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

A white lion; fearless, protective, elegant, spontaneous and calm.