Millville, Delaware

Diagnosed With Hep C in 2015

I was diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, genotype 2 in August 2015 at age 56. I had been feeling lousy for the past eight years. Never in my wildest dreams did the idea of having hepatitis C cross my mind.

The doctors estimated that I had the virus for 20 years or more due to a blood transfusion in 1986. I am still waiting for Medicaid to approve Sovaldi, the drug that will cure me. Medicaid has denied me three times, so after much frustration, I began to fight back. Although my insurance still refuses to cover me, my fight for a cure continues.

Having the diagnosis made me feel better, because at least I was given a legitimate reason behind my suffering. Chronic hepatitis C is an infection that slowly damages the liver. The stress of worry was only making it worse, but Sovaldi has about a 98 percent cure rate when taken with other drugs. If Medicaid pays the copay, I won’t have to worry about it getting worse anymore. Acquiring Sovaldi will dissolve some of my stress.

I didn’t tell my friends or coworkers because there was no reason for them to know. Simply put, a hep C diagnosis carries a lot of social stigma (just like AIDS). Ostracism and discrimination are very real possibilities when disclosures are made. People see hep C as the drug disease; when someone says they have it, they automatically think drug user. I would also like to say that not everyone with hep C got it from drugs. I was not willing to subject myself to this, so disclosure was on a need-to-know basis.

While hepatitis C infection can start silently, untreated hepatitis C comes out roaring. I have and will develop more symptoms down the road. Daily, I battle extreme fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, fever, nausea, vomiting and stomach, joint and muscle pain. These nuisance-like symptoms have seriously damaged my quality of life. Hepatitis C doesn’t stop there. Left untreated, it will progress and cause more serious and potentially fatal liver diseases.

As of now, I am untreated. My hepatitis C could spread, affecting others as well, including my loved ones. Hepatitis C shouldn’t stand in your way of living a full and healthy life. People with hep C should not have to wait until they are very sick to access curative drugs. I am now and shall continue to advocate for hep C funding and testing mandates!

Editor’s Note: Valerie Green’s efforts paid off. The state of Delaware announced that it would phase in a new policy to treat all hepatitis C patients in its Medicaid program. The new policy lifts specific severity restrictions by July 1, 2016, and removes requirement that people not be abusing drugs in order to be treated. All people with hepatitis C on Medicaid in Delaware will automatically be eligible for treatment effective Jan. 1, 2018.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Optimistic, compassionate, thankful.

What is your greatest achievement?

My children.

What is your greatest regret?

I was not more proactive in being tested years ago for hepatitis.

What keeps you up at night?

Worry, stress, and insomnia are all major factors in my lack of sleep!

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

Raising awareness about the value of living a healthy lifestyle if you have hepatitis; this can help prolong the health of your liver and ensure you make it to treatment.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Keep fighting; you’re the strongest woman I know!

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

I have a great admiration for all the hep C advocates, their work and stories they share, bringing resources to us all!

What drives you to do what you do?

People with HCV should not have to wait until they are very sick to access curative drugs.

What is your motto?

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those!

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

Pets and meds.

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

An elephant. I’m the kind of person who needs their social life and family to be happy!