Recently I have been reflecting on events in my life. A friend prompted me to be tested for hepatitis C and I tested positive. A liver specialist confirmed my disease with a viral level. The news was devastating and I fantasized about becoming a monk on a high mountain. Not only did I have the HCV antibodies but I had the virus also. After regaining composure I asked my doctor about the next steps. He explained a liver biopsy would be necessary along with a combination of Interferon and Ribavirin. I was willing to do anything to rid my body of the virus! It was the week before Christmas 2001 and I was given the option of waiting until after the holidays to start Interferon and Ribavirin but I wanted to begin immediately.
Prior to being diagnosed, I was a dedicated body builder. I was actually more fearful of being unable to body-build than I was of having the virus. The doctor instructed I could work out if I felt up to it. It took about seven hours before feeling the initial effects of the medication, which were awful flu-like symptoms. I began the workout and I assured myself I could do this. My faith and love of life enabled me to stay healthy and fit during therapy. I truly believe that a positive attitude is key. Following the doctor’s suggestions, I drank a minimum of one gallon of water daily to ensure proper hydration. This prevented the headaches. There were times when I experienced overwhelming chills in the middle of the hot summer and difficulty breathing. I never once gave in to the side effects and after three months my repeat viral load was undetectable; I continued treatment for an additional nine months. I fell to my knees, crying tears of joy and gave thanks to God.
The most difficult challenge lay ahead for I still had nine months more of therapy. Winter worsened the shortness of breath yet I pushed on toward the finish line that seemed an eternity away. I stay connected with some guys on Interferon and some who had finished with great results. Exercising, eating well, and staying hydrated kept the side affects to a minimum. All in all I feel great. The scary thing about hepatitis C is that you feel well when, in fact, you may have the virus. If nothing is done to at least attempt to fight this disease, one could end up with irreversible liver damage eventually requiring a liver transplant.
Three years after being off therapy my hepatitis serology is negative. I continue to attend monthly support groups to encourage others. Sharing my experience inspires and empowers others. My philosophy is never give up. I give much gratitude to my doctor, office staff, Lab Corp., Vytra and Schering-Plough Corp.
Page updated: April 10th, 2007