Monday, April 5, 2010

Wishing the best of luck to all! Kathleen

I am a 60 year old woman who often imagines that she is much younger; it might be a case of arrested development? - For a few years I knew I should get tested for Hep C because I had a history of some risky behaviors in the distant past and had also been exposed to a lot of blood in my work as a health care provider. I had quite a few friends and family members who had been diagnosed and gone thru treatment, including my little brother, my best friend and several former boyfriends. But I put it off, didn’t think about it too much, and was feeling pretty well most of the time. Sometimes in the 1970’s I felt pretty strange and wondered if my childhood malaria had come back. I did have mild to moderate fibromyalgia for about 20 years until the mid-90’s, and then it went away.

My brother died in 2004 at the age of 51 of liver cirrhosis. I was very mad at him for a long time, I didn’t understand at that time about brain damage perhaps making it impossible for him to stop drinking, and the ammonia in his blood affecting his mind. It was like he got taken over by an evil alien. He kept drinking during his Hep C treatment, which is probably a lot worse than doing no treatment at all. I was the only one with him when he died, he never thought he was going to die, he thought he would get a liver transplant. I spent 2 weeks cleaning out his house – Yikes! - I have one of his cats now; I brought her home on the plane.

I got tested in 2005 and wasn’t surprised to be positive for Hep C. Genotype 2b, the same as my best friend. Found a good hepatologist, had a biopsy which showed no liver damage, mild inflammation. Normal LFT’s when tested. So I haven’t done treatment and may not ever. I do have some RUQ pain which I wonder about, some blood sugar issues, and some eye issues. Every time something new develops you wonder if it is associated with the virus.

From my teens to mid-20’s I did some serious sporadic binge-drinking and pot smoking, but after that I was always on call for work and starting a family so I quit, I had to have all my remaining wits about me! I was always into good healthy food and outdoors exercise, and lucky that I never liked cigarette smoking.

In 2008 I attended a workshop put on by the Hepatitis C Support Project and became a Hep C Educator. So far I have been active on some websites and have written a couple of articles for magazines and newsletters, hoping to raise hepatitis awareness in health providers. I have some other ideas about things that I might do in the future.

I haven’t told very many people that I have Hep C. I don’t want my children to worry about me; I don’t seem to be very sick at present. I’m a pretty private person and a bit of a loner, I don’t like people talking about me or feeling sorry for me. So I’ve just told a few people, mostly those who also have it. Maybe this will change in the future?

Our American health care system is frustrating, inefficient and expensive. I’ve been self-paying most of my life and it’s difficult to find out how much things are going to cost. Often it turns out to be much higher than the quoted price. Many people have limited access to care due to lack of money and insurance. I believe that providing basic health care should not be a source of high profits and great wealth, this seems wrong to me. I feel we need to take it out of the hands of the for-profit insurance companies. Emphasize prevention and healthy behaviors. Informed choice in health care is an important principle. It’s a shame that it has become such a partisan issue at present. We all need to do our part; we are all our own primary health care providers because of all the life-style choices we make every day.

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