By: Teri Gottlieb
I was living the fairytale. I had finally found my Prince Charming, we had recently married. We had the house, the cars, the kids (one of mine, two of his) and a dog. We both had great jobs and life was good... Then my entire world fell apart with one phone call.
It was an October afternoon in 2004 and my doctor called me at work. His words were clear and cutting. “Your liver enzymes came back elevated so we did some more tests. You have Hepatitis C. You need to come in so we can talk about this.” I can't begin to tell you what his words did to me. Almost 10 years before this, I had gotten out of the medical field because of 2 viruses that there was no cure for. You know the ones, HIV and HCV. Now I was hearing that I had one of them.
Last I had heard, there was no cure for Hep C. All I could think was that I was going to die. Well the next morning I found out I might not die after all. Many advances had been made in the Hep C arena since I left the medical field and treatment was now out there. In the coming months I also found out that I had been living with this virus for approximately 25 years. There was a lot of damage to my liver and I needed to treat and it needed to work. Otherwise, I was headed for the liver transplant list. I was also told I would probably die waiting. My chances of the treatment working were a mere 35%. The odds were against me but that didn't matter to me. At least I had odds.
My doctor told me that I would be out of work anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks. Nobody told my body that, therefore it didn't cooperate. Treatment for me was BRUTAL. 48 straight weeks of chemotherapy. Massive doses of both Peg-Interferon and Ribavirin. I was not able to return to work. I was sick as a dog.
Luckily I had both short term and long term disability in place, so financially we were okay. Not great, not by any means where we were, but we were surviving. Then, a mere 2 months after my treatment ended, while I was still very ill, my long term disability stopped. One year went by between that last long term disability check and my first Social Security Disability check. Because of that year, we were forced to sell our home and we had 2 cars repossessed. I have learned that we are all just one diagnosis away from financial ruin.
I am still not my old self. I am now 8 years post treatment. I have Fibromyalgia and I deal with its assortment of symptoms daily and because of those symptoms I have still not been able to return to work. My life now is much different than it was before that phone call that day. I am a different person than I was the day I got my diagnosis. Hepatitis C changed me and for that I am grateful. You see, it changed me in a good way. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I'd spend a good part of my day giving support to others I wouldn't have believed you. It just wasn't me. It's me now and I like this me a lot better.