Written By: Teri Gottlieb
Since the time that I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, I knew that I had to turn it into something positive. I didn't know exactly what that positive was going to be right away, but I knew it was in there somewhere. I just had to find it. About halfway thru my treatment, when I stopped asking "Why me?" and started saying "Why NOT me?" I found my positive. I was lucky enough to have this fantastic treatment nurse named Laura. She went above and beyond what most any nurse would do and really connected with me. I knew that I had to pay it forward like she had with me.
For me, one of the best things ever is when I find out that I actually had a positive influence on someone with Hepatitis C or someone dealing with a loved one with Hep C. It's not about the "thank you" or the praise, it's about knowing that I have made a difference for someone. Over the past 8 years, I've come in contact with a lot of people struggling with this virus. I'd like to think that I've helped quite a few of them, but one person in particular stands out.
When I was about a month into treatment, my husband's best friend threw his annual surprise birthday party. Yep, he plans it, he knows about it, no big surprise but a great party nonetheless. It's something we have grown to look forward to every year. Great friends, great food, a genuine nice time. Just because this party fell on a Saturday night, the night after I took my Peg-Interferon shot, the night that I was always extremely sick, didn't mean I was going to miss it. I didn't care if I had to be propped up in the corner, I was going. I had to force myself to change out of my pajamas, take a shower and put on make up (I needed the make up, I looked like death warmed over) get dressed and go. As it turned out, we met this really nice couple very soon after we got there. Bob and Lynn (not their real names). They realized I was pretty sick, and they sat at the table with us. Of course, they asked me what was wrong with me and why I looked like I might keel over at any time and big mouth here told them. Immediately, Lynn started catering to me. She was getting me food and she was so very nice. Her husband, Bob was asking an awful lot of questions about my treatment. Then it clicked. I looked him dead in the eye and asked him "Do you have Hepatitis C?" He told me that yes, in fact he did.
We then had a very frank conversation about Hepatitis C and its treatment. Bob was afraid. He was very afraid of the treatment and what COULD happen. I told him that he should be more afraid of what could happen if he didn't treat. The following week, they invited us to a backyard party at their house. This party was on a Friday night. My shot night. They called us just a few hours before the party and I had already taken my shot. For me, Friday nights were the worst. I always had a high fever and chills and was miserable. But, it was a warm summer night and they had a band in their yard. A band I liked. I wanted to go. We did. Bob saw how sick I was and he said "See, I could never do what you are doing. I can't get that sick and run my business. I can't bring myself to do it." What made this even worse for me, as if my being sick discouraging him from treatment wasn't enough, was watching the amount of alcohol he was consuming. Drinking with Hepatitis C is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It was breaking my heart to watch him. It was making MY liver hurt for him. It was like I was watching him self-destruct. Actually, I was watching him self-destruct and it wasn't pretty.
Over the next few years, we ran into each other at parties and such. Things were still the same. He was not going to treat and he was still drinking. Then, in January of 2012, we had to go to a memorial service for a friend who had passed away. Guess who was sitting right in front of us? Yep, this same couple. She looked the same and I recognized her immediately but I almost didn't recognize him. He'd lost a lot of weight. He looked like a totally different person. After the service, I asked him how he was doing, how he was feeling and how that damn Hep C virus was treating him. Well, I got some great news. He hadn't had a drink in almost 3 years and he was starting treatment later that week. He had done a run with treatment previously and was pulled from treatment 12 weeks in as a non-responder. He was about to start round 2 with the addition of Incivek. There is no way to explain to you how excited and happy this made me. I cried harder at the fact that he was going to treat than I did during the service for this friend of ours who had died.
You see, I have thought about this man often over the years and it always bothered me that seeing me sick scared him away from treatment. It was so good to see him ready, willing and able to kick that dragon's ass. He even told me that if I could do treatment, he could do treatment! That was music to my ears! I am very happy to tell you that not only did he complete treatment but he achieved SVR and he is now considered cured! I think Bob needed time to process what he saw when I was sick. It took him several years to convince himself that not only could he do this but that he needed to do this. If nothing else, I showed him what the reality of treatment could be like. When he started treatment, he went into it with his eyes wide open. He knew what to expect. He saw it firsthand, with me.
You never know what kind of an impact you will have on someone. You never know when that one person is going to remember something you said. Make your words and your actions count and always, always speak the truth. .