Thursday, October 20, 2011
With patience and persistance, you will perservere! 20 months post diagnoses
The hepatitis C diagnosis was completely unexpected, and was harder to digest than being told I had HIV.
Though I had dabbled in recreational drugs, I never was an IV drug user. As I said in previous blog entries the only thing I knew about hepatitis C was that Pamela Anderson had it and that it was a disease amongst IV drug users. I was completely floored over the diagnosis. My Doctor at Callen Lorde in NYC refereed me to Mt Sinai Hospital as a study was being conducted regarding sexual transmission of Hepatitis C.
I learned of this diagnosis the day before entering rehab at the Pride Institute in Minnesota, and was told about the treatment of interferon and ribavirin I would have to begin after my thirty day stay at Pride. I remember crying on the plane ride from NYC to Minnesota, and I broke down several times in rehab over the Hepatitis C diagnosis. I was now considered ‘co-infected’ and I was scared. I was told I’d have to give myself shots of a low dose of chemotherapy (interferon) and that the medicine was going to make me VERY sick.
I had an AMAZING experience at the Pride Institute; while there for thirty days it gave me time to digest my new diagnoses, reflect on my addiction issues, and prepare myself mentally to start my course of Hepatitis C treatment. I remember flying back from Minnesota to NYC, but this time I didn’t cry; I was going to fight this battle head on and do WHATEVER I needed to do to rid Hep C from my system.
The day after I landed I met with my Doctor at Mt Sinai and began treatment. Every two weeks for six months I took a train from Albany to NYC to see my doctor for follow up labs. Since I was in a study nearly twenty tubes of blood was taken every two weeks. The initial expectation of eleven months of treatment was reduced to six months as I had a very good response to the medicine and by week four I had a nearly undetectable hep c viral load.
I began giving myself the shots the second week, and like clockwork once a week I would inject the interferon. The worst part of the treatment was the ribavirin pills, I think it was just the fact I had to take 6 ‘more’ pills every day. The biggest side effects I had from treatment were fatigue and a heightened level of anxiety, and about 20 pounds of weight loss. I never had a fever, or body aches, never even had a headache. In fact I was prescribed 500mg of Naproxen to combat the possible flu like symptoms, but I never used a single pill. Treatment was NOT as bad as people talked about, but it certainly was not a walk in the park. So, 6 months post treatment I was still undetectable, cured!
A cure of hepatitis c is measured by an undetectable viral load 6 months AFTER stopping treatment. At three months post treatment I was still undetectable, AND at six months post treatment. I had beaten the odds and was cured!
I remember my last shot; it was nearly a year ago, a month before Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday). As my appetite began to return I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. It was a nice thanksgiving with my family, and I gorged! I quickly gained back the 20 pounds, plus some.
Another achievement will be this march; it will be two years since I went to rehab, and I can say I have rid the addiction of crystal meth! It’s been one heck of a ride these past 20 months, but with a lot of persistence and patience YOU WILL persevere. Hang in there, and until next time, be well!
Posted by Kevin Maloney at 8:08 PM