I was diagnosed in March of 2001 almost by accident. At the time I was experiencing issues with my PCP over the way I was feeling physically. I couldn’t get him to listen to me. During this time I decided to get a second opinion. I was continuously so tired by mid-afternoon and needed naps after work. I was given a name of a new doctor and she was very pro-active; after listening to my past history and other information I provided she decided to get to the root of things. Together we couldn’t understand why at my age, at the time, I was worn-out, she gave me comfort while waiting for lab’s and other test results to return.
Back then the Health Department in Boston mailed out the results of these tests but the day I got the letter in the mail I also got a phone call from my doctor, actually while I was reading the letter. I didn’t have a lot of time to panic or get crazy. After we hung up, I had another appointment with the best liver specialist in Boston, I thought about what to do next.
The irony was I had been hired as the Hepatitis C Specialist for the City of Boston and was in the process of learning about this virus. Then BAM! I get my diagnosis. I was stunned at first because after being healthy for so long I immediately thought I was no longer healthy and that I was in trouble. If not for the nurses that I worked with and my co-workers at the time I’m not sure I would have followed through with treatment. It was extremely overwhelming for someone who is always “in control”.
It’s been 1 year since I have been cured from Hepatitis C and to say a lot has changed would be an understatement. I no longer feel tired, my joints don’t hurt like they did, I don’t have to worry about disclosure and best of all, I don’t have liver disease. I still take care of myself by not abstaining from alcohol and illicit drug use, 26 years sober, I still don’t smoke cigarettes, it’s been 15 years without one, I quit when I first went on treatment and never felt a need to start up again. I try to eat healthy and I entered my 50’s healthy and disease free. Things just get better all the time, my outlook on life has changed also, I no longer worry about getting older and how this virus will impact my future. My family is happy for me, my friends are as well. I’m approaching my 6th year of living in New York City and every day is a new, exciting day full of hope and opportunity personally and professionally.
I have a great job as a Community Outreach and Education Manager here in NYC educating people about hepatitis and liver disease. In the past year alone I have delivered many educational programs focusing on Hepatitis C and Hepatitis C and HIV Coinfection and other forms of liver disease and have reached nearly 2500 individuals. I have been fortunate to go to Washington D.C. and meet with our countries elected officials to advocate for treatment access and testing guidelines to be implemented to ensure every US citizen has access to getting tested for Hepatitis C. Every day I am at different community setting sharing information about disease prevention. Because I have dedicated my career to educating and advocating for others with viral hepatitis I’ve been asked to share my story in several media outlets and through documentaries. All of my successes, gifts and opportunities are a result of not to letting stigma, ignorance, and fear get in my way.
Click here to read all of Paul’s articles on HepatitisC.net.