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Dread and Test Results

My first dance with Hepatitis C treatment was in 2008-2009. The only option was Ribavirin and peginterferon, so I signed up for a study at Baylor College of Medicine. I was randomized with the potential addition of teleprevir (which is not longer on the market). On May 5, 2009 after 48 weeks of treatment that was worse than the silent disease, I learned that the virus was still present. Though the number of copies was low (474 million), as soon as the drugs were stopped, that number would rise rapidly. And no I was not randomized to teleprevir. The study coordinators already knew because I had no anal itching. Think about that.

Moving Forward After Treatment Failure

I was prohibited from re-treatment for 2 years because of the damage done to my body. I was profoundly depressed and anemic (hematocrit less than 10). The anemia had required multiple dosage reductions of Ribavirin. Had I not been in a study, Procrit would have prevented anemia. So I was trying for a better outcome than what was available on the market and ended up worse than if I had just stayed with the standard of care. Major depression affected my career via demotion. After treatment, the best I could do was weed the garden that went to seed because of neglect. I am still seeing a psychiatrist at the medical center and taking three medicines daily nine years later, with no end in sight.

My second dance with treatment began November 11, 2011 with the demons Ribavirin and peginterferon along with two oral antivirals (GS-5885 and GS-9451). This was an open-label study, meaning both the physician and I knew what drugs I was receiving. Treatment was for 24 weeks this time, with an exit at 12 weeks if no viral reduction.

Awaiting Results…

In February, I received the news: viral load reduction was strong. Continue treatment. In May the recorded message was “no detectable virus.” That was it, “no detectable virus.” How sweet the sound. I played that message for days, thrilled with the words. As part of the study, I was monitored for 5 more years. Now, “no detectable virus” is still a reality. As a precaution, I have liver function tests done annually. There are still bad things that can happen, liver cancer etc. But just for today, everything is good and I know it. Cure is possible.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.