I Have Hep C, I Am Not Hep C (Part 2)
Click here to read part 1 of Kim’s article I Have Hep C, I Am Not Hep C.
It took me many many years to overcome that mumble under my breath of my health condition to a new physician or dentist. Because once I spoke the words it was as if the awkwardness of being close to me took hold. I could feel these poor people’s tension and the half-smiles they gave through the uncertainty of how they are going to finish this exam without being exposed.
I could see the questions in their eyes wondering how on earth I contracted this disease and how can they get this visit over quickly. The mood always changed every time I shared I had hep C.
Stigma stems from a lack of education
The ignorance of what hepatitis C was in the early days was, and still is, painful for so many. It was a hush-hush topic and was compared to being similar to the first outbreak of HIV in the early days. I know however the humiliation and backlash was far from those that were diagnosed with HIV but the reaction we received was similar. The feeling of rejection, humiliation, and shame are all the same.
Today, there still that hush-hush feeling. I would have hoped it would no longer be the case. I am, however, excited to see more and more people sharing their personal stories as that is what needs to happen. The more we stand up and talk about it, the less fear about this disease will be out there.
Sharing my story to help educate others
I shared my personal fight to put a face to a disease no one would have ever tied to me. I risked a lot doing so in the early days. I lost friends, family members, and customers to my company because of it. Instead of others reaching out to help me, they ran. They assumed things that were untrue, they listen to myths about hepatitis C and their ignorance cost us a relationship. Sad but it is the TRUTH.
We can’t force others to read and learn about hep C. All we can do is talk about it. And when you are done, talk about it some more. Once we can quiet inner fears they have you will notice that relationship ease up some. Whether it is a dentist, friend, or stranger.
We will not be defined by a disease
If we walk around in fear ourselves about hep C, we give off this insecurity to others about the disease through our own body language. The more you learn and understand the facts, the more confident you will become and therefore be able to then share about it. When I find others insecure around me after learning I had hep C, I immediately began sharing “I am so happy there is a cure today for this blood to blood contracted disease”. That statement there opens up dialog with the other party who is needing to understand fully what exactly this is.
Start the conversation
The key here is talking about it. If we walk around acting ashamed and scared, that is what we will expect to receive from others in contact with us. Don’t assume every doctor knows about hepatitis C — no one can possibly know everything about every disease. So, open it up for conversation. Share what you know, ease the tension with knowledge, and then the next visit it will be more pleasant.
WE have to keep in mind…We HAVE hep C, we are NOT hep C. I am just me with a diagnosis about to be cured! I am who I am and a disease does NOT change that.