It’s all in the family.

In the summer of seventh grade, after a day of playing tennis and drinking sugary drinks I went home to make a discovery I had not thought possible. Sprinting to the bathroom, there was little warning of what was would happen. As the toilet bowl filled with an “iced tea” color, I understood that this wasn’t normal. My parents would set up appointments the following week. Some weeks, Some doctors, and some new tests later, everything began to point to my liver, and a biopsy would confirm it as the source.

None of us really knew what to expect when we met with the doctor that day. Little was known about HCV among Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) at the time. And the information he explained was minimal. The room went quiet as my parents probed him he explained: “…at his rate, it isn’t unlikely that transplant at age 30 will be a reality for him if he doesn’t clear the virus. And even then he’ll re-infect the new liver.”

From that point onward my perspective was different. I would find that sports were out of the question; my physical activity sparked the event, so I was put to a system where I could not over exert myself.

But this isn’t just about me, the doctor asked my family for blood tests, and within a week he called us in. My dad, brother, and mother took the tests. My dad was clear, my brother was a false positive while My mother’s hands fell to her face as she was told the news, we were the same genotype.

I am a vertical transfer. Within months her optimism would later sew the same brightness within me, but not today. My mother would go on two treatments while I was in school. Each treatment put a glimpse into the insane side effects and pain from non-pegylated interferon into my reality. This was more than my mother’s pain, it would someday be mine.

After I graduated high school, I began the prep for treatment. At eighteen, people weren’t prepared to see my face in a GI, I stood out like a sore thumb especially so due to the large elderly patient population. My first treatment took months to get going, and it took about as much time for them to give me my first new HCV label: Non-responder. The treatment of Interferon-Ribavirin wasn’t just tough; it dug at my relationships, my at-the-time fiancé, my friends, and my job. It was my own personal hell, each month the results teetered around the three million (viral load) level. The failure of my treatment was hard on me. Coupled with the ending of my engagement and the news that I would need another semester at school, I lost myself.

Visit part 2 and part 3 of Rick’s series.

Learn more about the hepatitis C terms used in this article.

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