My Best Friend and HCV
My dog Jess was the designated care-giver on duty 24/7.
For some people who know me you will know how much grief I have felt since he passed last month. It has been very difficult for me to settle and I am reminded daily of the hole that there remains in my life without him.
Some people will understand very well how important our animal family members are to our well-being. This was especially true for me during the most difficult years in my life.
I was sick for years without a diagnosis and then once diagnosed I was devastated with the news of “having hep c” I knew very little as most of us do leading up to diagnosis, and for me it was game-over; fortunately I was wrong.
During those times when I felt so sick, Jess was always there for me. He was there for me when nobody else could be. Not necessarily because they didn’t want to be, but was that a realistic thing for me to ask. To listen to my moans and groans and always be at my side was simply way more than I was prepared to ask of anyone, even the closest of friends and family. They all grew tired in a different way to me, but tired of my lack of energy and interest in life. I cannot blame them for this, and there is no use in blame anyway. My moods would swing from quiet and disconnected to anger over the smallest things-even nastiness at my worst. I am not proud of my behaviour at times during treatment, and it certainly was no fun to be around me back in those days. Jess was never the blunt of my anger or ever avoided me like just about everyone else in my life.
Taking him for walks was such a release for me, as much as it was for him.
I spent a lot of time on the couch back then and he was almost always beside me snuggled up or on the floor beside me. If I made the slightest noise like a wheeze because of my poor breathing, or a moan about how sick I felt, he would look at me as if to ask, “are you alright Dad?”
Nobody hung on my every word or noise like he did. Who could or would be so attentive?
My year treating with interferon and ribavirin were the worst for me, at least the first half. Those walks at the park with Jess gave me a chance to find peace while getting some activity in my days outside of the partial days I worked. Because treatment lasted 11 months it spanned all seasons, warm, cool and cold rainy days we went out in the afternoons. The joy and companionship that Jess brought me through all the anxiety and depression during treatment was distinctly different from any of my human supports. This is not to say that my human supports were not important or helpful, but it was different. Dogs are not easily dissuaded by adversity as it turns out. They are social creatures like us, but have a wonderful capacity to never judge us like humans will. During those years I needed that kind of unconditional love in my life, as cliché as that may sound it was invaluable.
In the last two years of his life it was my turn to step up and be his caregiver during his own battle with diabetes, blindness and eventual loss of hearing. As I mentioned, he has passed now. I feel great loss over this, but I will never forget what Jess taught me about resilience and courage. He was a noble soul like few I have ever known, and I feel very fortunate to have had him in my life before diagnosis, during treatment and beyond. If you are like me and love animals, I hope that you share in a similar experience like I have in your own hepatitis c journey.