Recently Diagnosed with Hepatitis C
Were you or somebody close to you recently diagnosed with Hepatitis C?
If you are anything like me when I was given this news it was hard to grasp what it meant. I thought my life was over, even though there was some relief in knowing what was wrong with me because I had undiagnosed symptoms for years prior to being diagnosed with hepatitis c. It was still a difficult time for me.
You may take it in your stride; as I have known some who do, but most of us just don’t know what it means to have chronic hepatitis c, and the lack of knowledge can stress us. Attitude is important when facing any health issue, and certainly a good attitude will serve you well in the journey ahead, but it is not always easy to summon a good attitude in the face of news like this.
Some of us wonder how we got it, while others may have a clear idea or suspicions of how we got here. The short version for me is that it does not matter, unless we are concerned about others who may have been exposed through the same point of contact. This is certainly something worth considering and I encourage you to do so if possible. Unfortunately, stigma exists around HCV, and some will feel shame. Please don’t feel shame over your diagnosis, because you will not gain a thing from feeling this way. What others think is their issue, but I respect the choice to keep your diagnosis private. It is nobody else’s business unless you choose to share it with them. There are exceptions to this because there are people that have to know if you are to receive care for your newly discovered status. These people are bound by ethics and rules that assure that your status is confidential. What you choose to share is your business.
Hepatitis c is something most of us know almost nothing about initially. Something I hear regularly is that people are unaware of whether they have chronic hepatitis c or just have antibodies present in their blood. This is far too often not explained or understood at first. Medical professionals may not always be the best communicators, or are rushed by their work-load.
A confirmatory test for the presence of the virus in blood is what determines if you have chronic hepatitis c. This is what’s called a viral load, and if you have no detectable virus you do not have chronic hepatitis c. Up to 25% will clear the virus with their own immune response, and this is when you are in the acute phase where the antibodies are produced to fight the infection. Having antibodies present is not having hepatitis c. Please be sure that your healthcare provider has confirmed your status with a test for the presence of virus in your blood.
In general there is much more information available today than there was just a few short years ago, and many will already be aware that hep c is curable, but many others will not know. This is relatively new to hepatitis c, in the language we hear and use. There is still a lot of mystery around HCV out there in the general population, and it is sometimes difficult to sort through all the available information online in a way that makes sense to us especially at first. This can add additional stress to being diagnosed with something that appears to have so many versions or types and this is only one piece of a big puzzle. Yikes!!!!! Even though I work in this area I struggle to keep up with new discoveries and my own diagnosis is not recent. It can be overwhelming I know, and me saying to just relax is meaningless and I understand. It is serious business and I am never one to play that down. Stay as strong as you can, but if you do not meet up to the expectations of others please do not sweat over it too much. Those are their perceptions not your reality.
Thorough evaluation and assessment is required to put a good forward looking strategy together, but for most who are new to hepatitis c it is not something we “just know.” There is never any shame in not knowing something. We have developed lists of questions to ask physicians, glossaries of terms, and all sorts of information to help people navigate the maze we all face when newly diagnosed and beyond. These are useful tools and they help. Seek out these things if you want to be involved in your care, and consider the benefits of advocating for yourself. This is not an option for everyone I know, but if you have someone who can go to appointments with you it adds another pair of ears and a voice in your corner. It is not a fight, but it can be intimidating for some people. Please don’t be intimidated.
If you are new to hepatitis c as a person who has been recently diagnosed, it is something we can now cure in almost everyone, and although there are barriers to accessing the treatment, do not lose hope. You can beat this thing.