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Crushing It: How To Slay Your Dragon, Part 3

My Sixth Treatment: How To Slay Your Dragon, Part 1

Selecting your weapon

After transplant, I knew the virus would come back with a vengeance, but to see my viral load shoot over 100 million was a surprise, nonetheless. I’d thought my earlier double digit numbers were something, but this was downright terrifying. Because without treatment, I would relive the last four years of my life, and require a new transplant, one I might not be able to get because the one I got was luck, to say the least.

Where I live, in California, the average transplant MELD is the high 20s, often 30s. Something I realized after transplant, which is an unfortunate reality, is that once you enter the transplant list, there are only two ways off it: Transplant or death.

I’d always hoped if I could be cured while on the list, I wouldn’t have needed a new liver. But having gone through transplant, I realize that even if I had successfully cleared, my liver was filled with massive precancerous nodules. I believe it would have been a certainty that I would have developed liver cancer and needed my transplant perhaps at most months after I’d had the operation in December.

Remembering a warrior

Photo of Orlando Chavez

I want to take a moment, within this space, to recognize a warrior and advocate who recently passed waiting for transplant, diagnosed with liver cancer, he’d beaten HCV and was undaunted in his methods. A fellow eccentric and unorthodox advocate, Orlando “Big O” Chavez,  wore many hats in Berkeley and throughout the bay area. You can read a more fitting tribute from Lucinda Porter, my mentor in advocacy, here on HepMag.

My next steps

This fight is deadly, and demands more of us than we may think we’re capable of, but when we rise to the occasion, we are more powerful, and together we’re even stronger. So it goes without saying, that I was adamant I start treatment ASAP. Thankfully, fighting my insurance for treatment initially wasn’t a problem, they approved it in record time. Because I had Medicare, it was significantly easier.

My doc explained that, after transplant, a few modifications would need to be made to my treatment, to make sure I could tolerate the anemia which often comes with Ribavirin.

Given my previous experience with treatment, it was necessary to try a different approach. After five treatments failed me, I suggested that a combination of Harvoni and Zepatier would be able to target my specific virus given my RAV load. I presented my report in January 2016 to my doc, and elaborated its efficacy because of the NS 34A and NS5B cleavage points working with my RAV load.

It’s important to find a treatment that works best for you. If you have RAVs, or you know your genotype, make sure to see which treatment is right for you. (There’s a free app now called that you may find helpful)

So, with my weapon in hand, I began a modified version of the treatment I’d suggested to my doc, 12 weeks of Zepatier Sovaldi, Ribavirin. With Ribavirin slowly stepping up from 1 to 3 as the weeks progressed.

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.