Whether you have been around hep C for years or are new to it, you may know of what I am calling the dragon. Hep C was called the dragon and we refer to getting free of it as slaying the dragon. There are loads of different references to the dragon and I even wrote a song on the day I finished treatment in celebration of ending 48 weeks of the most hellish days in my life with older therapy. It is a toss-up, which was worse for me; living with the dragon or treating with that toxic brew. Some of you will know all too well what I mean, and for those who do not I am so happy for you and celebrate each and every triumphant victory over the dragon. I am not going to dig down to all the issues that we face in treatment recovery here today and they can be a struggle for some people now just as they were before direct acting antivirals (DAAs).
No regrets here. I was fortunate to treat in a clinical trial with the DAAs, which are curing so many people now, with fewer side effects. Despite the well-known side effects we wanted to be done with that ugly beast of a dragon, and that is what drove many of us to take the toxic cocktail. A leap of faith perhaps or just sheer fear of the dragon, it depends on each of our own feelings and reasons.
Reminiscing About Slaying the Dragon
I was reminiscing with a fellow dragon slayer recently about those bad ole’ days and we laughed a little, but mostly we shared the stories of our rough days, weeks and months of battle. We definitely considered it a battle and one like no other. It is interesting how rarely I see any mention of hep C as a dragon these days. Why is that, I wonder?
I think it is because treating is not the long hard battle it once was. Now, I am not suggesting it is easy for all people now, because I know some who have had a few side effects that are unpleasant, but for the most part it is easier and a lot shorter now, with little need for all the supporting drugs that many of us needed with interferon. The anti-depressants, the pain meds, the drugs to prevent our bodies from shutting down completely with our red blood cells missing in action, and on and on.
I never knew depression until my own dance with interferon and ribavirin, and would have gone completely bonkers without the support from the community and drugs that made me sort of normal-ish. The shakes and tremors, the sleeplessness, the fear, anxiety, and overwhelming tiredness were killers and seemed to never end. But they did, and thankfully I got better.
The thing is that I have no regrets at all about doing what I did in my personal battle with the dragon. The community was strong in supporting me, and I know I have shared many times just how important peers are in hep C. It is not as simple as our liver and not as simple as treatment, even when it was rough to treat. The virus does not define who we are, and neither does whatever treatment we use to beat that dragon down.
My hep C experience gave me the realization that no matter how hard things can get we are not alone. You are not alone. We can win battles, more often with an army, not alone, and if we want to stop the dragon, we need all the support we can get. You have it, just ask.