After getting your results that you have hepatitis C, it is one of the most frightening times of your life. Shortly after diagnosis, I was directed to go see a specialist or as they called them an infectious disease doctor. It was BIG time now I guess – I was labeled with an infectious disease. Now if that does not panic anyone, I don’t what else would.
A Sense of Urgency after Diagnosis
The receptionist put me on hold and we have all experienced that hold moment which feels like – FOREVER! I wanted to yell through the phone…”Hello, you have a very infectious patient on the other end who is literally dying to get in there to see a doctor”. Even today, you may experience this feeling that no one cares or is taking you seriously. But, you do! We all are important and we all matter. I constantly have to remind myself that I am only one of the millions now living with (or was living with) hepatitis C. As the new treatments have come out and more advertisements airing on local media about importance of getting tested, more and hundreds more are being diagnosed daily. All of whom are just like you and me, wanting that 8 AM appointment to get their questions answered, wanting this nightmare we all are in to go away, all just wanting to be cured.
As much as we wish we could be seen right away and as much as we have fear about our life expectancy – I am here to hopefully ease those fears and reassure you that being diagnosed with hep C is not a direct path to the grave. It may feel that way, but it is not. I lived every emotion you reading this right now have felt. I was diagnosed with stage 4 liver disease and there is nothing beyond that stage. I was panicked. I had two small children, was running three companies that all depended on me daily. I really overdid myself as far as planning for my end. I began filling out wills, life insurance forms, looking into burial plots – yes I was that scared.
Getting the Facts & Taking Calming Breath
After meeting my new liver specialist (an actual hepatologist) in 2010 did I truly learn about what stage 4 really meant. He shared that it is not something that I was going to die from tomorrow, a week from now, or a year from now. Cirrhosis simply means severe scarring and that the liver is in bad bad shape…NOT DEAD. He explained that it could be even decades, who knows how long, but that having cirrhosis is not imminent death. After he explained this to me I settled right down. I began reading and learning more and more about my condition.
What I am here to share is: yes, it is scary, and yes, you have the right to be. Here is thatBUT… we are not talking days, weeks, or months. So when that receptionist takes longer to get you in to see the doctor understand this… if it warranted next day appointment with your liver results and tests, let me guarantee you will be that 8 AM appointment. So take comfort knowing your 6-week appointment is a sign you are doing good, all things considered. If you happen to get that 8 AM appointment you are in good hands and doesn’t mean the worst either. Take a deep breath you will get through this. Stop thinking death and start planning your cure.
Side note: I am 3 years post-curing my hep C. My liver is still stage 4 (remember, I was first diagnosed stage 4 in 2010). With the threat of hep C gone, I’m now seeing results that my liver is regenerating new cells. It is a slow process but finally, after planning my death, I am dreaming of future things I want to LIVE for! Don’t spend anymore stress on what stage of disease you are in. Focus on getting cured.