My Experiences with Hepatitis C Testing and Treatment
I was tested for hep C after bringing up the situation with my personal physician. I was aware I was in a high risk pool and the growing number of articles documenting that people my age who grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s had abnormally high rates of hep C, thus despite having no symptoms of advanced hep C, it seemed prudent to check. Unfortunately, the results verified that indeed I did have hep C genotype 2b. The first test was followed by a second one to eliminate the possibility of an error, resulting in a second positive result.
Tests during treatment
Following the testing, I received a liver biopsy every 3-5 years and a series of blood tests to track any progression of the disease. During this period, there wasn’t a significant decline in my liver function and I had moderate elevated enzymes. Prior to and at the end of the treatment, additional blood tests were administered. A final blood test was required and administered 3 months after treatment completion to ensure the treatment was successful and the indicators has not reappeared. During the treatment, I had a follow-up calls with a nurse specialist every two weeks to discuss any side effects, changes in health, and ensure that I followed the schedule and answer questions about the treatment.
Follow-up testing and care
Following the post treatment blood test, I have not received any follow up testing or care for Hep C. I was asymptomatic and my life after was the same as my life prior to the treatment. I had elevated enzymes but the damage to my liver was modest. There was liver scarring, but this did not require critical or immediate treatment. In fact, my specialist recommended delaying treatment until an alternative was available that had increased rates of success without the debilitating side effects the current treatments had at the time. I waited approximately 10 years to start treatment.
My doctor was reassuring noting that improved treatments were “around the corner” and not to be alarmed about my prognosis. I fully participated in life, working, traveling, exercising, and living under no restrictions. For others who had more serious cases of hep C, their before and after treatment situation may have had a more dramatic.
One difference after treatment is that the lurking anxiety around the illness was now gone. Because I knew I was a likely hep C candidate, there was a general and persistent mental stress that was inescapable. If I had abdominal pains or felt tired, a red flag went up even though these are common ailments. This was complicated by my resistance to find out I had it, thus I procrastinated even bringing it up with my doctor. Since I didn’t have symptoms (jaundice, loss of appetite, chronic exhaustion), I didn’t feel compelled to address it, but the anxiety was always there. Clearly, the social stigma around the disease is problematic and I expect this isolates many who would or should be tested. As noted before, I have no lingering symptoms or health effects due to hep C or from the treatment I received.
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