In celebration of Hepatitis Awareness Month the Caring Ambassadors Program is highlighting treatment success stories in our ‘Treatment Works!’ campaign. We understand and respect that treatment does not work for everyone. Treatment can be difficult and everyone who has tried it has had a different experience. However, there are success stories and we believe they should be shared because they represent the first steps to winning the battle over hepatitis C. We hope you will be inspired, as we were, by reading about these people who overcame hepatitis C.
My name is Bruce and I am 48 years old, married for twenty-one years with two children. All of who are HCV negative. I live near Centralia, Missouri on a small farm. I was diagnosed with Hep B in Germany in 1974.
(They never tested me and I have no antibodies..Hmmm..I was in the army at the time. I was hospitalized for 45 days and told I was cured. In Nov. 1989, I went to the ER with chest pain and weakness. I wasn't having a heart attack, but a lot of liver pain. My ALT was greater than 1000. The Dr. I was referred to, had just returned from a seminar on Hepatitis and learned about the Interferon trials. I started the trials in Jan. '89 and spent the next year and a half on and off Interferon. I did well while on it, but relapsed within a few weeks of stopping. In 1997, my Dr. put me on Interferon for a year. My viral load was greater than five million. After one year of shots 3 times a week, I stopped Interferon. Three weeks later, my viral load was two million. The combo was approved on July 18th and I started July 20th 1998.
While I was on combo I had a variety of sides to include fatigue, anemia, depression, joint pain, weight loss and other flu like symptoms. One of the worst sides was my extremely short temper. Luckily, I have a great family and they put up with me. After the first few months, these sides were greatly reduced except for the anemia. I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. I always took my shots right before I went to bed and that seemed to help. On May 30, 1999 I stopped the combo and my enzymes are still normal and my viral load on July 1, 1999 was non-detectable. Today I remain virus free. It has been over 9 years now. So Far So Good! I have had several biopsies. When I was first diagnosed I had mild fibrosis and mild scarring, that was in 1989. In 1997 and it had advanced to Grade 2 inflammation and Stage 3 fibrosis. I had a liver biopsy Dec. 2002, 3 1/2 years after treatment and it showed no inflammation and stage 0-1 fibrosis! A big change from the periportal bridging I had 5 years ago!
I am not positive how I got infected. I did have a couple of risk factors. In September 1973 I received the Army vaccinations with the "jet injectors" and in December, I used IV drugs, so, which came first, the chicken or the egg? I am a Medical Technologist (I worked in Molecular Pathology, where I do the PCR testing for Hep C). For the last 5 years I have been a patient advocate, and active in a number of non-profit groups. I started with the United States Hepatitis Alliance as a State Chairperson. I later became the President. In 2000 the group dissolved and I joined Frontline Hepatitis as Vice President. In December 2001, I left Frontline and formed my own not for profit corporation, Missouri Hepatitis C Alliance. I started working full time as the Executive Director of MOHCA in 2005. We now have 6 support groups going: Columbia, Hannibal, Kirksville, Branson, Fulton and Osage Beach Missouri. I have worked with many National Groups; National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR.org), National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council (hepcnetwork.org), Hepatitis C Appropriations Panel (HCAP) Here it is March 2008 and I am still virus free. We have been providing free testing, assistance with treatment services for the uninsured, and education to thousands each year.
MY STIGMAS, MY PAST, MY PRESENT
Choosing: My Journey, My Choices
Hepatitis C can show no symptoms until advanced liver damage develops.