Friday, September 30, 2011

2011_06_02 The back-story

In 1983 I was hospitalized for several weeks with what was later determined to be Crohn's Colitis, a combination of Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis. Before having surgery to remove my colon, I had several blood transfusions. A few weeks later, I was diagnosed with Non A Non B Hepatitis. No treatment was given, and it was assumed that it’d run its course and then be gone. Over the years, my liver function was tested when I’d have physicals, and it was always good. In 1994, it was determined that it was indeed Hepatitis C. To my knowledge, no one ever tested for a viral load (active virus).

In June 2009, my GP included a viral load test. I got the results of all of my labs in the mail. There were notes here and there about a few things, primarily GOOD numbers with things such as cholesterol, calcium levels, Vitamin D levels, etc. Overall, it was very good news. There was a page with the results of the viral load test and it had no notes on it. It had a number on it, 792,000, which I tried to research and found nothing. I guess both fear and denial kept me from calling to find out what it meant.

For most of 2010, I had a lot of aches and pains. I wrote them off as age and/or an autoimmune issue. I finally ended up at a Rheumatologist’s office in December. He ran lots of blood work and did many x-rays. At the same time, I was seeing a Chiropractor and was getting good results from adjustments. He suggested high doses (10 caps per day) of fish oils for inflammation, which was likely the cause of my pain. I had fabulous results and have been basically pain free since. I had also been suffering with flares of uveitis, a condition of inflammation in the eyes. The fish oil has made a huge difference with that too.

When I returned to the Rheumatologist, he was very glad to know that I had good results with fish oil because there weren’t really any drugs he could safely offer me because of the Hepatitis. He began with the good news. I do not have Lupus, and I do not have Rheumatoid Arthritis (although I do have some osteo-arthritis). But the bad news was that I do have active HepC virus. My viral load in December was 700,000. So that means it was active 18 months prior, but my viral load had gone down in that time. He suggested I see a Hepatologist.

The closest, and I’m sure the best, Hepatologists are at Ochsner in New Orleans. This is where all of my surgeries had happened so long ago. Although it is a place with bad memories for me, it is also a place of comfort. I feel safe there. When I explain my history, they know what I am talking about. First I saw a PA, whom I really liked. She spoke with confidence but not arrogance. She recommended a liver biopsy so that we could actually see if my liver is damaged. The biopsy was done May 13th (I loved the doctor!). The worst of that was the 2 week wait for results.

So May 27th, my husband, son, & I went back for the results. I’m glad they were there. It always helps to have 2 or more people listening to a doctor, plus I didn’t then have to relay it to them. I have mild stage 1 damage which was declared to be very good, considering how long I’ve had this. I had already done lots of research on my own, and knew what would come next. I will be having treatments for this. Between my viral load being low and my damage being minimal, I have a good chance of clearing this (being cured). If we wait and the viral load goes up or damage gets worse, my chances for a cure go down.

Treatment will not be a picnic. It's 48 weeks of weekly Peginterferon injections and daily Ribavirin, an oral antiviral. But there is a new drug. A brand new drug, approved May 25th will now be added. It’s an oral drug that directly attacks the HCV. It has shown to almost double the success rates of treatment. This drug may also make interferon treatment only 24 weeks which would be awesome.

I have no doubt, none at all, that I will clear this. The road may be bumpy, but I will be healed.

No comments: