Blogging in E minor
Usually just a bunch of silly crap.

We Would-Be Doctors

The irony of being diagnosed with what is essentially a blood-and-needle disease is that I will be continually poked and prodded and drawn as a result.

            To recap, after overcoming my 20-year aversion to blood-letting, I took part in the first-ever blood drive at my daughter’s school, only to discover I had tested positive for hepatitis C. I received a rather ambiguous flyer describing my uncertain prognosis.

  • It is a viral infection that is generally chronic, though some people spontaneously recover within a few months of being infected.
  • A small number of people die shortly after contracting the virus; however, many people go unaffected.
  • The disease frequently causes cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer and may be asymptomatic and undetected for decades.
  • Treatments are available that are 50- to 80-percent successful.

            Since January, I’ve undergone multiple blood tests, a CT scan of my abdomen and a liver biopsy, which I mistakingly refer to as an autopsy on occasion. The latter procedure involved hours of preparation and paperwork only to be momentarily poked through the ribs with a giant syringe.

My profile follows:

Hepatitis C genotype 1a positive
Viral load ~ 6.83 log 10 IU/ml ~ 6,700,000
Stage 1 fibrosis
Grade 2 inflammation
Treatment naïve

            Since my diagnosis, I awaken daily with the recollection that I have a potentially fatal disease. I am tainted. I am a walking biohazard. Some days I feel like fighting with all that I have; other days, I just want to eat.

            In this era of unlimited information available at your fingertips at the speed of light, the Hep C community is a well informed lot. We are up on all the latest research, treatments and chat-room rumors. We blur the line between physician and patient, as the disease makes doctors of us all.

            I have been informed that the particular strain I have, 1a, is the most treatment resistant variety. Therapy involves weekly injections of interferon and daily doses of ribavirin in pill form. To those infected with genotypes 2 and 3, this treatment lasts six months and has an 80-percent cure rate. However, the duration for gen 1’s is double that and only successful 55-percent of the time.

            Not surprisingly, the treatment experience is as uncertain as everything else associated with this condition. Ten percent of people get by with relatively few side effects. Another ten percent have such a hard time that they need to either take leave of work or abandon treatment altogether. Most folks fall somewhere between these two extremes and exhibit some to all of the following side effects: flu-like symptoms (including nausea, achiness, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and chills), psychiatric maladies (depression, paranoia, suicidal ideation, irritability), anemia, rashes, weight loss, hair loss, a gray complexion and photosensitivity of the skin. In short, chemo is hell.

            Fortunately, I’ve found a hepatitis support group that meets once a month. I’ve now attended twice and become acquainted with all types: the recently diagnosed, people who have successfully completed treatment as well as those who have relapsed. One man had developed liver cancer and received a liver transplant. Some are about to wrap up treatment. Others have failed repeatedly. There were two brothers there, one had stage 0 fibrosis and cleared, whereas his brother was at stage 4 and failed.

            The last time I was there, the group was celebrating its seventh anniversary. We had cake. It got scary there for a moment when a “blind” woman wondered through the room full of blood-diseased folk with a knife.

            So, where do I go from here?

            Apparently, I picked an opportune time to be diagnosed. Two rival drug companies are wrapping up research trials on two new treatments, Boceprevir and Telaprevir, which go before the FDA for review on April 27 and 28 respectively. Each of these medications is intended to be used in conjunction with the existing combination of interferon and ribavirin as part of a three-drug cocktail. The new therapies are expected to boost cure rates in genotype 1 patients as high as 75 percent and possibly cut treatment time in half for rapid responders.

            Of course, adding a third drug to the mix increases side effects. Boceprevir is rumored to cause higher incidents of anemia, while Telaprevir is associated with a troublesome anal rash.

            These new drugs may become available as early as Memorial Day. I am now among the multitudes of patients on stand-by anticipating new treatments, many of whom have severe liver deterioration and have endured several unsuccessful attempts at a cure. My newfound community of virtual doctors eagerly awaits the latest developments.


4 Responses to “We Would-Be Doctors”

  1. “troublesome anal rash.”

  2. Unfortunately, no.

  3. I am going to take good care of you honey! I know all of this is overwhelming and the side effects of it all may be scary, but you’ll be fine, you will! ;~)

    • I had no idea-course i know you could be a pain in the ass!LOL I have a step niece who’s fighting it. Eat lots of spinach for anemia! This is an old post so let me know how it’s going!!!!!

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