Hep C TreatmentMarch 19, 2008 | 19 Comments
Did I ever mention that I’ve basically been kind of sick for the last two years? Not like sick in the head, but regular sick, sick-sick. I never really blogged about it because for whatever reason I thought it would be embarrassing or make me feel worse. Plus I wanted to be all super-woman and what have you. Or at least not a whiner. This morning it occurred to me, hey you ought to write about that. Especially because you’re feeling so great now.
I thought all this while I was driving home at 745A this morning from a 615A Ashtanga yoga class. It was awesome. It felt so good to stretch and sweat and flex. I felt really strong. Suddenly it struck me that 6 months ago I had to stop and rest while trying to walk up a flight of stairs between the first and second floors of our house. I had been undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C. From which I have been cured—or I should say, have had a sustained viral response, meaning 6 months post-treatment, no virus is detectable in my system. I can’t get the capital letters big enough to express the YAY that I feel about this.
I got Hep C when I was in a car accident almost 20 years ago. It was a really bad accident. Dreadful. I’ve never written about it, but a few weeks ago decided to give it a try. I thought I could get the story down in a page or two but after more than 1200 words, I still didn’t really get the story out. Still unfinished, but here is the work in progress. IT CONTAINS A SCARY PICTURE OF A PERSON IN INTENSIVE CARE (me), so don’t look if that kind of thing makes you squeamish. Or I should say I have written about it, but only to record the dream fragments and half thoughts that, to me, are the story. Since I have no memory whatsoever of the accident or the days following. But I did have dreams and experiences nonetheless… These are those fragments. It’s more like a long poem.
I don’t know if you know anyone who has Hep C or has undergone treatment, but there are a lot of us out there.
There are various genotypes of Hep C, but the popular ones in the US are 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B. Genotype 1 is more resistant to cure so the treatment is twelve months. For Genotype 2, treatment is six months. In both cases, the basic treatment is weekly injections of interferon (also used in some chemotherapies, I believe) and daily pills of something called Ribavirin. I had genotype 1A so I was in for the twelve month program.
Here are a list of the potential side effects. The basics: fatigue, depression, weight gain or loss, nausea, brain fog, and the ubiquitous “flu-like symptoms.” The not-so-basic: psychosis, colitis, heart problems, and hair loss. Oh please, don’t clobber me with these chemicals and make me fat and bald. This was my primary thought when beginning treatment. Well neither of those happened. I did get super-skinny though, going from an already not fat weight of 120 lbs (at 5’7”) to a frighteningly skeletal 109 lbs at one point. The biggest side effects by far were fatigue and depression. I didn’t get depression so much, but I definitely was whacked with fatigue, but I think they should say “weakness” instead of fatigue. I wasn’t pooped all the time, but I was so unbelievably weak. Like if I folded the laundry, I had to lie down for awhile. Had to rest while going up stairs, as mentioned. My doctor put me on anti-depressants about a month before treatment cause it’s recommended for those who tend toward depression, as I do and I guess it must have worked. But I totally had brain fog, which is great practice if you ever choose to become demented. I couldn’t retain information. (Although I could write. I wrote a book during this time. Go figure.) I developed all these coping mechanisms for remembering things like why did I come upstairs? What time did you say to pick you up? Do I turn right or left at the intersection? Everyone forgets things like this now and then, but I forgot them I’d say 80% of the time. So I covered myself in post-its. I learned to “put” certain pieces of information in various body parts—for example if I was supposed to pick someone up at 7P, I’d look at my right thumb and go, “7P. Remember that.” So when I looked at my right thumb, I’d get 7P. Don’t ask me why that worked, but it did.
Anyway, I made it through the year virus free. Sadly, I relapsed after 3 months. (The cure rate is 50/50 so it wasn’t a huge shock, although it was a huge bummer.) I decided to try again, this time a treatment specifically for relapsers and non-responders. 35% success rate. I just thought it would work. Whatever the odds are for most people, it usually doesn’t work that way for me, so I figured I had a 65% chance of being cured. Thus began another 12 months of a slightly different form of interferon, this time 3 injections per week and also Ribavirin again. This time it was worse. I had all the same symptoms as before, but worse and with the addition of ridiculous migraines. For the last 6 months of the treatment, I probably had 3-5 migraines a week. Plus anemia. Plus skin rashes. Plus a zillion other things I probably can’t even remember now. This time I did not relapse. I made it past the all-important 6 month mark, at the beginning of this year. My doctor sent me my blood test with a little smiley face draw on it.
About 3 months ago, I think I basically came back to normal although still kind of weak from 2.5 years of very little exercise and very low calorie intake. Now I’m about up to my normal weight and can once again do warrior poses, handstands, and a zillion chataranga dandasanas. Thank you, my body. You rule.
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