My report showed that I had tested positive for HCV.
But that's not what I saw. I saw "HIV". Of course, it scared the pee out of me. The next day I was at my doctor's office, asking him what this HCV-stuff was. As it turned out, he didn't know much more about Hepatitis C than I did. In fact he didn't even call it "C". He called it non-A, non-B. He told me he didn't really believe I had it, that it wasn't anything to worry about anyway, and he sent me home.
It wasn't until 1995, when Bertie saw the TV show about Naomi Judd. You know, the one where she said she had received the WORST POSSIBLE NEWS....That it was Hepatitis C! Bertie came to me and said, "Honey, I think maybe it's time to start worrying." I went back to my old family doctor.
Finally in May of 1997, after getting nothing from my old doctor, Bertie made me an appointment with a board-certified gastroenterologist. At first he didn't recommend any special treatment besides stopping smoking stopping drinking alcohol, and getting plenty of rest.
But then my new gastro-doc did an ultrasound on me. It led to a biopsy, which showed that heavy stage-3 damage had been done to my liver. He recommended that I go on the then-new treatment of an old cancer chemical (interferon) combined with ribavirin...chemotherapy. He sent me some reading material on it, showing all the possible side effects. They included severe exhaustion, nausea, joint and muscle pain, and many others, including death. There was also disorientation, mental instability, and severe depression resulting in suicide attempts...some sucessful.
SUICIDE? DEATH? Hey, that's about as severe as side effects get!!! I chickened out.
But a little over a year later my gastro-doc began to implore me to begin treatment. I was beginning to show signs of stage-4 damage, with cirrhosis.
The night of October, 1998, Bertie & I sat on the side of the bed as I took my first capsules and gave myself my first shot.
At first it seemed as though I was going to breeze through this chemo-stuff. But then I developed a bad cough, had trouble breathing, and was so tired I could hardly move. I developed bronchitis,plurisy, and pneumonia. I was on a breathalizer machine every day. And all the while I was getting dangerously anemic and my immune system was just about non-existant. I got so weak that Bertie had to help me to the bathroom sometimes. I got so confused that one morning I started to work in my pickup and found myself wandering on a country road, not knowing why or how I got there. At one point I got so nuts that Bertie and I were both afraid I might kill her, if not myself. I got medicine for that when she threatened to leave me. But the pain had gotten worse and the pneumonia kept coming back.
Finally after blood tests one day, my gastro-doc called me and told me that not only was I getting pneumonia for the third time, but that my white blood count was dangerously low. He said not to take my scheduled shot that night. He was afraid that if I did, I MIGHT NOT SURVIVE IT! Woops. Okay. That was it. Treatment over after only four months instead of the one year that was recommended.
These days Bertie & I both have limitations because of our health. But we don't let those limitations keep us from enjoying each other, our families, our pets, our neighbors, our beautiful Ozarks, and life in general. I take care of myself and know that someday that "miracle cure" will come. Whether it comes in time for me personally is another matter. But somehow that doesn't matter NEARLY as much as finding happiness in whatever time I do have left. And along those lines, I'm just a-doin' fine!