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Illustration by Brittany England

Dear Friend,

You’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis C, now what? Don’t panic. I can offer you some reassurance. I was in the same position as you are 10 years ago, and I have insider information that may calm your fears and help you become hepatitis C free.

I got my diagnosis in the emergency room. I’m a teacher, and I was busy getting ready for school to start. My stomach became so swollen that my pants didn’t fit. I had been experiencing flu-like symptoms for several weeks. I kept pushing myself and tried to sleep it off. Finally, my feet got swollen, and my stomach too. That’s when a trip to the doctor landed me in the hospital.

My liver was in total failure from having hepatitis C for years. I was angry when the doctor told me I could die. Brain fog clouded my thinking, and I accused the hospital of mixing up my blood work. That’s when I learned that hepatitis C is a silent killer and it had slowly damaged my liver over time.

Looking back, I had some symptoms over the years, such as fatigue, body aches, easy bruising, and anemia. Since I had grown sick so gradually, it didn’t seem real at first. I had to accept it.

At the time, there was no cure for hepatitis C. My chances of living for much longer were slim. It was grim. My whole family gathered at my hospital bed in a state of shock and disbelief as I got blood transfusions.

I was at the stage of life where I was supposed to be able to relax and enjoy my grandkids. Instead, I was scared I’d die of liver disease. I felt so sorry for my poor liver because a virus was attacking it. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I was sad for my family, too. I didn’t want to miss out on my kid’s future. I wanted to live.

I was too sick to work full-time, and I couldn’t get health insurance through work. I couldn’t afford all of the medical expenses. It took time and a lot of phone calls before I got any help to pay for my medications. Also, I received a temporary food allowance because my income had dropped so low.

My doctor became my biggest ally. He understood all of my fears. He referred me to specialists who knew what my body needed. They also believed in me and helped me make lifestyle and dietary changes. They told me that within a year, new drugs were arriving on the market that promised to cure the virus.

From that point on, my whole life focused on changing my diet and making healthy choices. I wanted my body to be ready when the treatment was approved. I was able to go back to work and get insurance. Also, I learned of an online resource to help with my copay.

Almost a year later, the new drugs became available. I started on them immediately. It was a combination of medications, paired with newer drugs. I now had the hope of being disease free.

The treatment worked as promised, and I got better immediately. I had forgotten what it felt like to live without a virus. By following my doctor’s orders, I was able to get my life back on track.

These days, there are even better drugs to treat hepatitis C. That’s good news for you, dear friend! Now, you can quickly and permanently be cured of the virus with very few pills (and little to no side effects) within weeks of starting treatment.

I hope you are in contact with a doctor who will help you set a target date, and find ways to fund your treatment. By doing this, you can avoid all of the health complications I had to go through. Once the virus is gone, your liver will no longer be inflamed by it. Your whole body will find rapid relief from the symptoms, and you can begin to heal.

Many of my friends who have experienced some liver scarring have found that their test results improve over time. I wish it had been possible for me to treat it sooner. I might have been able to avoid all the liver damage. I’m so happy for you to live your life hepatitis C free. I send you all my best wishes for your healthy future.

Sincerely,

Karen Hoyt


Karen Hoyt is a fast-walking, shake-making, liver disease patient advocate. She lives on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma and shares encouragement on her blog.