Before my diagnosis, I felt tired and run-down on a consistent basis. If I got sick with a cold, it’d take me longer than usual to get over it.
I just had a general unwell feeling. At the time, I thought I was run-down and overworked. I was unaware I had hepatitis C.
An outpatient surgery center notified me that a scrub tech, who had hepatitis C, worked there at the same time I underwent surgery in January of 1992. They told me there was a possible chance that I had contracted the virus there and recommended testing.
Shortly after, I had three blood tests that showed I was positive for hepatitis C.
A later investigation revealed that the scrub tech was using injected drugs at the surgical center. They’d take a patient’s syringe left on the anesthesiologist tray, inject the drugs, and refill the same syringe from the patient’s IV bag, putting it back on the tray as if nothing happened.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with hepatitis C, I would remind myself that hepatitis C lived with me. I didn’t live with it.
I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had hepatitis C and had to take care of myself, but I also wouldn’t allow it to dominate my life.
Keeping life as normal as possible was very important to me, especially as a wife and mother. Taking care of my family and myself was my priority.
After my diagnosis, blood work, doctor’s appointments, tests, and treatment became a part of my routine. Keeping our home and schedule as normal as possible was very important to me as I took care of our family.
During those early days after my diagnosis, I desired to talk to others who had hepatitis C and overcame it. But at the time, there was no one.
My hepatologist recommended that I meet with a registered dietitian. They helped me develop a diet plan to maintain a healthy liver. I learned what foods were beneficial to my liver and what I needed to avoid. Preparing meals ahead of time helped give me a break while on treatment.
My healthcare team also prepared me for treatment. They helped me understand how to take my treatment medication and possible side effects I might experience.
When I started treatment, I structured my schedule so that I could be off from work, go to treatment, and take care of myself and my family. I scheduled doctor’s appointments and tests while our kids were in school.
I learned the value of letting others help, and I accepted their offers. It provided me with support and allowed my body to take necessary rest.
During those years, I underwent two unsuccessful treatments.
My first treatment was in 1995 with interferon. This was a 48-week treatment with harsh side effects. Unfortunately, even though I briefly responded to it, my blood work and symptoms later showed it wasn’t working. I was actually getting worse.
My second treatment was in 2000 with peginterferon and ribavirin. The side effects were harsh once again. And my blood work showed I wasn’t responding to treatment.
Despite my two unsuccessful treatments, I remained hopeful that one day I’d be cured. My hepatologist encouraged me that clinical trials looked promising for improved treatments in the years to come.
It was important not to focus on the long haul of treatment, but instead on getting through one week at a time. The day of the week I began treatment was my mile-marker day.
Each day and week I focused on small goals I could achieve instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do while in treatment. It was important to focus on gains, not losses.
I checked off each day of the week and focused on getting to my next mile-marker day. This helped treatment go by faster, which helped me maintain an active, positive mindset.
In 2012, a third new treatment finally brought me to the cure. My third treatment was with a new protease inhibitor called Incivek (telaprevir), in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin.
I responded to this treatment within a month of starting it. Soon enough, tests showed that the hepatitis C virus was undetectable in my blood. It remained undetectable throughout all 6 months of treatment.
After treatment and recovery, my energy increased, giving me a new normal. I was able to go through the day without feeling tired or taking a nap.
I was able to accomplish more each week. I didn’t have any more brain fog and no longer had to deal with treatment side effects.
Regarding recovery as a healing period for my liver helped me keep a positive mindset and stay patient.
Life on the other side of hepatitis C is my new normal. I have increased energy and a restored healthy liver. For the first time in 20 years, I feel better than ever.
Throughout my long journey, I had a strong calling to reach out to others and share hope, encouragement, and understanding. So, in 2011, I founded a patient advocacy organization, Life Beyond Hepatitis C.
Life Beyond Hepatitis C is where faith, medical resources, and patient support meet, helping hep C patients and their families navigate their entire journey with hepatitis C.
Connie Welch is a former hepatitis C patient who battled hepatitis C for over 20 years and was cured in 2012. Connie is a patient advocate, professional life coach, freelance writer, and founding executive director of Life Beyond Hepatitis C.