Editor’s note: This story represents one individual’s experience with hepatitis C, which is a treatable, and curable, condition.
When I received my hep C diagnosis, my first thought was, where had I contracted it from? Unprotected sex, IV drug usage, prison tattoo, or just existing in my world?
I’ve had many challenges in my lifetime, and nothing has brought me down yet. During my journey through a hep C diagnosis and treatment, I learned that these obstacles were merely a stepping-stone to the next chapter in my life.
I became stronger through each challenge.
I was working in the field of HIV and hepatitis prevention and care at the time of my hep C test. I participated in the testing as part of my job and because I just wanted to see how it worked.
A co-worker and friend, who was trained in doing the test, was very professional and quite effective at sharing the information on how it was going to work.
I wasn’t very afraid of this test because I thought a positive diagnosis would never happen to me, so the wait time for my results flew by.
When my results were in, my co-worker sat me down in the testing room and shared my positive results.
BOOM, the bomb was dropped, and I learned that I had been unable to escape certain riskier aspects of my lifestyle this time.
I knew very little about hepatitis C. The only thing I knew was that I was going to turn yellow, and eventually, my liver would stop working, and I would die.
“Oh wait,” I thought. “Maybe it was a false positive result, and I was actually suffering from a rare liver disease that my mother had?” Surely a simple blood test couldn’t be able to tell me that I was hepatitis C positive?
I quickly learned more about hepatitis C. Being in the field of prevention and treatment, I inquired about treatment. I learned that a positive diagnosis wasn’t necessarily a death sentence — but surely it had to mean death for me, because I was being punished.
Information about treatment was coming fast through my brain, and my pride told me that I couldn’t become bald, a possible side effect from treatment. Being transgender, long hair clearly delineated my gender and confirmed that I was a woman.
Also, there was no way that I could use marijuana to help with the nausea because I am an addict in recovery.
Fortunately, I was able to meet with representatives from different pharmaceutical companies. I learned that the treatment for hepatitis C was improving rapidly.
After several of these meetings, I made the decision to postpone my treatment until a pill form was ready, which I felt would be less intrusive on my body.
My fear of being hepatitis C positive was slowly subsiding. Knowledge of my status and treatment options helped me to get through this stage of my diagnosis.
The time had come when the treatment that I had been waiting for was available to me. I was introduced to the doctor who was going to help me with my diagnosis.
To my surprise, he was the son of the psychiatrist who had once helped me with my struggles to find myself.
What a wonderful gift from my higher power, I thought, and it reassured me that my hepatitis doctor would heal me as my psychiatrist had; like father, like son.
Going through my treatment phase was not as bad as I expected it to be. I didn’t experience nausea or hair loss, which had been my biggest fears. I went through multiple tests and various exams to see how my treatment was going.
I was introduced to oils to encourage me to drink water, which I felt would help with my liver. I started including lemon oils, lime oils, and tangerine oils into my water. It made it easier to drink water and kept me hydrated.
I took more tests and more exams to see where I was in my treatment phase. My doctor asked me if I was taking any type of supplements. I shared with him that I wasn’t on any supplements, and the only thing I was doing differently was drinking a lot more water with some oils.
My doctor shared with me that citrus oils were a great way to clean out my liver and he wondered whether these oils were helping my liver heal so quickly.
I remember clearly when my doctor told me that I was cured of hepatitis C. The disease that I thought was going to kill me was going to be a thing of the past.
I am still required to get my liver scanned every so often. Testing for cirrhosis of the liver, along with other tests, eventually becomes the norm after being cured of hepatitis C.
I quickly got involved with advocacy work out of pure gratitude for life. I have been cured of something that I thought I was going to die from, so it was only natural for me to want to work as an advocate to perhaps help someone else who might be going through the same thing as me.
I went full force into sharing my story, and I continue to do so whenever time permits. It’s been over 8 years since my diagnosis, and I am still here, living my best life.
Stacia is recovering from addiction, having once dealt with IV drug use. She hasn’t used drugs for almost 25 years and is an active participant in 12-step programs. Stacia now continues to help those in need as well as those living with drug addiction.