Before I was diagnosed with end stage liver disease, I was like most people: I didn’t even know where my liver was located. Finding facts became the first item on my to-do list after diagnosis.
I quickly learned that even though liver disease was on the rise in the United States, clear-cut information was hard to come by. I wanted to learn how to make it through hepatitis C — also called hep C or HCV — in order to reach out to others like myself. My aim was to live, and then to help others live longer and stronger with HCV.
I believe that we all learn best when taking part in meaningful activities that help us reach personal goals. I was a sick person discovering ways to modify my lifestyle and make positive changes. I needed a lot of support along the way. The American Liver Foundation (ALF) website was a one stop shop for me.
Through ALF, I was able to find an activity that helped me to make changes and reach goals in one activity: walking.
Starting to walk
Let me start by saying that walking is a no brainer, really. Walking is one of the easiest forms of cardiovascular exercise. No matter how tired I become with liver disease, I can always walk. It might seem like a snail’s pace at times, but I’m always able to put one foot in front of the other.
When wobbly, I simply add a cane. My cane is even tricked out with a flashlight to help me in the dark. Walking was the only exercise my doctor allowed after the initial diagnosis with hep C. In order to gain strength, I walked to the mailbox every day, followed by a nap.
People who have the same symptoms of liver disease that I do gather daily on my website. Because they are at every stage of liver cirrhosis, including hepatocellular carcinoma and transplant, I want to provide links to trustworthy websites. ALF has a history of delivering fear-free knowledge about hep C. This type of support takes funding. That is where the Liver Walk comes in.
What’s the Liver Walk?
Each Liver Walk is a small link in a large chain that helps everyone with any type of liver disease. As a movement, the ALF’s Liver Walk has a broad scope, providing funds for important research while also reaching into homes with personal support for liver disease.
Individuals like me either walk alone or form teams. Some teams are made up of friends, co-workers, and family members. It’s like a giant support system all coming together for one day, united in one purpose. Even when I walk a 5K alone, I know that there are others who are walking beside me to bring hope to people with liver disease.
Before there was a Liver Walk in my area, I could still walk any 5K on my own and raise money to donate to liver awareness. Being able to focus on that goal of completing a walk, and helping others, gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
Walking with others who are working on the same goal makes it even more fun. This year, I’m going to participate in more than one because a Liver Walk is finally coming to my home state!
I’m happy to be able to continue with the healthy lifestyle changes that helped me survive with liver cancer. To link walking and raising money for continued awareness about liver disease puts a spark in my every step.
Karen Hoyt is a yoga teaching, shake making, boat floating, fast walker who resides in the woods of Oklahoma. She is the author of The Liver Loving Diet and is your best friend with liver disease at ihelpc.com. Follow her on Facebook @ihelpc.karen, Twitter @hepatitisihelpc, and Instagram @karenhoyt1.