My Hep C Journey

I was 20 years old when I was diagnosed with Hep C. As a teenager I struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. On a few occasions I used drugs intravenously. I got tested after my sister was diagnosed. She was the only person I ever shared needles with. I was shocked to find out I had the disease. It was 1999. I was 3 months clean and sober when I received my diagnosis. Back then treatment in my area was offered only to people who had elevated liver enzymes and for whom the disease had progressed. I was deemed too healthy for treatment and therefore had to learn to live with the disease. I was lucky that I never experienced any symptoms of the disease. However the shame was very difficult to deal with.

In the years following my diagnosis I changed my life completely. I remained and clean and sober and began a professional career. I lived in shame of my friends and colleagues finding out about the Hep C. I felt like as much as I could change my life, I could never fully escape my past. I was never able to be in a long-term relationship as I was too ashamed to tell any potential partner about my Hep C. I decided to get treated this year. My liver was in great shape but I made the decision for myself. I have completed 22 out of my 24 weeks of interferon and ribavarin. I was so afraid of this treatment. I had heard so many horror stories. Although everyone's experience is different, my experience has been a lot easier than anticipated. There has been physical pain and fatigue as well as some emotional side effects such as irritability but this treatment can be done. I cleared the virus and I hope that my response will be sustained post treatment. I am so very grateful for this treatment as well as the team at my hospital. I lived so many years with shame because of the way I contracted the disease. The truth is everyone makes mistakes and bad choices, however some choices have life changing consequences. Today I try to share my story with others in the hopes that the stigma that surrounds this disease can disappear.
Isabelle, Ottawa, Ontario