Elie Wiesel said, “Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty.” Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor and an amazing story-teller. His words inspired me to write my story.
This truth never fails me—joy comes from pain. Because of this, I never give up when times are hard because I don’t want to miss the treasure that is just around the corner. This has served me for more than 25 years, but before that time, I gave up easily.
Mental illness dogged me for more than twenty years. In 1988, beaten by severe clinical depression, I gave up and took a near lethal overdose. The initial result was multi-organ failure. My liver failed, with enzymes above 18,000. My kidneys failed, my heart was going, and I was told that I would be in a coma in hours and dead within a day.
With death hours away, I tried something I never had before—I let go of fear and surrendered to the mysterious unknown. I focused on the present, with no concern about the outcome. I smiled, and asked about others. I was kind to everyone I came in contact with—my family, the medical team, and the hospital staff. In short, I was grateful.
I am alive because of transfused blood. I vowed that if I lived, I would not waste those precious transfusions. I have kept this vow, despite the fact that I acquired hepatitis C (HCV) from the donated blood that saved my life. Was HCV a gift or a burden? For me, it was a gift.
Here is what I have done because of HCV, not despite of HCV:
- I became a nurse specializing in HCV
- I became a speaker, educator, and advocate
- I became a writer and author (more about that later)
- I found my voice
Here are some gifts HCV has given me: Balance, Patience, Grace, and Health. Yes, health, because without HCV, I might become careless. As a person who has tried treatment twice, and still living with the virus, how I feel and how long I will live depend upon my daily actions. This means I exercise, eat well, keep my weight under control, sleep enough, avoid alcohol, meditate, play and pursue humor like someone itching to get tickets to a Cher concert.
Another gift I got from HCV is tenacity. I plan on going through HCV treatment a third time, hoping that it will be the last time, but I will do whatever it takes to stay healthy. For me, a bit of short term discomfort is worth it. With the fabulous success rates of the current triple therapies and the incredibly exciting potential of drugs in clinical testing, cure is within reach for so many of us.
As a patient, nurse, support group leader, and advocate, I know HCV inside and out. There are many wonderful books about it, but I felt uniquely qualified to write another one. Free from Hepatitis C: Your Complete Guide to Healing Hepatitis C was published this year. My goal was to provide a voice of reassurance along with practical tips on how to manage HCV and its treatment.
The feedback from Free from Hepatitis C has been wonderful and my second and third books will be out in 2013. One will be daily inspirational readings and tips for those going through HCV treatment. It is a tool to help people to stay on treatment and know that they are not alone. The other book is daily meditations for everyone with hepatitis C.
Never give up. If joy is not here, it is just around the corner and if you give up, you will miss it.
Wishing you peace, health, tenacity and freedom,