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Russ's Story

I was 22, and decided to go back to school after a four year wait. I moved up to pennsylvania and enrolled. During the first month or so of being back in school, i started to feel a pain in my side that felt like a pulled muscle or something. i had been having diarrhea off and on too, which was unusual. so I went up to the health center and the doctor asked me a few questions. she wanted to check me for gall stones and , among other things, hepatitis (a,b,&c).

waiting for the results was a nerve racking time for me, because i began to think about my past and risk factors. I have had several tatoos and piercings, and had on a few occasions used IV drugs. I remember one time in particular when i did not actually see the needle taken out of a packet and fixed up, so I can't be sure if it was clean.

When the doctor told me I had hepatitis c, i guess i wasn't surprised. I asked about treatment, and she told me to go see a liver specialist , but urged me not to go on any experimental drug regimens. So I went to my gastroenterologist, and he reccomended I get on peg-intron. for my weight, he prescribed 1200 mg of ribavirin and weekly peg-interferon shots. So i checked up on my student insurance, and lo and behold, they would not cover injectable drugs. There was a limit of 200 dollars for prescription drugs per semester. So I thought, well, it couldn't cost that much. So i went to my pharmacist and asked him how much it would be. He told me it would be in the thousands of dollars to treat.

I was devastated. I didn;t know what to do. I went back to my doc, and the nurse told me about a program Schering had for people who qualify. Thankfully, I did, so a month or so later I began treatment. The nurse told me to take the shot before I go to bed. well, the first shot I took at 6 pm, and went over to a friends house. About an hour later, I got dizzy and started to shiver. I didn;t tell him what was going on, I just left. That night it felt like a train had hit me. I couldn't stop moving my legs around ( i don't know why, but if i did it felt like they wouldn't ache as much) i got really scared. All my experience with medicine prior was in taking tylenol for a fever, penicillin if I had an infection. i had never taken a medication that actually made me feel sick.

That first month I lost about twenty pounds. I was still in school and working. Later I stopped working, and had to withdraw from school until treatment was over. Lab work was promising. I was a wreck, though. Irritable, depressed, isolated, and felt very much alone. Although I had some people supporting me, they had no idea what I was going through. But I refused to believe that I needed antidepressants. only after about 36 weeks did i finally admit that i needed to get something to help me through what was the most difficult and frustrating parts of my life.

Before going to see my doctor for viral load results, i would be so full of anxiety and fear that it had come back, I was convinced that despite my best efforts, it would return. But i was proven wrong. February rolled around, and I finally finished my 48 weeks. I began to notice after about a week that i was starting to feel better. the first saturday morning of no shot was a strange one though. i think my body was conditioned to feel bad after all those shots that i actually felt pretty bad . But the next saturday I really began to appreciate being off the meds. I re-enrolled and started going to classes again. Started working again too. Three months after treatment, my liver enzymes were still normal, in fact lower than they had ever been- in the teens.

In two weeks i get my six month lab work. I'm beginning to get a little anxious about them. After all, often times this virus shows no symptoms, so until I get the results back I can't be sure if it worked. If things don't work out the way I have been praying for, i won;t regret giving treatment a try. As bad as it was, I would do it again. I'm just happy that i found out about it at a young age, so that i could treat it. if it worked, great; if not, i have a lot of time to take care of myself and perhaps retreat when something better comes around.



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