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“I am a Hep Hero because I’m “sick and tired” of feeling isolated about having hep C”
I’m in my early 50’s and have a loving supportive wife and 3 children (now all healthy and productive adults that I am extremely proud of). My working career was predominantly in the Sales & Marketing field, having held several senior executive positions. Being a very passionate and driven person, I’ve always lived, worked and played sport to the optimum of my abilities – at least until 1999.
My memories of the late 70’s to the late 80’s can only be described as a blur. I lived by the mantra “work hard, play harder”; a sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll lifestyle was prevalent in my age group throughout this time, with me being a willing participant. Coupled with the fact I was getting various tattoos and piercings, to say I was a wild child would be an understatement. Once I met my future wife I did settle down, however my career required me to entertain clients on a regular basis. With entertainment being one of my career “strengths”, my yearning for a good time never waned.
It wasn’t until I started experiencing horrific hangovers that I started to be a little concerned about my overall health. After suffering these hangovers for quite a few years I decided that I better consult my doctor about them. After many different types of blood tests over a period of 6 months, I was finally told in 1999 that I had tested positive for hepatitis C. At the time I had no idea what the virus was, the ramifications, nothing. I was ordered to start living healthily and got a referral to a gastroenterologist. The severity of this diagnosis explained to me by my still current and much respected gastroenterologist shocked me, however initially didn’t have the desired effect to kerb my partying ways, denial had set in.
On my third appointment, my gastroenterologist explained that he was going to offer me a course of pharmaceuticals (Interferon & Ribavirin) that may cure my hep C. I agreed to the treatment. The reality of this appointment and the forthcoming treatment finally stopped my desire to party hard. Unfortunately after 6 gruelling months I couldn’t cure my hep C (I’m genotype 3a). Suffice to say, the year 2000 was very austere.
I’m still hep C positive and have refined my lifestyle considerably since the treatment. Although I’m bordering on cirrhosis as my most recent fibroscan has indicated and I’m also starting to display more symptoms that confirm this. A vicious cycle of trying to work, exercise and live a life while feeling at times fatigued and austere. I’m determined to be cured and will fight harder than ever to make this a reality. It’s the least I can do for myself and more importantly my family.
Recently I attended my first community advocates meeting at Hepatitis Victoria. I was quite surprised of the high degrees of stigma and discrimination associated with having hep C throughout the broader community. Being an active and avid poet, the meeting inspired me to write a poem a short time after, titled “See, I’m Invisible”; to demonstrate just some of the issues people with hepatitis C have to cope with.
In many ways and ironically being diagnosed with hepatitis C has perhaps helped me live a lot longer. “Lived hard, died young” could have been chiseled into my tombstone, many years ago. However, I’ve learnt to live healthier and not to take my health for granted. My responsibilities of being a father, husband and mentor are cherished. I’m determined to continue to become healthier and someday soon become cured and pick up that zest to live and enjoy life full on again, this time without the vices.