Eileen’s Story: A startling blood test, hep C clearance, and launching a support group.

We are thankful for Eileen Abrams’ sharing of her story, as we believe in the importance of being tested for hep C even though it can be stressful. We know a positive antibody test does not always mean you have chronic hep C. Elieen shares her experience with us.

After having blood work done my Doctor calls, I need to come in for a visit immediately. I wasn’t really concerned as I had been anemic as a child and thought I needed some iron pills. When I was called into his office he seemed very serious as he tells me I tested positive for Hep C. It didn’t upset me as I didn’t know what Hep C was, figuring he would give me some meds to clear this up. He then tells me he is sending me to the top liver doctor at UC San Francisco Medical Centre. I suddenly realized this could be serious, and after discussing this with me he informs me that I could die from this virus and probably have 20 years to live.

On the way home to Oakland where I lived, I started to panic. After doing some research on my computer I completely freaked out. I felt that I had an enemy inside of me that I had to get rid of. My appointment with the specialist wasn’t for another week, and I knew I needed to talk to someone who had this virus. I then called The American Liver Foundation in San Francisco and they suggested I call a man who was going through the treatment. The conversation I had with him was very disturbing when he told me I will probably die from it.

The Doctor at UCSF Med Centre was very kind and explained they were doing another blood test that would define whether I did have the virus and what stage it was at. This was a very difficult time for me as my sister who lived in Montreal was dying from breast cancer. On my way to see her, I get a call from the Doctor telling me that I had been exposed to the virus but my body had cleared it naturally. I was filled with joy and sadness as my sister passed away before I reached Montreal.

I’ve always felt that certain things happen for a reason and I knew I had to give back in some way. I felt there were others out there with the virus who might welcome some support and I created a support group by telling my story to the media. I as well reached out to Bay Area Rapid Transit and was able to put huge posters on 140 trains for three months of the year for six years and a number for them to reach me at. I was overjoyed at the results. We met once a month at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland.  I chaired the meetings and people were relieved to have a safe place to talk about their condition. We shared information on meds, diet, fear of what the future held for them as the treatments were very harsh 20 years ago. Some people became very good friends and others were just happy to have a place to share their feelings.

I realize that for the six years I ran the support group it was very helpful for those who were at different stages of the disease. 

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