Do You Want to Hear Something Funny?
I arrived back in Canada after a 6-month vacation in South East Asia. I made an appointment with my GP to have a full medical done. This included blood work, STI, and a pap exam. Ready for the pap exam I was in the expected position on a metal examination gurney, naked but for a paper gown, feet secured in stirrups, legs spread. Any woman who has had the procedure knows just how vulnerable one tends to feel.
As my GP got ready to proceed, warming the speculum and checking my chart, she started to read out the results of my bloodwork. “No gonorrhea, no syphilis, no hepatitis A, no hepatitis B, no HIV, positive for hepatitis C.” she relayed without missing a beat. She continued on with the pap exam. I was shaking like a leaf and unable to fully comprehend what she had just relayed to me. I was fully expecting a clean bill of health. What was this hep C?
Similar to many baby boomers I was unaware of what hep C is or what it means to have the disease. Being on the laundry list of things tested for I could only think the worst in the vulnerable state I was in. Hep C was in the same breath as HIV.
My doctor finished my pap and suggested I make a follow-up appointment. She never gave me any information or advice on hep C. I left the office upset and confused to say the least.
On my next visit to see the doctor I had a number of questions for her. Googling hep C resulted in me reading older reports of interferon, exorbitant drug costs, and a lot of misinformation. I had many questions. I also wanted to be referred to an infectious disease specialist.
During this appointment my doctor suggested that I stay off google. She provided me with zero information on hep C. She flat out refused to refer me to a specialist. She told me she didn’t’ know how to read and interpret the hep C viral load report she recently received. She printed a copy, thrust it into my hands and asked me if I could interpret the report. Huh?
One Year Later
I can only see this misadventure as humorous. Anything else would be demoralizing and self-destructive. Once I calmed down from the shock of the news and got some concrete, up-to-date information on the disease I decided to take things into my own hands. (At this point I would highly suggest speaking with a knowledgeable support group, like Pacific Hepatitis C Network, or a well-informed healthcare professional.) One must be prepared to be one’s own advocate with medical situations. I took myself to a downtown Vancouver hospital and begged for help. I was rapidly tested, examined, and started on a 3- month regime of Epclusa1. Six months post I am pleased to say that my viral load is 0 and I am hep C free. I now have a new GP.
1 Epcluse is a new Direct Acting Antiviral medication from Gilead Sciences, Inc.