Monday, April 25, 2011

Scanned, Poked and Prodded

It's been quite a month! April is the month when I have my annual medical check-ups. So far I've had a mammogram and my teeth cleaned, and soon I'll see the opthamologist and dermatologist. I also had a bone density scan (my first).

As I type this, I'm preparing for what's probably my least favorite scan: Colonoscopy. And by preparing, I mean that I'm gagging down pints of MoviPrep and running to the bathroom. I received helpful advice from a friend and have kept the liquid very chilled (I poured it over ice in a glass before drinking) and chugged it through a straw (so I don't taste it too much). The silver lining in this cloud, besides news of a healthy colon, should be a temporary (at least) loss of weight.

After this thorough medical survey, I wonder: Why do mammograms have to be so uncomfortable? And why must prepping for a colonoscopy have to involve such a vile tasting liquid? When you consider the advances in science and medicine, these unpleasant experiences seem unnecessary.

Oh, well. Gotta run (pun intended).

Photo by Jyn Meyer

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Small Signs of Progress

In a sure indication that I'm recovering from the rejection episode I had last August, this week I discontinued two of my medications and decreased the dosage of another. Cartwheels!

I don't have words to express how tired I am of taking meds. One of my prescriptions requires me to take four capsules twice a day; another is three tablets twice daily. Then there are the rest of the prescribed meds and vitamins and the whole diabetes/insulin routine. The yearly cost, even on our prescription plan, is close to $2,000.

Don't get me wrong: I realize the meds are important. And I'm taking far fewer pills than I did immediately after my liver transplant (64 pills each day back then). Managing them, however, is tough because I work with three pharmacies, and at times the meds and/or dosages change weekly.

To me, fewer pills means progress, and progress makes me feel hopeful. Hooray!

Photo by Marek Bernat

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lab Results Hold Steady - My Hepatitis C "Break" Continues

Yee haw! My lab results were decent - very comparable to my last set of labs in February - so I don't have to have blood drawn again for a month. That's FOUR WHOLE WEEKS!

Last year I'd guess that, on average, I had blood drawn every week-and-a-half. That's a lot of pokes with needles, including my record-setting lab visit at which nine tubes of blood were drawn.

I'm delighted and grateful for the continued break. My goal is to live in the moment and simply "be."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

HUGE News for People with Hepatitis C

Quadruple therapy shows 100 percent SVR for HCV patients previously unresponsive to treatment

This news is incredible, jaw-dropping and fabulous! A new Hepatitis C treatment is 100 percent effective. A weekend post in the HBV and HCV Advocate Hepatitis Blog described the research findings from a presentation at the 2011 European Association for the Study of the Liver conference:
In the quadruple therapy study, HCV patients were given four drugs in combination; pegylated Interferon-alpha (PegIFN-alpha); ribavirin (RBV); and two different direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) BMS-650032 (an HCV NS3 protease inhibitor) and BMS-790052 (an HCV NS5A replication complex inhibitor)...

Professor Heiner Wedemeyer, EASL'S Secretary General, said: "Quadruple therapy is possibly the future of HCV treatment; this study goes a way to confirming that. While it's expected that the first DAAs and triple therapy will be approved for use later this year, quadruple therapy appears to have a more profound effect on virological response, with less of a resistance problem."

The study may also provide new hope for a growing number of HCV patients who cannot be effectively treated for chronic hepatitis with current treatments.
The blog post didn't indicate when the four-med therapy will be available, but I'm hoping it's very soon. And this is news that I'll be following with great interest.

Photo by Jayanta Behera

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Taking a Break from Chronic Illness

Hepatitis C is a chronic illness that, like so many other diseases and conditions, requires a great deal of time and attention: Doctors visits, lab work, medication regimens, medical procedures, research and more. I refer to it as my full-time job, which isn't far from the truth. Factor in the time required to review and resolve billing and insurance issues, and it's been a job-and-a-half.

Given the time, effort and stress related to my "job," it's important to take a break from time to time. And for the past six weeks, since I met with my heptologist, I've done just that. No labs, no conversations with my transplant team, no med changes.


Tomorrow all of that changes when I go to the lab and the vampires have their way with me and my poor worn-out veins. Then I'll nervously await a call from my transplant center with the results and we'll debate whether I need another liver biopsy now or if the condition of my liver seems stable enough to wait it out until one of the new Hep C meds is available this summer. A lot is riding on the outcome of these labs - yep, my break most definitely ends tomorrow.

Photo by Sinan Acar