A few years ago, I met Larry and Cheryl. They are lovely folk, avid sports fans, hard-working people, doting parents and grandparents, and something was terribly, terribly wrong. There were things Larry just wouldn’t talk about.
Cheryl is a stoic, a straight-talkin’ woman of strength and dignity, who is whip smart and willing to take the less well-equipped to task, given the need. I knew for her a year before she spoke up at dinner, Wednesday night dinners at church, about the fact that she had Hepatitis C, had contracted it in about 1982 from a blood transfusion. It was diagnosed in 2008.
I had to look this up, but the symptoms include fatigue, achy joints, and generalized yuckiness. It is hell on your liver. It’s the liver damage that puts people at risk. Hep C can wipe out your liver, a leading cause of liver transplants. Cheryl was looking at a year in Chicago, without Larry, to take part in research protocols. The outcomes were iffy, but it was a chance. This is what Larry wouldn’t talk about.
Last Christmas I attended one of Cheryl’s support groups. You know how you walk into a room where people are gathered, and there is real suffering present—you feel it? I felt it. People with every variety of Hepatitis were there. Some had given up. They hadn’t seen their doctors in a year. Others, of course, were courage on the hoof. Still learning, still participating, still hopeful, still strong. Cheryl is one of those. And one of the very, very lucky ones. Not all Hepatitis treatments and research are on an even pathway; some are further along than others. Cheryl had a real chance.
That chance was a new Hep C drug, INCEVIK, that had passed the research phase and was at the marketing phase. It cost over $10,000 a month, the costs covered by insurance and by the pharmaceutical company. There were hoops to just get through, and Cheryl did that, step by wary step. This spring and summer, Cheryl took the multiple drugs which made her sick on some days, low energy on others, needing foods that were fairly bland. No appetite.
Larry gave her the shots and took care of her, when she couldn’t do it herself; he learned how and did it. It worked. She is Hepatitis C free. She also has a future worth planning on, one with her kids and her grandbabies, and Larry, who is talking again.