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James’s Story

Name: James

Gender: Male

Age: 56

Who is James?

James lives with his wife in Melbourne, Australia, and works in the entertainment industry. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: like both of his parents, James was born in the United Kingdom. Having had successful interferon-based treatment in 2015, James thinks of his hepatitis C as ‘done and dusted’.

Brief Outline:

James was first diagnosed with hepatitis C when he lived in the United Kingdom around 2000 but didn’t have treatment until he emigrated to Australia in 2015. He says that hepatitis C ‘didn’t impede’ his life. James was cured of hepatitis C with the older, interferon-based treatment and says he experienced minimal side effects while taking the medication. He no longer thinks about hepatitis C, explaining that ‘It’s just one of the many things that have happened in my life’.

James's Story:

After suddenly developing a skin condition in his forties, James sought treatment from his GP and decided to ask for a complete health check: ‘I said, “Look, while I’m here” – I was 40 years old at the time […] and I believe in being quite upfront with doctors – and I said, “This is what I’ve done with my life [referring to injecting drugs], you know, [and I’ve] never been to the doctor’s, I feel pretty healthy, but I’d better have […] a check over while I’m here.” And, you know, they just did all the checks, and it came back with, yeah, hep C positive.’

After being diagnosed with hepatitis C in the United Kingdom around 2000, he says he ‘felt a bit gobsmacked in a way […but also that] it wasn’t a sort of a huge life-changer’. As he explains: ‘Nothing was intrinsically different. I just found I had something, and it wasn’t like it was cancer or something, which, you know, gave me six months […to live] – this is hepatitis, which seemed to be, from my understanding, a very long-term thing. It wasn’t an immediate threat.’

James was open at work about having hepatitis C and says he received a lot of ‘support’ from his ‘friends and colleagues’. His life didn’t change much after being diagnosed, as he was busy supporting his daughter in her first year at university and working on his relationship with his partner. According to James, hepatitis C ‘wasn’t the main sort of feature’ of his life.

He recalls that treatment wasn’t appealing at the time because of the limited success rates. As he observes, ‘The ribavirin-interferon [had a] 50% success rate.’ At that time he was wary of treatment: ‘For a hell of a lot of people, it really knocks them for six, but there’s lots of research going on and before too long, other treatments might be available.’ He reflects that those considerations ‘would’ve influenced [his] decision not to act immediately.’

James explains that after emigrating to Australia 2015, he was referred to do the older, interferon-based treatment at a public hospital. Compared to the approach to treatment in the United Kingdom, James says, health professionals in Australia were ‘very positive and informative’.

He knew the success rates for interferon were low and that side effects were likely, but he says he thought to himself at the time, ‘Well, you know, I’m doing this treatment. I’m not going to have any effects and I’m going to [get rid of] it.’ He had treatment for 48 weeks, experienced minimal side effects and was cured of hepatitis C. This result also prompted him to seek support around his alcohol and other drug consumption, and he gave up drinking.

Reflecting on his experience of treatment and cure, James says he no longer thinks about the virus. As he puts it, ‘I don’t really think about hepatitis, because it’s just one of the many things that have happened in my life […] I had hepatitis C, but I wasn’t debilitated by it at all […] it’s done and dusted and in no way shape or form [does] the fact that I have had hepatitis impact or, you know, [have] relevance on my life really.’

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For James (M, 56, experience with old [interferon-based] treatment), diagnosis wasn’t a ‘huge life-changer’, because he didn’t see it as an immediate problem.

Nothing was intrinsically different. I just found I had something, and it wasn’t like it was cancer or something, which, you know, gave me six months less [to live] or something, you know. This is hepatitis, which seems to be, from my understanding, a very long-term thing. It wasn’t an immediate threat, if that makes sense […] So, you know, my life has sort of been up [and down], you know, I’ve had worse things affect my life, to be quite honest. So, yeah, it was just something that I took in my stride and just something to be sorted out at some stage.

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Reflecting on his how his partner responded to his hepatitis C, James (M, 56, experience with old [interferon-based] treatment) explains that her familiarity with it meant he didn’t feel the need to hide anything.

Yeah, so it was fully accepted, [I] didn’t have to hide anything at work or from my wife. She actually had it herself once. This is before we were married. This is sort of years ago. Her and her partner got it. She cleared it herself and her partner had to undergo interferon treatment, and I think he got knocked around a bit by it, but […was cured of] it, ultimately. So, it’s not as though she was totally unaware […] So even though, you know, injecting wasn’t a big thing in her life, you know, we both had that, you know, so nothing needed to be hidden. There was no judgement or anything like that for that. All my surroundings just made it easier for me probably than it would’ve [been] for somebody else.

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James (M, 41, experience with old [interferon-based] treatment) says that he no longer thinks about hepatitis C since he has been cured. He says that given his successful treatment outcome, hepatitis C is no longer relevant to him, and it only occurs to him when he sees the local GP who managed his treatment.

No […I don’t think about hepatitis C] at all, actually […] When I take my wife to our local GP, obviously they know me [and know that I’ve had hep C] because they helped me get [treatment], you know. In fact, he was the one who referred me [to treatment]. Anyway […] it’s not an issue now, so we don’t ever currently discuss it. It’s just not applicable to me. It’s sort of, you know, it’s done and dusted and in no way, shape or form [does] the fact that I have had hepatitis impact or [have] relevance [for] my life really, so it just never comes up. I just don’t even think about it, you know, unless I hear the words ‘hep C’ and I go, ‘Oh yeah, you know, I had that and I [was cured of] it.’

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