I am a 66 year old mother of two and grandmother of three who has been cured of the Hep C virus.

I contracted the hepatitis C virus from IV drug use between 1979 and 1983. I was experimenting with IV drugs, which was quite common amongst my peers in that era. There was no public awareness about the transmission of blood borne viruses in those days.

Fast forward to 2010 when I was diagnosed with the Hep C virus when another health problem alerted my GP to the fact that something was very wrong. An abnormal Liver Function Test resulted in me being referred to a gastro specialist.

I told the specialist my entire health history, including information about my alcoholism and IV drug use in the late 70s and early 80s. She then suggested I have a hep C test, which came back positive. 

I was extremely confronted by my diagnosis. Mainly because I had lived drug and alcohol free since 1984 and felt I had left that life behind me decades ago. Unfortunately though, my past came back to haunt me.

What I heard about treatment at the time, which was dual therapy (comprising of Interferon and ribavirin) was that it was ‘no walk in the park’ with extensive physical and mental side effects present in many patients. 

However, after the triple therapy came in, the percentage of people clearing the virus looked higher despite it being quite intense.  I was seriously considering treatment, so I then underwent a test called the IL28B gene test and found I had the gene that responded favourably to treatment. This encouraged me to commit to treatment.

It also helped me immensely going to a monthly support group where I prepared myself for treatment in July 2012. However, after arriving at the hospital the Hep C Nurse told me I was unable to undertake treatment because of a rheumatoid factor in my blood, which meant there was a possibility that I could contract full blown rheumatoid arthritis if I had the Interferon based treatment.

I had no choice but to wait for new improved Direct Acting Antiviral treatments (DAAs) that I had heard would not be coming for 4 to 5 years and would not include Interferon. While waiting I sought out alternative Chinese medicine* to increase my energy levels and keep the healthy part of my liver functioning as best it could. These treatments definitely helped but were very expensive.

The DAAs were made available in March 2016 and I was one of the first patients to complete the treatment. I kept a video diary of my experience and did many other public speaking engagements and articles in the press, interviews on radio and an on-camera piece with the then health minister The Hon Sussan Ley.

I have been empowered by undertaking many speaking engagements and being involved with committees at both the state and federal level. These roles have enabled me to share my lived experience and encourage others in the community still living with this deadly virus to come forward and seek treatment. I have also spoken to many health professionals to raise awareness on how to avoid speaking to patients in an insensitive way, while dealing with people like myself who seek out treatment.

Since clearing the virus in 2016, my health has been on the whole very good. I try to stay focused on living one day at a time and doing what I can whenever requested to share my lived experience and raise awareness about hepatitis C and carry the message in the Australian community. 

I am very grateful to have cleared the virus.