Is a committed relationship strong enough to battle Hepatitis C?
I was diagnosed with Hep C in 1999, while I was in a committed relationship.
Although our first seven years together had its typical ups and downs, the remaining seven were fraught with the added stress of my illness.
When I got the news that I had Hep C, we were both in the doctor's office. I had recently been told that I tested negative for Hep C, only to find out that my results were misread. I had indeed tested positive for Hepatitis C.
He was stoic, which helped balance my distressed reaction.
We went home and I fell apart. He went to the computer to research Hep C.
I nose-dived into depression. I was frightened and overwhelmed. I didn't want him to spend his life taking care of a "sick�€ partner. I had no idea how I contracted Hep C, yet the guilt and shame washed over me.
I also worried that I may have infected him. He immediately got tested and the results were negative.
Today, experts agree that the risk is low for transmission of Hep C by sexual contact. The odds can increase if that partner has another sexually transmitted disease.
I rushed to treatment, undergoing months of combination therapy. My weakening immune system kept me a prisoner in my own home.
My friends stopped calling and my partner resented not being able to enjoy his social life. I was hurt. I felt that neither understood the horrific physical and emotional toll that this treatment was taking on me.
He and I had many arguments.
What I didn't understand, nor did he, was that my mind was being altered by the interferon and ribavirin treatment. Interferon can affect the brain causing depression, anxiety and an inability to concentrate or "brain fog".
Those symptoms dogged me. He was initially supportive of my moods and I tried as hard as I could to keep the relationship intact. Looking back, I wish we had a more supportive family network to help us cope with the strain. We loved each other very much but that wasn't enough.
We moved on, for us, that was the best decision.
Being diagnosed with Hep C can be traumatic and if you are in a committed relationship, it's important to be aware of how to communicate the struggles of your condition. Some things to know if you have been diagnosed with Hep C and have a long-term partner:
Talk with your partner. Create an open dialogue about all aspects of your condition, be supportive and understand that each partner may be experiencing an emotional upheaval.
Be open about the side effects of treatment. Educate yourself about Hep C and educate your partner, so both of you are better able to understand one another.
Speak with a therapist, counselor or family friend. Stress and upset can cause physical symptoms. Treat your body well. Try to laugh as much as possible.
The good news is that there is a cure for chronic Hep C, and the liver can regenerate itself. Educate yourself about liver disease.
Every relationship suffers hardships but kindness, patience, and commitment can make all the difference in a stressful time.