Am I going to die soon? What do I have to expect now?
Hi, so to get to the point, I am a 30 yr old white female and was an IV heroin user from the age of 15-20 and then got on methadone and was on it for 10 yrs, got off of it 2 months ago, couldn't handle the withdrawals and now back to IV heroin. When I was off the methadone completely for 8 days and thought I was pretty much over the worst of it, I started getting extremely ill and YELLOW. I THOUGHT i was just still really sick from withdrawals (which I probably wasn't) so I started using again but still felt sick. It's very upsetting that I had to get sick RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT cause if I didn't I probably would have been strong and healthy enough to kick the methadone for good. Well life is unfair. I just got the results of my blood work and I have chronic hepatitis c and the doctor said I am at high risk of liver cancer, SO basically I am dying, right? I don't want any sugar coated answers, just the true facts. What should I expect now as far as my health? Any insight/advice is greatly appreciated. I'm so sad and depressed. I have 3 beautiful girls and my biggest fear now is that I am going to leave them without a mom. I hate myself for being a drug addict. It's a sickness I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Anyhow, thanks in advance for any support.
Being addicted to drugs is a sickness. First thing is to over come this before trying to take on your Hep C. At this point in time I would put that at the top of your list, and yes Hep C untreated does raise the risk of liver cancer but at your age there should be plenty of time to deal with that as that risk for the most part takes years...... For now try and get your self clean. Below is a good forum to go to for help and advice. Hang in there, wishing you the very best....
First, try to calm down. Rest assured, you are not going to die today, tomorrow, and probably not in the next few months due to Hep C and/or liver problems. However, it is very, very important for you to follow up on both your Hep C as well as the health of your liver.
As you already know, IV drug use for 15 years put you into a high risk category for contracting Hep C. You may have had Hep C for up to 15 years, when you first started using IV drugs. Or you may have contracted it recently. There is no way to know that for sure, and the only reason it's important is because liver damage does tend to progress over long periods of time.
You will need to get treatment for your drug addiction so that you can stop IV drug use. I believe that most gastroenterologists and/or hepatologists will not treat your Hep C until you are no longer using. It will be important for you to get into a drug treatment program and start that process right away, so that you can begin treatment to cure your Hep C as soon as possible. When you are able to treat and cure your Hep C, it will stop damaging your liver, and you will be healthier. If you drink alcohol, you will need to stop that as well.
At the same time, you will need to follow up with a gastroenterologist or a hepatologist to learn more about your Hep C virus. A gastroenterologist is a specialist who focuses on the digestive system, and there are some who specialize in Hep C. A hepatologist is a specialist who focuses on the liver and who has extensive knowledge about Hep C and the liver.
There are many different genotypes (varieties) of the Hep C virus, and in order to be more informed and for your doctor to know what kind of treatment you should take for your Hep C, your genotype needs to be determined. Also, your specialist will need to see what your "viral load" is. These are simple blood tests. He/she will want to know your viral load prior to starting Hep C treatment.
All of this information will be used to monitor your response to treatment. Additionally your specialist will want to test you for HIV and vaccinate you against Hep A and Hep B, all of which cause additional burden for your liver, so you want to know if you have them, and vaccinate against Hep A and Hep B to protect yourself from them if you don't.
All of this will take some time, but eventually your specialist will want to schedule a liver biopsy. It is a sedated procedure, and usually relatively risk free and pain free. The purpose is to look at a piece of your liver microscopically in order to determine how advanced your liver damage is. The biopsy results combined with CT scans and or ultrasounds will let your doctor know if your liver is mildly, moderately, or severely damaged.
All of this testing will take some time, maybe a month or two, but there's no reason to panic. These things need to be done soon, but they aren't urgent. After some of these tests and procedures, and after you have completed your drug rehab, then your gastroenterologist or hepatologist will be able to recommend treatment for your Hep C and care for your liver.
Hep C is treatable and can be cured, but it is essential to treat your drug addiction right away and follow up with a specialist regarding your stage of liver damage and treatment for Hep C. If you continue to use IV drugs, you may contract another blood borne pathogen, and it is less likely that you will be able to follow up with specialists and treat your Hep C and prevent liver damage. If you drink alcohol, it will, combined with your Hep C, cause more liver damage, and also prevent your doctors from being able to treat your Hep C.
Get into drug treatment, follow up with either a gastroenterologist or hepatologist to learn more about your Hep C virus and your stage of liver damage, and then when you and your specialist feel that the time is right, treat your Hep C and continue monitoring the health of your liver.
It doesn't do any good to hate yourself for being an IV drug user. That doesn't help you or your children. Just love yourself and your girls, and get the right drug treatment and later the right Hep C treatment.
Keep in mind that there are many genotypes of Hep C and there are other blood borne pathogens as well that harm the liver, so you remain at risk of contracting other pathogens that can place further burden on your liver and can be difficult to treat, so stopping IV drug use and getting drug treatment is your top priority.
Are you at risk for liver cancer? Yes, anyone with Hep C and especially those with advanced liver disease (scarring on the liver, also known as Cirrhosis) are at risk for liver cancer. Are you dying? No. You don't know yet how advanced your liver damage is, so until you know that, don't think you are dying. Even liver cancer is treatable, often successfully. However, hopefully your liver damage is mild or moderate and not advanced.
Your doctor is right in that the Hep C virus is harming your liver, which puts you at risk for advanced liver disease and liver cancer. There is no way to know how long that might take, if you don't treat your drug addiction so that you can treat your Hep C. For some people that progression takes decades, for other people that progression can be quicker. In my husband's case, he has had Hep C for 40 years, it was diagnosed in 2007, at that time he had mild scarring on his liver, but by 2010 he had advanced scarring (Cirrhosis) on his liver. Even so, he isn't dying, as in dying tomorrow or next month or in 3 months. He has tried treating his Hep C, but it hasn't worked for him yet. He takes good care of his liver. He works full time and leads a full life. He sees his hepatologist every 3-6 months to screen for liver cancer and to monitor the health of his liver, and he's waiting for the next available Hep C treatment that might work for him. We know that he could get sicker and need a liver transplant, die of liver failure, or die of liver cancer sometime in the future, but we are doing what we can do to prevent that from happening, we wouldn't expect either of those things to happen within the next month, the next three months, or even the next year. However, if they did, we have a great hepatologist taking care of him, who will do everything possible to manage the health of his liver. Is it scary? Yes. Does it require a lot of follow up and care? Yes. Are we afraid he'll die tomorrow or in a month or in three months? No. We are doing everything possible to prevent that.
Post here often. We are happy to answer any questions that we can, and we wish you the best.
I agree completely with Cando--addiction is an illness and you need to deal with that first.
You are still young and though you have stressed your liver, it is not too late to get help and eventually get treated. You are young and you have 3 very good reasons to start the hard work ahead of you.
There are rehabilitation centers that can help you get clean.
HCV can lead to cirrhosis and HCC but usually after decades of damage done by the virus.
Take this time now while you are so young and have so much to live for, to give your life real meaning and purpose and then rebuild your body along with your new way of life.
Good luck to you.
We are all basically dying in the end, and none of us knows when that end will come. If you hope to hold it off as long as possible then you have to work hard at living a healthy lifestyle. I'm really sorry that you acquired this infection, its no fun at all to have to deal with it, but its not the end of the world and its not a death sentence unless you want to die of it. You can have a huge impact on the likelihood of this virus being your eventual cause of death – or not. You have to make getting clean your top priority and then getting rid of the virus as your next priority. It is now possible to eliminate the virus in nearly all patients, but it is a pretty demanding process. I don't know if doctors are willing to treat active users or not, I would guess not but I'm not sure. I have heard of regular methadone patients being able to treat successfully. If you want to remain a part of your children's lives then you really need to act on both issues. This forum can help a lot with the viral issue, and you will find a lot of support for that here, but you really need the support of a addiction forum too, and probably first. I'm sending my best hopes and wishes for you!
I can't say it better than others already have but there is indeed hope.
People have been able to quit their addictions and get rid of hep C.
Not everyone with hep C develops liver cancer although it does put you at risk.
Seek help for your addiction and for hep C. I know of a good clinic that does this on the west coast. I'm sure there must be some on the east coast too.
Don't despair ! It may not be easy but for the sake of your girls, you can do this !!
what did the dr say about your jaundice. thats the 1st thing i would seek answers for. i spent 5 years on methadone. when i was ready to stop the juice; i went down 5mg a month till i got down to 20mgs. then dropped 1 mg every 2 weeks. didnt feel much withdrawl sxs, but the mental part was tough.
you got diagnosed at a very exciting time in hep c history. treatments and protocals are getting easier to tolerate, and much more sucessful.
good luck on your journey to good health, barry
this is the place to be (wonderful info.) I've been thru it all. iam 69 and still kicking. did my mistakes in 60's. taking care of yourself (everything you put in your body) the virus in its self is not going to kill you. read, listen and evaluate. good luck and good bless.
Can-do-man posted a link to the addiction forum above which is a great place. It would be nice to see you over there. I'm a member of that forum and participate daily over there....really nice people in the same situation as you.
Im an ex-heroin addict myself who contracted Hep C through my risky behavior so I can relate with what your going through. I will tell you its a dangerous time for you because your addict brain is going to lie to you and tell you to keep using because you got Hep C and your gonna die anyways so whats the point on getting clean....etc...etc. Its all a lie to try and keep you in active addiction. I know, that was me. I caught Hep C in 2007 and those were my exact thoughts. It took me 3 years to finally address my addiction and get clean on Feb 2, 2010. Anyways, I didn't treat my Hep C until over tow years later. Today is my 6 month post treatment anniversary AND I have been clean for 3 years 7 months.
The only reason I share my story is because I want you to be hopeful in that you can get clean and rid yourself of HCV. It is possible. Above you mentioned that detoxing heroin is hard....trust me I know. Again, it would be wise to go over to the addiction forum because there are MANY helpful tips on how to deal with the withdrawals. Things like the Thomas Recipe, ect. I do hope to see you over there.
Anyways, the most important thing I hope you hear from me is to not let your mind use the HCV diagnoses as a reason to keep using. I did it...Ive seen countless others do it....I hope you dont.
Ashmika if your still out there I hope you do take the time to look into the addiction forum, so many understand what you are going through. Actingbrandnew would be a great friend for you as well as many others over there....... Your young and got your whole life ahead of you and your daughters............. Wishing you nothing but the best.
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