Hepatitis Patients

Hepatitis C: Two Journeys to a Cure

Society teaches that strong people can handle problems on their own. But when facing medical issues, true strength is often the opposite: finding the vulnerability to ask for help.

Richard and William both had hepatitis C—a condition neither man thought he could develop. Their experiences were different, but both had the courage to accept the help they needed. Today, they encourage others to reach out for support.


The Cough That Changed His Life

Richard is a domestic violence and anger management counselor in California. He tells his clients how important it is to learn to be vulnerable and ask for help. One day, when he coughed up blood, he had to put his own advice into practice.

“I went in for a checkup and I told the doctor I had spit up some blood, and I said, ‘Man, this isn’t right,’” Richard said.

After a series of tests, he learned he was positive for the hepatitis C virus. Richard couldn’t believe the diagnosis.

“I’m a really healthy, active man,” he said. “I worked hard, I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.”


Simple Exam With a Twist

For William, hepatitis C arrived with no symptoms at all. He was applying for a part-time job that required a physical exam, so he made an appointment at the health department where he lives in Tennessee.

The health department drew blood for testing.

“They called me the next day and said, ‘The test results are in for your blood, and it’s not good,’” William said. “That freaked me out. I went in the next day and they said, ‘You have hepatitis C.’”

Like Richard, William didn’t know how his diagnosis could be possible.

“It blew me away, because I was in such good health,” he said. “I started crying. I thought, ‘I’m going to die.’”


Importance of Testing

People often shy away from hepatitis testing. Some worry about what their friends and family will think. Others don’t believe they could have the disease. But as Richard and William found out, hepatitis can affect people across all walks of life.

Millions of Americans have chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C, and many of them don’t know. Being tested for these conditions is crucial, particularly for Americans born between 1945 and 1956. They are five times more likely than the general population to have hepatitis C.

Symptoms of hepatitis C include fatigue; loss of appetite; easy bleeding or bruising; swelling in the abdomen or legs; and jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin or eyes). If hepatitis is suspected, the most important action is to get tested—taking that first step toward accepting help.


Unexpected Causes

Struggling with the results of his blood test, Richard asked his doctor to test him again. These test results, too, were positive. Richard now remembered the tattoos he’d gotten decades earlier.

“That’s where it had to happen,” he said.

William also couldn’t figure out how he contracted the hepatitis C virus. But then he researched his family history. William realized both his parents had hepatitis C from their military service as young adults and that they must have passed the virus to him.

“My doctor told me the virus could be hereditary and lie dormant in your body for years before it goes active,” William said. “He felt like that was how I got it.”


hepatitis in tattoo needles


Practicing What He Preached

When Richard’s doctor started him on medication, Richard realized he had to follow the advice he gave his clients.

“I teach people to ask for help,” Richard said. “I said to myself, ‘Now I need to act on that. I need to ask for help for myself.’ I kept on the doctors, and I kept all my appointments, and I took my medication religiously—right on time every morning.”

He also remembered his father, who had died from complications of hepatitis A.

“He was a tough guy, so he didn’t believe in going to hospitals, and it wiped him out,” Richard said.

His father continued running the family business full-time. He didn’t slow down to recover from his hepatitis and eventually died from it. Richard knew he had to learn from his father and follow his treatment schedule.


Pushing Through Tough Times

William was also diligent about taking his medication. But his treatment journey was different. He lost his appetite for several weeks and found most beverages bitter. Knowing his body was adjusting to the treatment, William persevered.

His perseverance paid off. After his first course of medication, his viral count was down to 15 percent of its starting number. After three courses, William’s viral count was zero. It was still there a year later.

“I’ve had three tests since then, and there’s nothing,” he said. “I’m absolutely ecstatic.”

Richard also had a viral count of zero after finishing his treatment.

“I know I’m healed,” he said. “I can sense it in my spirit. I feel more active, I have more energy. I feel really alive, and it’s a blessing.”



Courage to Be Vulnerable

Remembering how scared he was when he was diagnosed, William takes time today to talk about hepatitis C treatments.

“I talk to people who have hepatitis C and say, ‘It’s not the end of the world. Go see a gastroenterologist. They can see if you’re eligible to get help. I got help, and it worked.’”

Richard, too, is working to share his experience. Besides his job as a counselor, he works with at-risk youth through several local programs. He encourages kids to get tested.

“I tell them … ‘Please, everybody, go get checked, because they don’t just do that checkup at the doctor’s office. You have to ask for it,’” Richard said.

“We have to learn to have enough courage, which for me is being vulnerable. That’s what courage is really about.” 

Richard, Hepatitis C Patient


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