Demon in My Blood
My Fight with Hep C—and a Miracle Cure
- ISBN: 9781771641708
- Tags: Biography & Memoir, Elizabeth Rains, Health & Wellness,
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5
- Published On: 05/06/2017
- 256 Pages
One woman’s shocking diagnosis with hepatitis C, her search for the cause, and her miraculous cure.
Was it wild parties and rough sex, a blood transfusion after childbirth or after a horrific accident involving a group of bikers, or perhaps some other event during the freewheeling 1960s and early 1970s that funneled the demon into her blood? Regardless, decades later, on the verge of cirrhosis, Elizabeth Rains had to confront the fact that she was infected with hepatitis C, often a death sentence. But Rains was lucky. She was able to obtain the new, tremendously costly lifesaving antivirals, and became one of the early patients to be cured. This book tells her story while also shedding light on the workings of this insidious disease, the suffering it has caused other victims, and the path to a cure for everyone.
Elizabeth Rains teaches university courses in writing and editing and has written for magazines and newspapers in Canada, the U.S., and Ireland. She was editorial director and publisher of Pacific Rim magazine for fourteen years and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Carleton University.
"Elizabeth Rains bravely journeys into her adventurous and sometimes scary past seeking the source of her infection, while increasing her deep knowledge of this complex virus and the possibilities for cures with all their outrageous costs and sometimes painful side effects."
—Brian Brett, author of Trauma Farm and Tuco
"Rains weaves a tale that is personal and socially relevant. She doesn’t just tell you her story; she shows you everyone’s story.”
—Lucinda K. Porter, hepmag.com
From Chapter 2: Into the Fog
The idea that I might have “something else” sparked questions in my mind, but they fizzled away as I made plans for a vacation with Al in Mexico. Whatever the diagnosis was, it couldn’t be too bad. I had always been healthy.
A week later I got another call from my doctor, asking me to come into the office. I thought she probably wanted to tell me about a minor problem the test had found, or maybe she just wanted to say I was 100 percent healthy. The worst I expected to hear was that I had a vitamin deficiency or high cholesterol. Instead, Dr. Radev said, “You have antibodies to hepatitis C.”
“Hepatitis C,” she said. “It’s a disease that affects the liver.”
I had heard about hepatitis C on the radio. I remembered listening to a documentary about a lawsuit over blood products that were infected with the virus, but other than that, I knew little about it.
“How could I have that?” I asked.
“You must have come into contact with it somehow. It’s transmitted through blood,” Dr. Radev said. Someone else’s blood that carried the virus must have mixed with mine, she explained. She said that hep C could linger in the body for decades without showing symptoms. The virus might eventually scar the liver to the point that it would stop functioning. The result would be liver cancer or the need for a liver transplant.
“Don’t worry,” she said in her soothing Philippineaccented voice. “About 20 percent of people who contract hepatitis C come down only with the acute form of the virus. It goes away on its own. People who just get acute hepatitis C may turn yellow or feel run-down for a few days or weeks, but their bodies fight off the infection. After that they no longer have the disease. They continue to produce antibodies for the rest of their life.”
Dr. Radev asked if I had ever injected drugs. “No,” I said.
She asked if I’d ever had surgery. “No,” I said, “except for tonsils.” She seemed puzzled (perhaps because tonsillectomies seldom require blood transfusions). She said that in rare instances hepatitis C can be transmitted through sex. I recalled that Jessica’s father had once become jaundiced. Maybe Peter had contracted hepatitis C during his frequent flings and had passed the infection to me. “Jessica’s father may have had hepatitis,” I told Dr. Radev. “Maybe I got it from him.”
But I had never become jaundiced, and I was a lot healthier than he had been. He got little exercise and was careless about his diet. I did lots of yoga and never ate junk food. Even if I had contracted the disease from him, I was sure I was among the 20 percent able to shake it off.