Category Archives: Hepatitis C

Geographical Relocation

It has taken months of vacillating, debating and false starts but I finally decided it was time to change residence. My former flat had, through numerous recent circumstances, gradually drifted out of that region known as “my price range” like a rogue balloon.  I cast back and forth between enduring the stress of moving vs. the stress of having basically no money and finally decided to resume my search for a smaller, more affordable apartment.  After finding a few affordable, but unattractive prospects and/or being denied because of pets or credit history,  I finally stumbled across an upper flat only 3 blocks from my former duplex.

Everything seemed to fall into place perfectly, which my former AODA counselor used to say was a sign that you were on the right path. I was able to qualify for funding from a local Advocacy agency to help with the moving costs,  I hired movers for the first time in my life and on November 2,  I moved into my new digs.
It’s a cute place, it has character, a huge kitchen,  a sizable balcony/upper porch and lots of closet space. Like many of the houses in my neighborhood it’s probably between 80-100 years old and was very likely a single family home that was converted into a flat sometime around the 1940’s, which is partially what gives it it’s unique character and floor plan, (and tiny bedrooms!)
Now, my sole purpose for moving was to save money, which I will eventually (the movers cost twice what they’d estimated) but it also was an important step for me to make this decision and go with it while in the midst of treatment for Hep C which leaves me with sporadic motivation and low (if any) energy.  I knew I would be doing a lot of the work alone and I knew it would, frankly, knock me on my ass for a few days. I also knew it needed to be done and it was up to me to make it happen.
In addiction “Geographical Relocation” is a trick that people frequently use on themselves and their loved ones to create a sense of false hope for interpersonal change. “Once we get out of this neighborhood with all our history/ with all the bars/ with all our “using friends”/ (fill in any appropriate external force of control that is preventing change) “things will change”.  Of course as we all know, we take our problems with us because our problems don’t live in the house, or the bar or in our friends, but within us.  Naturally, with my History, I’ve dragged myself, my family and all my personal belongings down that Yellow Brick Road many times, and learned the same lesson that Dorothy ultimately learned; “Over the Rainbow” is within us all, we only need to look inside to find it.
After moving, not surprisingly I was exhausted. Not just moving exhausted but being on toxic treatment and overdoing it exhausted. Enter, stage left, sick grandchildren and next thing I know I am sick as a proverbial dog. After two days of not keeping any food down and basically sleeping the entire time, I came back to the real world long enough to realize I had a counseling session scheduled with my therapist that day. I gave him a call to let him know I wouldn’t be there and why. His response was “oh no everything was supposed to be okay after you moved”
Hmmm, really?
Did I give the impression that I believed that? Did I imply I was falling for the old “Geographical Relocation” self scam? I’m  pretty sure I did not, and yet his response irritated me at the time.  I wasn’t sure if he was being facetious or….what. I responded by telling him that I was simply sick with a bug, no deeper meaning attached, and things will be fine.
Funny how once we’ve travelled the Yellow Brick Road, learned our lesson and moved on, we still carry the stigma of our old ways, even if only in our own minds.

© 2010 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Advertisements

My life on film, er, pixels

the Tat, wish #2

A couple of years back when my last boyfriend/ man friend and I separated due to “creative differences” he got custody of the “good camera”. By “good” I mean, not disposable, and it isn’t pink with Hello Kitty emblazoned all over it. When I got my tax return last year my tax guy (like I have ‘people’, lol) pretty much told me that this was the last year I was going to rake it in on all the deductions my single Mom status with a low paying job and excessive student loans had previously bestowed upon me once a year. I figured I’d better make this last run a good one. I did take care of some debt and other responsibilities, gave my kids spending money and bought my Granddaughters some clothes, but I had promised myself this time I was granting 3 of my own wishes..and lo and behold I did.
My 3 wishes were: a new laptop, a new tattoo and a “good” camera. The laptop has been well worth the investment.  I am able to sit in privacy and write, email, blog or check in on facebook gossip. The tattoo is pretty badass and represents my courage as a survivor. The camera has just been plain fun. It’s one of those cute little colorful things that we see Ashton Kucher gliding around cocktail parties sneaking pics of attractive young women who pretend not to notice. So logically since this pretty boy can use it successfully, so can I. Well I can now after some trial and error (heavy on  the error side) and after actually resorting to reading an instruction or two. So now my latest project, or addition to my ongoing project of telling my story, recording my life as a Middle Aged, Unemployed, Hep C infected, recovering alcoholic, Master’s Degree having dedicated Advocate, mother of 3, grandmother of 2, rescuer of stray animals trying to survive on a meager Social Security Disability at least until I can create some additional income, is to photo document  some of the days in my life.
 I just started today, officially on my bus ride to the bank, the grocery store and back home; a trip that with a car would’ve taken about an hour at most, but took close to 3 hours. But not to worry I promise it’s not going to be some 21st Century version of ‘Christmas in Appalachia”. On the contrary I’ve been spotting sights that if I were clipping down the street at 35 or 40 mph I would never have noticed. The project is new and in the works and I haven’t decided what, if anything, to do with it. I will probably include a pic or two with captions on my blog just to try it out, get some feedback and probably have some laughs, just as soon as I find that battery charger.
Peace,
Nanakoosa
© 2010 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


News and Updates

In accordance with my original mission I have begun work on my sister site, http://www.whitewaveconsulting.org. The intention and goal of this project is to organize survivors who wish to be actively involved in public policy making, service delivery and public education. There are many ways to accomplish these goals. Writing our stories and sending them to politicians, service providers and funding sources can have a substantial impact. Forming Advisory committees, organizing survivor speak outs, using art and film to record our histories are all effective methods to make our message heard. We ARE the experts on Domestic Violence, we know what services are lacking and which ones are working. We know how we want, and deserve, to be treated by social service agencies, police officers, and the judicial system. Finally, as older women we can attest to the long term effects of abuse and the need for ongoing services. The key to change is Communication and Organization, let’s Unite as Survivors and help create a future of Peace, Respect and Compassion.
In other business, I am continuing to work on my memoirs, blogging and making connections online. It’s wonderful to find so many compassionate, creative and like minded individuals.

My latest project is my new Hepatitis C blog describing my experiences with the disease and, now, being on treatment. I had started including posts about my journey through treatment on my survivors blog, but because this experience has been so much a part of my life; because my day to day activities are dictated by my side effects, I decided this chapter of my life deserves it’s own space. I am also discovering an urgent need for information and advocacy for individuals stricken with this often stigmatized disease. I will continue to share my personal story while also accumulating useful information about Hepatitis and treatment options.

© 2010 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


It’s not just emotional healing that hurts

A while back, in May, I blogged about my next step in Healing; treating my Hepatitis C. So far it’s been a bumpy ride, with plenty of ups and downs. How about I start with the good news. My viral load is now undetectable. This is a good sign and it means it’s worth it to continue treatment. My doctor seems to think that I can beat this for good if I do maintain the treatment for the rest of the year. For those of you who don’t know, undetectable doesn’t mean cured, yet. The trick is to remain undetectable after treatment ends. For some people it works, some people stay “clear” for a while then the virus reappears, and for some people it seems to come back immediately after treatment is stopped. There are of course, many variables affecting treatment success, but maybe some of it is just good old luck of the draw. Given the uncertainty of success any shred of good news from the doctor is a beacon of hope, an incentive to carry on even if you feel like crap.
Unfortunately one of the more common side effects of the treatment is depression. So for me it’s kind of like a day at the beach when I’ve already got second degree burns. Add to this the loss of income the loss of a social role as a community advocate and sometimes I just wonder what the hell happened. Good thing I’ve had lots and lots of therapy to cope with depression because my old Buddy, Deena Depression has been hanging out quite a bit lately. And that, my friends, is one reason I’m telling my story, all aspects of it. Some of it is simply Ego validation, I admit that; but there is also the desire to reach out to others who have or are having similar experiences. It can feel like a lonely road sometimes and knowing someone (many people actually) are having the same experience does lighten the load. If you yourself or someone you care about is going through treatment for hepatitis C, or considering treatment I recommend seeking out information from others who have had the experience. An excellent online support group I have found is HepC Nomads-http://hepcnomads.co.uk/ I have found everyone there to be both informative and supportive. Another good resource is The National Hep C Advocacy Council at www.hepcnetwork.org. As always if you have questions or feedback I’m happy to respond.
Peace and Blessings
© 2010 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


The Next Step

Whenever I sit down to write, whether it be a blog, or journal or my ongoing project (do I dare say book?) I spend some time reflecting on my life, on who I’ve been, roles I’ve played, where I am now and where I want to be in the future. In the moments that I look at the Big Picture, I sometimes think to myself, ‘wow, I’ve had a pretty messed up life”. If I happen to be in a particularly spiritually focused moment I’ll say ‘I’ve really overcome a lot of challenges”. Both things are true, it’s just a matter of perspective. I’ve also accomplished some good in my life. I’ve been a Social Worker most of my adult life and I’ve been able to utilize my experiences and compassion to help many individuals and families. And although I haven’t always been the parent of the year, I must have done some things right because my children have all turned out to be intelligent, creative, caring individuals.
I’ve accomplished a lot of personal growth. I haven’t had a drink in 10 years. I have avoided abusive relationships. I no longer obsess about things over which I have no control. I no longer feel the need to plan ahead for the “worst possible scenario”. And I no longer flinch when someone makes a sudden move or noise near me. I’m far from perfect but as they say no one is perfect, nor would I want to be, but I’m generally pretty content with who I am today.
As most of us know healing happens in layers and cycles, and it seems to me at least, that the more “issues’ you start out with having the more layers and cycles you must negotiate.
So, now I’m into a whole new territory, a new layer, a new cycle. And I am reminded again that there is always considerable overlap between these layers, as most of the problems we survivors have experienced are intertwined. Therefore as we grow through one issue, we are really simultaneously healing other areas of our psyches, bodies and social lives as well. By now I can only hope you are wondering with baited breath what this mysterious “next layer” is. I realized I don’t share much personal detail in my blogs. I write as a survivor/recovering alcoholic, but I stick to generalized topics and themes. And yet ultimately one of my hopes is for my website to become a forum where people can share their stories, because I believe there is great power in the telling, as well as in the receiving, of these stories.
My most recent battle, or challenge, is a particularly difficult one for me because it involves consequences of bad decisions I’ve made in the past and because it is something over which I have limited control. About 12 years ago I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a consequence of my IV drug use back in the 80’s. At that time, being the dedicated alcoholic that I was, my reaction was to drink as much as I possibly could for a solid year because I knew I’d have to quit soon to save my liver. For those of you who are not addicts, trust me, this logic makes perfect sense to an addict. In a way the diagnosis and my irrational response, was a catalyst to my recovery from alcohol. As you can well imagine drinking as much as possible for an entire year leads to some pretty nasty situations. I ended up in jail more than once, lost my job, my apartment and worst of all my kids. Every time I tried to quit I only made it so far before I was at it again. Finally, as an alternative to a 9 month incarceration I was sent to a residential treatment center. I can honestly say that experience saved my life in more ways than one.
Anyway, despite my best efforts to destroy my liver, I have fared pretty well over the past 9 years or so. In the past year however, I found myself increasingly fatigued, foggy and achy. I thought I had fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Then at this year’s liver screen we discovered my viral load was up and some of my other numbers were off. A biopsy revealed a small amount of liver scarring. To make a long story short, my doctor and I decided that since I’m unemployed right now anyway and since the damage hasn’t progressed too far, now might be a good time to try treatment.
The treatment for Hep C is Interferon and Ribavirin combination therapy. I won’t go into great medical detail here but I will tell you the side effects are pretty notorious, and for good reason. The worst and most common are fatigue, loss of appetite, foggy thinking and, my personal favorite, depression. It’s pretty much a full time job. So after all the healing of my emotions, my thought and behavior patterns now it seems to be time to heal the physical realm. And of course there’s the overlap. The guilt I’ve felt at having been careless with using IV drugs. The sense of loss of not having the energy to be there for my family in the way I’d like. The identity crisis of going from being passionate defender of justice for my clients to being unemployed and pretty much unable to work, at least during the course of treatment. And yet, there are wonderful opportunities for growth. I have time to do things like write, gardening and crafting, to nurture my creative side. I have to opportunity to give back to myself some of the nurturance and forgiveness I so naturally afford to others but save little for myself.
I began this journey on treatment 8 weeks ago now and I’ve already experienced a vast range of emotions, insights and humbling epiphanies. Yes it’s challenging, to say the least, but if I’ve learned nothing else from my years of diverse experiences, it is that if we choose to, we become wiser, stronger more complete beings for ever challenge we survive.
Peace and Blessings,
Nanakoosa
© 2010 Jennifer Hazard