Shock diagnosis after ‘horrific hangovers’
WHEN Allan Dumbleton was suffering what he thought were just bad hangovers, he let the issue slide for years until he finally sought help. The diagnosis came as a shock; hepatitis C.
On World hepatitis Day, Allan opens up about living through his diagnosis and how he finally beat it. He says he's "sick and tired of feeling isolated about having hep C".
I'm in my 50s and have a loving supportive wife and three children (now all healthy and productive adults that I am extremely proud of). My working career was predominantly in the Sales & Marketing field, having held several senior executive positions. Being a very passionate and driven person, I've always lived, worked and played sport to the optimum of my abilities - at least until 1999.
My memories of the late 70s to the late 80s can only be described as a blur. I lived by the mantra "work hard, play harder"; a sex, drugs and rock 'n roll lifestyle was prevalent in my age group throughout this time, with me being a willing participant. Coupled with the fact I was getting various tattoos and piercings, to say I was a wild child would be an understatement. Once I met my future wife I did settle down, however my career required me to entertain clients on a regular basis. With entertainment being one of my career "strengths", my yearning for a good time never waned.
It wasn't until I started experiencing horrific hangovers that I started to be a little concerned about my overall health. After suffering these hangovers for quite a few years I decided that I better consult my doctor about them. After many different types of blood tests over a period of six months, I was finally told in 1999 that I had tested positive for hepatitis C. At the time I had no idea what the virus was, the ramifications, nothing. I was ordered to start living healthily and got a referral to a gastroenterologist. The severity of this diagnosis explained to me by my still current and much respected gastroenterologist shocked me, however initially didn't have the desired effect to curb my partying ways, denial had set in.
On my third appointment, my gastroenterologist explained that he was going to offer me a course of pharmaceuticals (Interferon & Ribavirin) that may cure my hep C. I agreed to the treatment. The reality of this appointment and the forthcoming treatment finally stopped my desire to party hard. Unfortunately after six gruelling months I couldn't cure my hep C (I'm genotype 3a). Suffice to say, the year 2000 was very austere.
I refined my lifestyle considerably but it became a race around the clock to get cured of hep C before the virus caused irreversible damage to my liver.
In November 2015, I embarked on a second attempt to beat hepatitis C. Monthly blood tests showed that while taking the medication no viral load was detected but a blood test taken three months post treatment showed the virus had returned. I was devastated.
Thankfully, new breakthroughs in treating hepatitis C received government funding in 2016 which provided hope for me and thousands of other people living with hepatitis C. These new treatments mean that it is possible to cure the vast majority of people who are living with the virus taking tablets daily for weeks - with none of the side-effects of the older therapies.
A year later in November 2016, with Sofosbuvir, Dacatasvir and Ribavirin now available on the PBS, I attempted to beat the virus for the third time and went through treatment for 24-weeks. Periodic blood tests showed that while taking the medication no viral load was detected. This result was also presented at three months and six months post treatment.
I was extremely relieved, grateful and ecstatic that after 18 years since being diagnosed, I was finally cured.
I'm one of 60,000 Australians living with the virus who have been cured since the medicines were made affordable by the Government - but it's concerning to hear that there are 170,000 Australians with the virus are still missing out on being cured.
There are many reasons why people with the virus aren't coming forward for treatment - they may be unaware of how amazing these new cures are, they may be put off by thinking that treatments have side-effects - when in fact they have remarkably few side-effects and can cure the majority of people in only a matter of weeks, or they may just think it isn't a priority to be cured because they feel well.
It doesn't matter how you got it or why you've got hepatitis C, we need to cure all those that have it now, immediately. It's as simple as asking your GP. Don't wait for your liver to be damaged, ask your GP about the new cures or ring the national infoline.
Hepatitis Victoria has also for World hepatitis Day introduced a free app called LiverWELL available for android and iPhones, and it's a great tool and support for people living with viral hepatitis or liver disease. Check it out.
- World hepatitis Day, observed on July 28 every year, aims to raise global awareness of hepatitis - a group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E - and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
- For more information call the National hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222 or visit hepatitisaustralia.com