3 million Americans have hepatitis C, and most don’t know it By Kathleen Salvia

In 2012, shortly after I turned 62, I pronounced myself a senior citizen, eligible for lots of discounts, and also probably due for a complete physical. I got more than I bargained for. What I thought would be routine, turned out to be a life-changing experience.

My blood test results showed that my liver enzymes were high. The next thing I knew, I had a diagnosis of hepatitis C virus and early stage cirrhosis of the liver. I soon learned that hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants. Not only that, but the disease also can be silent for several years without causing symptoms. I suspect I contracted the virus more than 40 years ago. If you want to know how I got it, take one adventuresome and immortal teenager living in San Francisco in the ’60s and go from there.

DEALING WITH HEPATITIS C

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When I received the diagnosis, I was in shock. It only took a minute to go from feeling pretty good about leading a fairly productive life to feeling like scum. I’ve spent more than 20 years working for nonprofit arts organizations, doing volunteer work, enjoying my avocation as a singer-songwriter, having a happy and musical marriage, and being part of a large and boisterous Italian Irish Catholic family. How was I going to tell people? Did I even have to tell them? What about my husband? I was in fear.

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