Independence!

Happy July 4th, everyone!!! It’s been a minute since my last post, mostly because I’ve been slammed at work and am currently enjoying a lovely, relaxing vacation in northern New Mexico with my husband and two dogs.

I’ve been having good days lately, with fewer bad migraines (I’m assuming because I’m on vacay and don’t have the work stress triggers?) and I’m currently working my way through Box 11 of 12 of my Mavyret. I’m almost done y’all!

It’s a little bit of a bummer to do the Fourth in the mountains with smoked brisket and fireworks and not be able to have some colbeers, but then again, when the tradeoff is getting to have many more Fourths, I gotta buck up and be grateful to be here, period. You know what I discovered the other day that is delightful??…Watermelon Lemonade Snapple! So good. Also, not super popular/common in NM, oddly enough, but if you’re in an area that does sell it and you can’t have colbeers today, go get some. They’re like liquid summer!

Have a happy and safe 4th everyone!

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It Puts the Needle in Its Gut

So I had an appointment with a neurologist this morning to talk about these ridiculous migraines I’ve been having. I’ve always had headaches, ever since I was in elementary school, and my mom got called to come bring me Tylenol so often that she finally started buying the jumbo bottle every year with my school supplies to leave with the office for me to go get as needed.

As I grew into adulthood, the headaches morphed into full blown migraines, and over the past year or so, they’ve gotten more frequent and more aggressive, especially since starting the Mavyret in April.

So I went to see this neurologist, who had me fill out the most paperwork I’ve ever filled out before an appointment, like EVER, and then we did some more questionnaires in the exam room, as well as some little physical measurement tests. He put some kind of tuning fork on my toe and asked if I could feel it…I said “feel what?” He touched it to my hand, where I could feel the pronounced vibration that I couldn’t feel in my big toe. He did the same thing with a lancet needle lightly on my fingertips and up my legs and arms. We did some resistance exercises as well, and then he had me sit back in my chair so he could share his thoughts.

He’s ordering a sleep study because he thinks I’m losing oxygen at night in my sleep. He’s having my primary care doc look into adjusting my depressing meds because he thinks I’ve acclimated to them and am having sleep issues because my serotonin levels are jacked up. He thinks I have neuropathy from chronic Heoatitis C, as well as some carpal tunnel syndrome. He also thinks I have some vitamin deficiencies.

I go in for one thing………jeez.

In any case, I left with a scrip for an injectable that’s supposed to help prevent migraines, as well as an injectable to try at the onset of my next migraine and a nasal inhaler to try at the onset of the migraine after that to see what works best. I specifically asked if it was a needle and plunger scenario, and was assured that both injections would be a pen. Went to pick up the preventative and it was literally a prefilled syringe with needle and plunger. So, I gave myself my first ever shot today. #gangster

Anyway we’ll see how all of this works out. Fingers crossed!

Grand Mal Headache

I missed posting yesterday because I woke up with a righteous headache and it stuck around allllllll day making me miserable. Now, I know headaches are one of the main side effects of the Mavyret, but even I am not willing to blame it on the ONE dose I’d ingested at that point. So like Milli Vanilli, I was blaming it on the rain. (Turns out my uterus also had a lot to do with it. If that’s TMI for you, get outta here. We’re all grown.)

Luckily, I got up today and all was right with the world. Since I don’t have anything medication-related to report, I figured I’d take a quick five to talk about how I came to find myself with Hepatitis C in the first place.

Four score and seven years ago, back in 1991, I was a chubby young thirteen year old nerd enjoying the summer before my 8th grade year. We started noticing that I was huffing and puffing more than usual from physical exertion, I was paler than normal (like Twilight level but without the glitter), and that I had some weird looking rashes. We didn’t think much of it at first, other than that I needed to get off the couch and get outside more.

We went to the state fair in the Fall and I remember as we pulled into the parking lot, my leg itched and I was scratching it through my jeans, but couldn’t quite get the itch to stop. We stopped at the bathrooms on our way in and I was grateful for the chance to get at the itch unimpeded. When I got in the stall, no more than 5-10 minutes from getting out of the car, my leg had four ugly crimson striped bruises where I’d just scratched it in the car. I was so startled by it, I had my mom come into my stall to look at it. She told me to stop scratching so hard, and we brushed it off and went on about our day.

Then we noticed the “rash” around my ankles where the elastic on my socks would be, or if I had a pair of tight pants on, the rash would show up around my waist as well. We thought it was heat rash, until I went in for a hair appointment. When my mom picked me up from the salon, the back of my neck where I’d laid at the shampoo basin was dark purple with bruising. We made a doctor’s appointment as soon as we got home. I remember driving home, asking her if I was dying. She scoffed and told me of course not. How could we possibly have known?

I’ll tell the story of how I came to be diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia another time, but all of the bruising was the result of a rare blood disorder where the bone marrow stops producing platelets, which is what causes your blood to clot. I had numerous red blood cell and platelet transfusions during the months we waited for a diagnosis and when I was hospitalized for treatment. In 1991, the medical community didn’t know that there was such a thing as Hepatitis C yet, so blood transfusions weren’t tested for the virus before they were administered to patients like me.

Because I was being treated for a blood disorder, we knew almost immediately that something was wrong with my blood. Back then, they called it “non-A non-B hepatitis” until enough of us had it (and until type D popped up) that they finally named the puppy.

Treatment for Hepatitis C back then was unsophisticated and a lot of the time caused more harm than good, so I waited. Then I saw more specialists, and they said I wasn’t that sick, so I waited some more. Then I saw more specialists and there weren’t really many good choices for my specific genotype, which only 9% of Americans with Hep C have, so I kept waiting.

I basically waited myself right into cirrhosis, but I believe all things happen for a reason and in His time, and at some point, I’ll also tell you the stories of all the ways the pieces fell into place perfectly for me to start treatment at this point in life with this team of practitioners. It’s a mind bender y’all.

Until then, I’ll be over here watching The Dead Files and having some Chef Boyardee.

– Tessa’s Bum Liver

BYOM / DIY

It’s D-Day! Today is the day I will start Mavyret. I’m supposed to take it with a meal, so in honor of this momentous occasion, I’m heating up a frozen pizza right meow. More on that later.

One of the unusual quirks about the specialist I’ve been going to is that they like to have all of their patients’ medication delivered to their in-house pharmacist to dispense so that they can provide counseling, education, and support. I’m assuming there are insurance companies that don’t have a problem with that, but my insurance company hasn’t played well with others throughout this experience.

They rejected five separate claims for Mavyret before my specialist was finally able to schedule a conference call to discuss the specific details of my medical history that were the impetus for his request that I be covered to take Mavyret instead of Epclusa. When doctors file an appeal after the insurance company rejects a claim, the insurance company hands the appeal over to a board certified MD to review. What that MD reviews is the boilerplate form that everyone fills out. It doesn’t have extra spaces for the requesting physician to write in the fine details that take me from being writing on a page to an actual human being. The system is a mess, y’all.

I digress. Insurance finally approved the medicine, but they weren’t giving in to the specialist’s whims. Oh no. In one last act of defiance, they called me and asked me what address they should use to ship the medication. LOL. Now, if my experiences with the specialist’s staff had been all roses and sugar, I probably would’ve had insurance send it to them. However, I was kind of feeling the whole defiance thing, so I went with it and had them send it to my house. I knew if I called the doctor’s office and said, “Yeah, hi…so I have this medicine here, should I just go ahead and take it?” that I’d get in for an appointment a WHOLE lot faster. Like, within two days. Good stuff.

A month or so back, the nurse had told me I needed a couple of vaccines, and that if I just called them the next time I was coming in for an appointment about 20 minutes ahead, they’d get the shots ready and just hit me on my way in or out, no big. So I called ahead as Hubs and I were on our way, and you’d have thought I had called to arrange for my personal helicopter to land on the roof and drop me off. And my helicopter was Air Force 2. And riding along with me for the day was Trump, live tweeting the whole scene. Like, what??? It’s two vaccine shots, homey, and y’all are the ones that told me to just phone it in 20 min ahead of time NBD. While I waited on hold for the nurse to check with a variety of people about what she should do with this unruly psychopath on the phone demanding vaccines, I joked to Hubs that since we already had to BYOM to the Medication Therapy Appointment, maybe I could just have them leave the syringes on the front desk and administer the shots myself as well and make a whole DIY Day of it.

When I checked in, I did actually offer to DIY my own vaccines, which is when they curtly told me they’d handle it. Lol. Yo, if I suddenly stop posting and you find out I died randomly, have the cops check out the staff at the specialist’s office. And tell them it was probably just like some kind of manslaughter, because I can be a lot to take. Just sayin.

If A Tree Falls in the Woods…

So…after months of tusslin’ with the insurance company, I’m going in to see the clinical pharmacist tomorrow to learn all about the joys that will surely come with consumption of another chemical every day. By afternoon, I’ll have Mavyret coursing through my Hep C-riddled veins!

When my husband and I looked up the typical side effects of Mavyret, what we found most frequently was “headaches and fatigue”. Hubs asked me, “Will we even know…” I’ve had headaches my whole life, guys…like, my mom had to leave the giant bottle of Tylenol at the front office at school for me so I could pop out of class and go take some at the first twinges of a headache so it didn’t end with me vomiting in the bathroom by 1:30 in the afternoon. That got me thinking…if a tree falls in the woods, does it still have side effects?

If the Mavyret headaches on top of my own headaches are going to take me to some sort of next level, I may need to call Amazon Prime and ask if I can have a dedicated delivery person who has a key to my house and can come in and pull up a chair when I re-up on Yoko Yoko and flavored waters. I wonder if that costs extra.

I digress, but these are all things that enquiring minds want to know, right? I tried to find a blog written by a middle-aged normal purple-haired Gigi such as myself from which I could derive some idea of what to expect on this journey I’m about to kick off. Oddly enough, not a lot of folks out there that got the Hep C when they were 13 from a dirty blood transfusion. Reason #572 that I’m not like most folks, and also why I figured I’d be the blogger to document what to expect for whoever else might be out there googling “Hep+C+Mavyret+treatment+what+to+expect+side+effects+skeered+still+fabulous+???”

Reporting Live…Tessa’s Bum Liver