A Brief History of Liver 14 comments

Posted by grampa in health,the real shit (Tuesday August 1, 2006 at 12:20 am)

So, yeah, that Stephen Hawking fucker ain’t got nuthin’ on me.

In fact, I’ll see his big brain and I’ll raise him two working legs and an uncrooked neck. Heh.

I’d been meaning to write this post for a while now, but I guess the timing of it just worked out the way that it was meant to.  This Friday past, I finished the 24th of 48 weeks of chemotherapy. 

Okay, so when I was younger, I was incredibly stupid.  At some point near the end of that period which I like to refer as my Descent into Drugs and Madness, I managed to contract Hepatitis C by sharing needles.  Spare me the lecture, I’m the one that has to live with it.

So Hepatitis C is a virus that can be transmitted by sharing needles, straws or rolled up dollar bills for snorting drugs and, to a lesser degree, by sexual contact.  However, unlike HIV or hepatitis B, it circulates at relatively low levels in the blood stream and is very difficult to transmit.  In fact, they tell married couples where one partner has it and the other doesn’t that, unless they seriously change their sexual habits, to not even worry about transmittal.  Both parties have to be bleeding.  A lot.  What I’m really saying here, ladies, is that it won’t kill you to fuck me. 

Hep C leads to liver failure.  Liver failure leads to death.  The options are this treatment which may cure you, or a liver transplant which won’t cure you, just keep you alive longer.  The reality of liver transplants is fairly bleak.  Approximately 40,000 people need one every year (and the number is growing) and about 3,000 people get them.  To even get on the transplant list you have to have fourth stage cirrhosis.  According to my doctor my particular version of the disease is “aggressive,” so I opted for the treatment. 

Anyway.  I am currently at the midpoint of the chemotherapy treatment to “cure” this disease.  Basically the breakdown is like this:  for the genotype of the virus that I have, there is about a 55-60% success rate after a year of treatment.  Even if the treatment is successful, there is a chance (say 35%) that it can come back.  If the virus remains undetectable in my system one year after I stop treatment, then I am considered cured.  The likelihood of it coming back after that point is minuscule.

The therapy is a combination of the drugs Interferon and Ribavirin.  They give interferon to cancer patients.  Both of these drugs have some nasty side effects.  In many cases the cure is worse that the disease.  I’ve been feeling, on and off, some of these effects myself as, due to my size, I am on the highest dose that you can get without imploding.  I take one injection of Interferon a week in the stomach and six capsules of Ribavirin a day.

The best part about this whole experience, far and away was, before I started the treatment, a nurse had to come to my house. I called the insurance and asked:


She replied, “We need to teach you how to inject yourself.”

I was all like, “Lady, if I didn’t already know how to inject myself, I wouldn’t have a fuck’n problem in the first place!”

I’ve always been a hit at parties.

What follows is a quick break down of my experience.

It is suggested that you take the injection on a Friday, as the worst of the side effects are in the first two days after the shot.  I’ve found this to be correct for me.  If you are a Monday-Friday kind of person, that’s what I would do.

Weeks 1-6: Kicking Phase.

So they say that the first six weeks are the worst.  It’s true.  At least physically.  Some of the side effects include flu-like symptoms, achy, weariness, and headaches.  The worst part, though, sometime it just really feels like kicking heroin.  The mind racing, the sweats, the chills, the inability to sleep.  Basically your run of the mill restlessness, irritability and discontent.  I heartily suggest that you make sure everyone around you knows what is going on, cause they’re gonna know something’s up anyway.  I suggest that you find a support group.  Personally, I go to Narcotics Anonymous (where there are many people with similar experiences), but there are Hep C support groups in many urban areas.  It’s good to be able to talk to someone who’s had a similar experience.  If you can’t find anyone, e-mail me at grampaacid[at]yahoo[dot]com.  I’ll be more than happy to give you advice or help you through the rough spots.

Anyway, even with the weirdness, I was able to go to work most days.  Though, I was usually out by three, home by four and unconscious within 20 minutes of walking in the door.  I would need to take nap for an hour or so to recharge.  Even with the weariness, I found that I was still able to exercise regularly, with 3 mile walks at lunchtime and lifting 2-3 times a week after my nap.  At this point I was also taking Wellbutrin (though this was to help with my constant battle with the smokies), a multi-vitamin, B-complex, Milk Thistle, and Tylenol.  I drink lots of fuck’n coffee.  You need lots of water, too.  Aggressive rehydration.  So, if you’re exercising and mainlining the caffeine goodness, drink a shitload of water.

This is one of those things where being alone too much is absolutely not a good thing.  See support groups, above.  You aren’t going to want to get out in the first few weeks.  Try to do it anyway.  Sometimes you gotta force yourself.  I would also suggest having a roommate.  My roommate, hereafter known as MadMartigan, has been great.  He went through the treatment a while back, so he is familiar with the madness currently afflicting me.  By the end of this, he should be nominated for sainthood, just for listening to my rants.

Weeks 6-16: Insomnia Phase

Alright, Phase II.  After about six weeks, I was able to make it through a full day of work.  I didn’t need a nap in the afternoon, in fact, I couldn’t fuck’n sleep at all.  I was getting maybe 2-3 hours a sleep a night. 

Now, those people out there in the wide world who know me will tell you that sleep and I have had a rocky relationship.  Let’s say that sleep isn’t something that I’ve really been on speaking terms with since, well, ever.  It was never one of those things that I willingly did.  I didn’t go to sleep.  Sleep had to swim up from the murky depths and claim me.  However, since I’ve been clean (December 2003) this largely changed.  I was sleeping every night.  Actually laying down, turning out the lights, listening to my body.  Who the fuck am I?  It’s true, though.  I had largely accepted it as a necessary evil and moved on. 

Not during this period, though.  Those who know me will also tell you that I always thought that the hallucinations from sleep deprivation are better than from any drug (and I’ve done the research, folks) and that I get a little psychotic around the edges after I’ve been awake for about five days.  Both of these things, I can assure you, are still true.

Even though I was only getting a couple hours of sleep a night for like three months, I was still able to exercise.  In fact, this made me feel better and, ultimately, probably helped me get the sleep that I did get.  I would suggest at least getting out and walking for 20-30 minutes every day during the entire treatment.  It really helps.

So, converse to rational thinking, I was tired and weary and sleep deprived, but I suffered from increased feelings of mania.  I don’t know why.

What I do know is that in this period the lack of sleep and inability of my mind to stop led to the breakdown of immune system.  I got pneumonia at one point and didn’t leave bed for a couple of weeks.  During this time I also saw the end of a relationship that I was in.  It was a long distance thing and probably wouldn’t have worked under the best circumstances, but I don’t know how people maintain relationships during this treatment.  I’m certainly no roadmap on that one.

Near the end of Phase II, I was hospitalized for some crazy illness during which my liver functions shot up to 20 times normal.  They still don’t know what the fuck happened, the top three choices being a drug interaction, a virus, or some kind of parasite.  That’s the best they can do.  Anyway, I was in the hospital for five days before my blood work stabilized and they were able to get enough fluid in me to let me go.

I felt that whatever caused this whole thing was probably aided by the fact that I hadn’t had good night’s sleep since Reagan was President.  So at this point I told the doctors that I needed something for sleep.  I had told them before but, being an addict, I didn’t want to rely on taking pills to have to go to sleep.  They didn’t really want to put me on them, however by this point we all agreed that sleep was more important than worrying about getting hooked on sleeping pills.  Ultimately at the end of this affair, I will have to kick the sleep drugs.  But it can’t be as bad as kicking methadone in jail, so I’m cool.

Weeks 16-21: I’m Gonna Eat Your Children Phase

Right.  So after I get out of the hospital, I realize that I’m not the same person that I was before I went it.  The mania has increased exponentially.  I’m physically incapable of relaxing.  I’m working out more than ever (3-4 miles at lunch, lifting for 45 minutes to an hour after work 3 nights a week and on the nights I’m not lifting, 30 minutes on the rowing machine).  The only sleep I’m getting is because of drugs.  I start having vision problems.  This leads to increased mental confusion.  This leads to increased irritability. 

Now, homicidal ideations and suicidal tendencies are documented side effects of these drugs.  I’m not a suicide guy.  I’m running out of fingers for the number of people close to me that have killed themselves.  It’s not my way.  But, boy, do I have rage issues. 

Now, again, those who know me will tell you that the filter that exists between the brain and the mouth has always been a bit faulty on me.  During this phase it’s not working at all.  I’m snapping at everyone.  I’m making women cry.  I basically want to kill every single person I come in contact with.  Now I was never a violent guy, even back in the bad old days.  But I am now.  No one is immune.  I want to slap old ladies who cut in front of me in the grocery store, run down children waiting for the bus, kill the neighborhood dogs.  Essentially, I’m just full on pissed, all the time.   

To make matters worse, I’m on testosterone for an unrelated condition.  Basically I’m horny and pissed all the fuck’n time.  I’m like a grudgefucker‘s wet dream.  If I could only stop making every woman that I meet cry, I’d smash her head through the goddamn headboard.  And she’d like it.

By now, I’m on a whole host of new drugs.  They got me on Interferon, Ribavirin, Wellbutrin, Ambien, Nasacort, Flexeril, Lunesta, Zoloft, Androgel, Androderm, plus a whole host of vitamins and over the counter crap.  I am taking, literally, 20 pills a day.  My prescription bill is nearing $400/month.  For someone who has sworn off self medicating, it’s beginning to get a little obscene.  I’m starting to feel like the fat Elvis. 

At this point, even though the treatment is working, I don’t want to continue.  I’ve decided that the doctors can just go fuck themselves and that I know better than they do.  I want instant gratification.  I am convinced that it will all be better if I just stop the treatment.  I also know that this is not true, but it seems so reasonable.

Week 22-current: Yep, It’s Gonna Suck Phase

So I make up my mind.  I’m going to see the two doctors (who, incidentally, are first rate) and I’m going to tell them “I’m done, that’s it, fuck you.”  I get to the first doctor (who’s hot as fuck, by the way) and she tells me that “you are a delight to treat” and that “you’re doing great”, and that “I wish everyone I treated did as well as you.”  And I’m thinking, so this is good?  You gotta be kidding me.  I don’t tell her shit about wanting to quit, thinking I’ll drop that bomb on the second, male, not-hot doc.

I get to the second doctor, who is also a recovering addict with many, many years clean.  I tell him about all the shit.  How I don’t want to be on anti-depressants.  That I just want to stop.  That I’m sick of taking all these fuck’n pills. 

And he’s all like ” ‘too many pills’?  What the fuck do you mean ‘too many pills’?  Where was that shit when you were out there using…” 

And that sentence just hangs in the air.  You know something else should be there.  It’s like the phantom pain from a lost limb aching for completeness. 

Then, it comes. “…youuuuu pussy.” 

Ah, now it is complete.  Just in case you never find one who is willing to be that brutally honest with you, there is something refreshing about a doctor that will call you a pussy. 

He says, “Look, Kevin, yeah, this year?  You knew it was going to suck.  It sucks now and it’s gonna keep right on suckin.  I’m not gonna lie to you.  But, this is the most important year of your life.”

This kind of truth was just was I needed.  It didn’t hurt that right about this same time he put me on stronger anti-depressants (Interestingly enough, when you tell a doctor that is treating you that you are thinking about slamming your co-workers heads through plate glass, they have to put you on some anti-depressant or stop treating you.  Otherwise they’re liable.  Who knew?).  But before these new pills had a chance to work, I had also begun a fundamental shift in viewpoint.  After the heroic “you pussy” pep talk, I realized that I was focusing on problems and not solutions. 

I also knew from talking to my friends that many people had a much worse time than I was having.  I was still able to work, to exercise, to show up for my life and I still have my hair.  I basically developed a resolve to take a fatalistic approach to the situation and just do whatever the doctors tell me, accept what is and just soldier on for the rest of the year. 

In short, I came to the conclusion that this staying alive shit is exhausting, but the option sucks UGE donkeyballs.

For the record, the treatment is working. At four weeks my labs showed that there was no trace of the virus in my system. I’ve been told that some people never achieve this result. The doctors tell me that I’ve reacted as well as anyone could have hoped for. I told them that I would in the beginning, as I was planning on fueling this whole year on sheer spite. At least I know my tanks will never run dry.

Anyway, that brings us to current. I’m sure I’ll spin out a time or two before it is over, especially now that work is ramping up to 12-14 hours days. I’ll keep you posted. And I did mean what I said. If there is anyone out there who is going through this or who is about to go through this, then email me. I’ll give you my number and you can call me anytime you need to talk. Sometimes that is all you need to make it over the hump.

Yeah, so there, Hawking got nuthin on me. EVEN MY DICK WORKS, STEVIE! HAH!

Still, just in case, if he kicks off before me, I got dibs on his liver.

View 14 comments

14 comments for A Brief History of Liver »

What? Are you trying to scare me? I would *still* fuck you.

Comment by PeeWee — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 2:05 am

I’m going to have to stop whining for at least one day, in your honor.
This was a great post. You need to find some way of getting it to others going through similar situations.
I’d tell you to be strong, but obviously you already are.
Good luck man.

Comment by iamnot — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 4:25 am

“Increased irritability”….? um. ::cough:: ‘K. :P

Think about it this way… it probably won’t get worse at this stage, so it’s all downhill from here. :)

Comment by theinsider — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 5:29 am

i am glad you’re getting better. and gladder still that you are focusing on the brighter things now.

and uhm. thank your for not killing your neighbors dog.

Comment by wendykat — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 5:52 am

Im glad we can still fuck poi king. Grease up with bacon fat, im getting on a plane

Comment by stutteringjohnthebaptists — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 7:41 am

Yay for your hair!!!!!!!!!!!

Yay for your attitude!!!!!!

Yay for inspiring me to shut the hell up & work on solutions!!!!!!!!!


Comment by Emily — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 8:11 am

wow…what they all said.

grampa…what a shitload of shit to have to go through! Sounds like you’ve put a brave face on as much as is understandable.

What will week 33 entail?

congrats on being halfway there…

Comment by xtx — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 3:33 pm

is there a fuckin’ support group for every god-damned remorseful peck out there.
big deal, buttercup, i lost my hair, i don’t sleep, i’m sober, i’m manic as hell, sure i don’t have the luxury of knowing when the stomach injections happen, i just TAKE IT IN THE ASS AS IT COMES! LIKE A MAN DOES!! hell, i HAD a support group called “drinking buddies.’ but since I kept going to work and missed MOST of the good parties, i ended up married, with children, on the verge of unemployment, battling high bloodpressure……IN OHIO!!!! fuck you and your inspirational journey into the reflective sober depts of recovery durring your casting call on HI LAW.
i had my tongue punched.
i smoked the moss.
i found out you cant effectivly drive on 4 reds.
eat yer full bucket of shit, “grampa”…..
some of us will never get a chance to bang little brown girls in paradise…even without having a disease……and we know it.

Comment by raskYOWnikov — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 4:46 pm

PeeWee – I’m sure I can come up with some scarier stuff, but, oops, I dropped my pen. Can you bend over and pick that up for me?

Iam – Don’t be fooled, I’m a fuck’n basket case most days.

Insider – I never, ever allow myself the luxury of thinking that it can’t get any worse.

Wendy – I’m so not done with that dog.

CrackMonkey John – I’ll make the bacon fat when you get here. We’ll render down one of your hams. Then we’ll make soap.

Emily – I’m glad you found something there that’s helpful. See ‘mostly a basket case’ above.

xTx – Week 33? It should entail the world’s freakiest mom leaving her husband and daughter for a coconut oil smeared, pineapple fuckin weekend. Then we can never speak again. Until the following Tuesday.

Yow – Sober? My ass. I can hear you slurring from here. You should leave your wife, my godson, that other, fucking insane, son, and come visit. With xTx. I’ll find you each a little brown girl. We’ll fuck til we’re raw. Then I’ll send you home, as PapaDoc likes to say, “physically and spiritually renewed.”

Comment by grampa — Tuesday.August.1.2006 @ 5:40 pm

Wow, you’ve got quite a story addiction, recovery, and consequences. I hope you don’t turn out to be the James Frey of bloggers.

Comment by k — Wednesday.August.2.2006 @ 4:06 pm

damn. one shit sandwich after another. keep chewing.

i kinda wish we were neighbours. i would like to hang out with you and shake your hand and stuff.

i don’t know why but as i was reading this i was thinking you’d probably dig joshua norton’s blog, if you don’t already read it.

i’m not sure what comment etiquette for linking other blogs is, and i’m not sure i really give a fuck, so here’s his url:

sounds like you’ve got yourself some huge mother fucking balls, grampa. i’m sure you’ll conquer.

Comment by meg — Thursday.August.3.2006 @ 5:17 pm

hey look. strip mining for whimsy. right there in the links. awesome.

Comment by meg — Thursday.August.3.2006 @ 5:48 pm

Have have mucho respect for you. The shit takes balls to pull yourself out of. You may have been pushed in the right direction, but you have pulled yourself the rest of the way. Yeah, lots of respect going your way.

Comment by DrinkJack — Saturday.August.5.2006 @ 11:22 am

[…] I didn’t truly realize how much the various drugs and fear that it would return had been weighing on me, how much it really hurt, until it was over.  I mean, still, it may come back, they’ll check at six months and one year and if it hasn’t come back, then it’s considered a cure.  But, today, life is pretty fucking fantastic.  I’m off almost all of the massive amount of prescriptions that I was taking, I’ve beat back the two month long cheeseburger and ice cream bender that I was on as a result of being bummed out about the death of my last relationship and I’m feeling, well, better than I ever have.  I’ve been on this insane exercise program, working out twice a day everyday (man that stairmaster is a bitch), eating right and getting plenty of sleep.  […]

Pingback by Grampa’s House » Where’s Waldo? — Wednesday.March.28.2007 @ 7:18 am

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