I look in the mirror and I see a different person. I’ve a month more of medication to go, and though my viral count is so low as to be near non existent, it is still present and there is a chance the treatment may not work. However for the first time, I’m allowing myself hope.
Whatever happens, something in me has changed. I’ve developed a confidence that has made me realise how much this illness has become a cage and despite all my efforts, I have allowed it and my past to define and limit me.
26 years ago I was engaged to be married to a clean-cut straight young man who was supporting me as I came off heroin. Part of this process was a blood test that revealed Hep C. It was all very vague in those days when the virus was simply labelled as Non Hep A/Non Hep B. I was told that I would die from the illness and could never have children as I would pass the virus on to them.
I suppose they were thinking in worst scenario terms in view of the devastation that AIDS was wrecking at that time.
The marriage didn’t last long but my relationship with the illness WAS a constant with its regular tests and scans and monitoring.
It sometimes seems as if my relationship with the virus and my present hepatology nurse is the longest running and most intimate and consistent bond I’ve ever had.
During these quiet days of low key living, I’ve realised that I’ve been wearing a mark of Cain, a personal branding of shame that for so many years has prevented me fully moving forward.
Yes, I’ve pushed myself with my art and writing, a necessary expression, but with mainstream work and relationships I always felt less than. It was as if I was tainted in some way, still part of the drug culture but not, and unable to be fully worthy of enjoying normal aspects of life such as a well paid job and healthy relationship.
I feel this present period of introspection is a time of reinvention and reevaluation, and while I periodically have these times of re-examination and redirection, this seems particularly integral to my next stage of life.
My disillusion with the art and literary world, though not the creative process of course which is non negotiable, makes the new route all the more perplexing to negotiate.
50 years old and developing a sense of self esteem could seem to be a bit of a delayed development, but I firmly believe, the timing is absolutely perfect.