Chasing a Cure: Sisters Share Uncommon Bond
Jacque and her sister Susy were always close—both self-proclaimed “music freaks,” regular concertgoers and free spirits. For more than a decade, they had something else in common: hepatitis C.
“I would never have known I had it had my sister not gotten a checkup in 2004,” said Jacque, who was diagnosed the same year. “When I found out that I had hepatitis C, it was a big surprise. I thought probably I did if my sister had just discovered that, because we led similar lifestyles when we were younger. It still was a very big shock.”
While Susy decided to make healthy changes to her lifestyle and forgo treatment, Jacque decided to undergo interferon treatment. She told her doctor, “Well, let’s try something, because I don’t want to die from this, and I can’t live with knowing I have this in me.”
Jacque experienced severe side effects right away.
“The interferon treatment—it was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. It was worse than any sickness I’ve ever had, and I’ve had pneumonia. … But this one flattened me.”
Jacque and Susy had leaned on each other a lot over the years, and battling hepatitis C was no different. When Jacque couldn’t give herself interferon injections, Susy came over to administer them. When Jacque was too fatigued to go grocery shopping or feed herself, Susy brought her something to eat.
Eventually, the side effects of treatment were too much. After a month, Jacque stopped interferon therapy: “I said, ‘Well I’m just going to have to accept things the way they are.’”
Jacque moved forward without treatment but with fear of her disease and what people might think of her. She only shared her diagnosis with close family and friends.
“I felt like I was contaminated, and I felt like I just didn’t want anybody to know anything. It was hard to talk about it.”
Still, Jacque hoped a new drug could help her and her sister.
“After my unsuccessful experience with interferon, I started keeping up with research about hep C, because that’s the way I work. I’m interested in new things, and I’m just a good researcher. And what I found was that there were some new drugs coming up that were looking very, very promising.”
Her research and persistence paid off. In 2015, she was referred to a gastrointestinal specialist, underwent preliminary liver testing and was approved for a new treatment. It offered the chance of a cure in a matter of months.
“This treatment was so easy—one pill a day, and all I got was maybe a little tired sometimes, but I could function.”
Within three weeks, there was no detectable viral load—no sign of the virus. Jacque had her viral load checked again after she completed the full three months of treatment. She was cured.
“It was a miracle, because when the doctors said, ‘You’re cured, there is no virus’—my goodness, I just couldn’t believe it. It was probably the most significant thing that has happened to me in my life, because I just got rid of a killer that was in my body.”
Throughout Jacque’s treatment, Diplomat was there, making sure she received her medication on time and answering her questions about potential medication interactions.
“My experience with Diplomat was incredible. I’ve never experienced such a loving team and care environment—because truly, it was loving. I really felt taken care of. … They would follow up and check with me. [That] made all the difference in the world, because then I could relax. I could just take my medicine like you do every day, and I didn’t have to worry. I felt like, ‘You know what? I don’t have to worry about this, I can complete the program,’ and if I had any worry crop up, [Diplomat was] a phone call away.”
A former teacher and corporate trainer, Jacque said she wants to help others dealing with hepatitis C. She said she encourages people to get tested and know there is hope. There is support. There is a cure.
“It’s possible now. It’s not an impossible thing. You don’t need to be scared or think you won’t qualify or that no one is going to help you. … I spread the word any time I can about this treatment and Diplomat.”
Her sister Susy was by Jacque’s side through everything. She celebrated when Jacque was deemed virus-free. Then started treatment herself in hopes she and Jacque would soon have one more thing in common: being cured of hepatitis C.