Become an Ambassador for Your Own Health

BY RANDY DIETRICH
Patients need to take ownership of their fight with hepatitis C.
PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10, 2015
I was given the opportunity to take a close look at my own health when I was diagnosed with hepatitis C 16 years ago.

I call it an opportunity now, but it took me a while to come around to that point of view. When my doctor told me that I had hepatitis C, I had no idea what that meant. I was 42-years-old when I received this news. I was healthy, energetic, and I felt good. I certainly had no idea that I was living with a serious health condition.

Being diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1999 was much different compared with being diagnosed today. I quickly learned that the very best treatments that medicine had to offer came with serious side effects and cured less than one-third of people in my particular situation. I did my own research and read article after article that painted a grim picture. I was frightened and didn’t know what to do.

Fortunately, I had a remarkable system of family, friends and colleagues who were there to support me. Upon reflection, I came to realize that these initial scary days were just the first steps of an amazing physical, emotional and spiritual journey. I eventually decided that this diagnosis was an opportunity for me to take control and become an ambassador for my own health. Because of the limited options available to me at the time, my journey to health was a bit longer and more winding than it might be for someone who receives a diagnosis today.

But I am grateful for all that I learned and everything that emerged from this trying period in my life. With the help of my sister, Lorren, and the support of countless others, I founded the Caring Ambassadors Hepatitis C Program. The experts that we assembled helped me to explore all of the different factors that affect health: from western medicine to complementary and alternative approaches; from exercise and nutrition to spiritual work and emotional well-being; from stress management to sustaining a robust support system.

I used every approach available to become as healthy as possible. Seven years after my diagnosis, I began the treatment that would eventually rid my body of the virus. I am now cured of hepatitis C, but the lessons I’ve learned about health will never leave me and my work helping others with hepatitis C is far from over. With amazing new treatments now available, we can eradicate this disease in our lifetime.

But for that to happen, we must each become ambassadors for our own health. If you are at risk, it is up to you to get tested for hepatitis C. If you have hepatitis C, it is up to you to get cured. If I were diagnosed today, my journey to health might look very different—but it would still by my journey.

I sincerely hope you’ll remember one thing: this is your journey. These are your choices.


About the Author

Randy Dietrich is the founder of the Caring Ambassadors Hepatitis C Program and the current chairman of the board of directors for the Caring Ambassadors Program, Inc. To learn more about the ongoing efforts of the Caring Ambassadors, please visit www.CaringAmbassadors.org.

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