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#GivingTuesday: Mary's Story

Author: Mary Leone
Published: September 23rd, 2014

Thirty-three years ago I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. During treatment I was given a blood transfusion. Although it saved my life, it came with an unwelcome companion....Hepatitis C.

Thirty-three years ago I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. During treatment I was given a blood transfusion. Although it saved my life, it came with an unwelcome companion.

Hepatitis C (Hep C), liver disease, is like a thief - it lurks behind every thought, every movement, every dream, every plan, quietly stealing health and the goodness that comes with it. Hep C has the potential to control all aspects of a person's life. It's an evil, ugly, mean disease that makes us carriers, at times, lonely, full of fear and despair. I've been a carrier for 33 years.

These feelings are personal. They are not apparent to most others. Despite this, life does goes on. I'm a wife, a mom of two beautiful girls, and I have lots of family and friends with whom I socialize and work. Yet I chose to keep these feelings in a shadow and fear. My family and a few friends knew of my situation, but talking about it was something that I was not open to. From experience, I found that most people viewed Hep C to be three things: dirty, contagious and fatal. Of course, I knew they were mostly misinformed. However, I never wanted pity, or to be treated differently. So rather than try to explain or educate, I said nothing. To anyone. Ever.

This disease was slowly taking away all that was good in me. After years of trying many different forms of treatment, each one more unsuccessful than the next, I had one last major setback. It was unrelated to Hep C but nonetheless caused severe damage not only to my liver but to my strength and desire to persevere. All chances of being accepted into a clinical trial were gone. Although my doctor assured me that new, more hopeful treatments were coming, my hope and dream of being healthy was quickly evaporating. With a diagnosis of stage 4 Hep C and cirrhosis, I was weak and despondent.

Then by chance, a beacon of light came into my life. I was introduced to a gentleman at a gathering of friends. He appeared healthy, physically fit, bright eyed, happy and smiling. He exuded good health...the very thing that I needed and desperately wanted.

Our conversation was about health and fitness when he said to me, "Mary, two years ago I was cured of Hep C." That's what I heard. These beautiful poignant words. He then shared his story with me, a story not unlike those I had read. The difference was he was the first person I had met who had been cured. His words gave me renewed hope. Giving up was not an option. I needed to continue forward with my focus on one goal and that was to be cured of Hep C.

Eating well, exercise, positive thinking and happiness, became my passion. This experience made me realize that I too had a story that needed to be shared.

In January 2014, I began a new treatment. My doctor was confident that this time would be different. The new drugs were kinder and more humane. My course of treatment was short, without side effects and actually gave me energy. As the weeks went on, I could feel myself getting stronger. While my energy increased, so did my appetite not only food but for life as well. I was beginning to feel a sense freedom that I hadn't felt in years. It was as if the world around me was in vibrant bloom!

On September 18, 2014, three months post treatment, my doctor said to me these beautiful words, "Mary, you are cured." My dream come true! I am thankful to the doctors, the scientists and the researchers, who continued searching until they found the cure! I will forever share my story!

Page updated: September 23rd, 2014


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