Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Be Here Now: 115 Billion and Me

Yesterday I had an appointment with my endocrinologist Dr. Anne Peters. I really like Dr. Peters. More than anything, she gets how my body is complicated and unusual.

She isn't discouraged when I react strangely to medications. She sees it as an opportunity to think "outside the box" and try a new medication or an old one in an unconventional way. She isn't skeptical when I tell her I think my problems managing my blood sugar are related to my chronic Hepatitis C infection. She is actually one of the few doctors I see that absolutely agrees with me that my Type 2 diabetes and my chronic Hepatitis C infection intertwine, intersect and interfere with each other.

Another ritual I enjoy as part of my appointments with her is getting a copy of my lab results. There is something about seeing the actual numbers on paper that is important to me. Yesterday I got to see that taking 1,000 IUs of Vitamin D a day has finally raised my Vitamin D level into the normal range. I saw that my A1C, the measure of my glucose control over three months, is 7.2, which is OK ... I want it to be in the 6.* range, but this is easier said than done.

Then I saw my Hepatitis C viral load.

I admit I wasn't so much shocked as amazed. My Hep C viral load has been as high as 10 million in the past few years, however it has been some time since a Hep C viral load has been ordered as part of my blood work. I have been told that my Hep C viral load doesn't mean anything unless I am undergoing Hep C treatment. During treatment the viral load is used to measure efficacy: if the viral load goes down, then treatment is working.

A simplified diagram of the Hepatitis C virus ...Image via Wikipedia

Right now I am living with 9,450,000 International Units (IUs) of Hepatitis C in one milliliter (mL) of my blood. An IU is equivalent to 2.7 viral copies per mL, so I have 25,758,000 copies of Hepatitis C per one mL of my blood. My body holds about 4.5 liters of blood, so some quick math (check my calculations please!) and I discover have a mind-blogging 115,911,000,000 copies of Hep C in my blood stream. That doesn't even take into account all the virus hiding in my liver.

I am in awe. Hep C has turned me into a virus-making machine. I am wondering what all that virus is doing to me. That's 115 billion and me living in the same space, my body.

Isn't it getting a little crowded in here?

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