My treatment has a handful of different numbers that indicate my progress. Chief among them is my viral load, a terrifying and confusing number.
When I was in High school, my viral load was around three hundred thousand, as I left high school it picked up to around a million. For a frame of reference, a viral load of around the high teens to twenty million means one of the following is imminent: transplant, treatment or death. Although I did know a man who defied the odds at forty four million, he immediately went on treatment because doctors indicated to him, that at those numbers his hepatitis could cause his liver to fail within months.
With that in mind, my first two treatments in early 2008, and late 2009/early 2010 had my numbers near three million. Each test would yield little change between my counts; in fact both times my numbers were slightly higher. I managed to keep my numbers stable until 2011, when I had my episode of esophageal varicies. I was given a MELD score of 13, which would shuffle between 11 and 15 as I completed all of the prep work for a liver transplant prior to treatment. With all of this in play, I still had no clue what my last viral load was since my last treatment. I recently found out I’d shot up to a little above nine million prior to treatment. The blood test I took on Thursday was to track that number.
On this treatment if I don’t zero out(no traceable viral load) during the first three months, I fail and stop treatment. My number at the beginning, was over 9,000,000, my current viral load is 220. I had to listen to the doctor’s message a few times just to make sure she didn’t say “it’s down 220.”
This not only means that the treatment is working, but that I’m going to zero out soon, and within a month I’ll be non-communicable. I won’t be cured just yet, I’ve still got forty five weeks left, but it means for the first time in my life I can look forward past my forties.