When you have hepatitis C, being tired -- really tired -- can be a fact of life. But there are ways you can boost your energy.
Here, three people who have experience with fatigue from the disease share their tips.
'Very Basic Healthy Habits'
Jennifer Slepin is a registered nurse from Oakland, CA. She thinks she got hep C from an accidental needle stick while she was working. She learned she had it in 1993 after she gave blood.
“When you're that tired, you can’t ignore it,” Slepin says. “You have to take care of yourself.” She says she gives the same advice to the people she works with who have multiple sclerosis.
Some of the ways she fights fatigue include:
Diet. “I eat really healthy, as little processed food as I can get by with. And I drink a lot of water.”
Exercise. “When I’m really focusing on my wellness, I take a walk every day,” she says. “I try to manage my weight, which is ever the struggle, but is super important.”
Stay away from the bad stuff. “Healthy habits. Very basic, healthy habits. And total avoidance of alcohol.”
Zap Stress and Boost Your Knowledge
Ronni Marks was diagnosed in 1997. She now runs The Hepatitis C Mentor and Support Group, Inc., in New York City. It’s an organization that works to improve the quality of life for people with the condition.
She offers these tips.
Change your lifestyle. “Be sure you’re vaccinated. Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet,” she says. “Get rid of anything that could be bad for your liver,” including alcohol.
Do things that make you happy. It’ll help you manage your stress. “If you like walking in the park, if you like bubble baths, whatever. Be good to yourself.”
Educate yourself. See a doctor you’re comfortable with -- one who knows a lot about the disease. The American Liver Foundation has a site dedicated to the disease. You can also call a hep C help line at 1-800-GO-LIVER (1-800-465-4837).
Carleen McGuffey says she’s so bone-tired at times that she can’t do anything but sleep.
Listen to your body. To ease her fatigue, she naps any time she needs to, sleeps long when her body tells her to, and tries to eat well. Still, she says sometimes the fatigue can be overwhelming.
“I try to hide it. I’m embarrassed to be sleeping all the time,” McGuffey says. “But it’s just like someone who is on chemo, or someone with breast cancer. It affects us.”
Lean on family. She praises hers for understanding what she’s going through. Her husband, James, will check with his kids to make sure that Mom is getting her rest. He’s also taken on many parenting duties for her, which helps.
“I am so fortunate and blessed in that I have incredible support within my own family,” she says. “I can’t even tell you how lucky I am. But I’m an exception.”
Join a support group. You’ll get to talk to other people who have hep C. Find strength in their stories, and get tips from them. Eventually you’ll be able to return the favor to new members.
“I was not a group-joiner,” Marks says. “I cannot even begin to tell you how important it was when I found a support group.”
Treatments Offer Hope
Another way to possibly beat fatigue? New medications with a high cure rate and few to no side effects are available. More are on the way.
Hillel Tobias, MD, a professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine, has seen this revolution first-hand.
“It’s an amazing turnabout, it really is,” he says. “I have these people who have been coming to me for 20 years, and now, all of a sudden, they’re cured.”
Marks is closing in on a year since new medicines wiped out her hepatitis C virus. Slepin’s virus also is gone.
Although they’re expensive -- some are as much as $1,000 a pill -- the cost is coming down. Support and advocacy groups are also learning more ways every day to get those drugs to the people who need them most.