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    You have hepatitis C, a disease caused by a virus that's contagious and attacks the liver. Maybe you know how you got it. Maybe you don’t.

    Whatever the case, the virus could be just part of the problem. Now that the doctor has told you that you have hep C, get ready to battle a range of head-spinning emotions that often can be as difficult to deal with as the virus itself.

    There are ways to calm your nerves and ease your mind.

    What You’re Facing

    Fear and anxiety: Most people with hepatitis C don’t have any symptoms. Even if you’ve had it for years, you may not have the fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and other things that some folks with the virus have.

    Still, doctors will tell you that hepatitis C is a serious disease that can cause lasting damage to the liver, including cancer and a scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Hepatitis C is, in a word, scary.

    “I think fear is probably the first thing: ‘What does it mean?’ ” says Lucinda K. Porter, RN, author of two books about her experience with hep C.

    “If you don’t know anything about hepatitis C, and you go on the Internet -- which a lot of people seem to go to before they go to their physicians -- you might see a full variety of outcomes, including death. Or see that this is an infectious disease and get the fear you might infect someone else. That’s a huge fear.”

    The fears keep coming:

    • Is it going to be debilitating?
    • Can you infect someone else?
    • Will you be able to work?
    • How are you going to pay for your treatment?
    • How are you going to take care of your family?
    • How are you going to pay the mortgage?

    “Once you learn more, you find out that hep C doesn’t work like that,” says Porter, who works as a hepatitis C advocate, writing for hepmag.com and hcvadvocate.org. “If you find out about it in an early stage and get some good, solid information, you find out that those fears don’t usually get realized.”