Our appointment was the next Tuesday - exactly 7 days past the biopsy date. We sat in the waiting room for our name to be called for what seemed to be an eternity. Don could not sit still.
When our name was called, we were escorted into the exam room. The nurse came in after us and asked Don how he had been feeling.
"Good, good." he said anxiously.
She put the cuff around his arm and took his blood pressure.
"Humm, it's high." she said with a bit of a frown.
Don and I just locked eyes and smiled. We were thinking the same thing - white coat syndrome!
I like the fact that we never have to wait too long before the doctor comes in to the exam room once they get us in. He walked in with a smile on his face and extended his hand first to me and then to Don. He made some small talk about the economy and then asked how it was affecting Don's work. I started to squirm around in my seat. I had pen and paper ready to take notes and was growing ever impatient. At the second that I thought I might scream - the doctor finally got down to business and opened up Don's chart.
He asked Don how the biopsy went and if he endured any further pain. Don gave the quick one word answer "No."
He turned to me and asked, "He is not drinking any alcohol, is he?"
"Not a drop!" I replied.
"Good! I am not going to try and save your liver if you are going to do anything that will damage it." he responded and dropped his head back down into the paperwork.
"Well, I do see from the test that you are in the early stages of cirrhosis." Don's eyes were locked onto the doctor and mine were on Don. He shuddered a bit and his mouth opened slightly in the silence that followed. The doctor continued to thumb though the paperwork and started to speak again.
"I want you to try the drug treatment though. You are not so far along that it might not work for you. The presence of cirrhosis makes it harder to cure the Hepatitis C, but not impossible. There is about a 50-50 chance. Are you familiar with the treatment?"
Don told him of a friend he works with who had genotype 2 Hep.C and had just completed the 24 week treatment with complete success. The doctor nodded.
"You will need to be on the 48 week therapy of drugs which will consist of..." he looked again down at the paperwork, "how much do you weigh?"
Don responded "215?"
"Okay." Doctor continued, "You will get 6 Ribovirin pills per day, 3 taken in the morning and 3 at night and 1 injection of Interferon in the abdomen per week. I usually recommend that you take the shot before your days off until you see how your body responds to it. It makes most of my patients feel like they have the flu. Some patients carry on much the same as they always have and I have others who have had to go on disability." He paused. "I know we are close to the holidays. Do you want to start now, or wait until January?"
"Wait until January. I will take the injection the first Saturday night in January." Don responded.
"I will need to see you for an office visit and blood work after you have been on the medication for 2 weeks. We will be monitoring your white blood cell count and your platelet count. If your white blood cell count goes down, we can give you an injection to get it back up. If however, your platelet count goes down too low, we may have to stop the treatment. There is no shot that will increase the platelets. Many of my patients need to go on antidepressants when they start these meds. If you feel like you need this, just call and I will prescribe them for you."
He then turned to me smiling and said, "Sometimes the men will not be honest with me, so I will also ask you if you think he needs the antidepressants too!"
I frantically scribbled notes to myself with numbers and names of things long lost in my memory from back in college. Not normally a fan of antidepressants either, I set my mind to be totally open to this idea for him. Anything that could make the journey easier on us was a positive!
The minute the doctor left the room, both Don and I stood up and just hugged each other. We reassured each other that although this was not the best news that we were hoping for, it was certainly not the worst either!