People ignorant about the virus'

PUBLISHED: 16:35 28 September 2007 | UPDATED: 23:04 28 May 2010

Karen Peacock, who now feels like a new woman – Pic: Brian Purdy

Karen Peacock, who now feels like a new woman - Pic: Brian Purdy

Monday is World Hepatitis Awareness Day. For two years, the Cambs Times has followed Karen Peacock, her struggle to cope with the illness and the ups and downs of treatment. This time her story is one which she hopes will give encouragement to others. MAG

Monday is World Hepatitis Awareness Day. For two years, the Cambs Times has followed Karen Peacock, her struggle to cope with the illness and the ups and downs of treatment.

This time her story is one which she hopes will give encouragement to others. MAGGIE GIBSON reports.

KAREN Peacock has a positive outlook on life for the first time in years.

Her liver has been ravaged by Hepatitis C and treatment left her unable to cope with everyday tasks.

But she has responded well to a second course of treatment and is now even thinking about getting a job.

The March mother-of-two, whose photograph was used in a Government campaign to get people to face up to Hepatitis C, said: "At last there is light at the end of the tunnel and I want people to know that treatment is getting better all the time.

"I have put on nearly two stone and I feel like a new woman. My friends say I have never looked so healthy."

Karen was diagnosed in 2003 and believes she contracted the virus from having some tattoos done when she was 14.

The virus is spread through contact with the blood of a person who has Hepatitis C. Injecting drugs using shared equipment, tattoos or piercings with non-sterile equipment and unprotected sex are just some of the ways it can be spread.

Those who received blood transfusions or clotting factors before 1986 are also at risk.

Her first year of treatment stopped further liver damage but failed to cure the infection; a second course has proved successful.

She said: "Sometimes I was so dizzy I couldn't stand up. I suffered hair loss and my weight went down to six stone nine pounds.

"There is no back-up, no counselling and no physical help. I was virtually bed ridden and yet it is not seen as a debilitating illness.

"They don't like to say you have been cured but you can start and relax and get on with a normal life. I still have the odd bad day because my liver is badly damaged but compared to what it was it is nothing."

She was treated with Pegylated interferon which helps to stop the Hepatitis C virus from making new copies of itself. It also helps the immune system to kill off the virus. The drug is injected once a week.

Karen says the campaign to heighten awareness of Hepatitis C suffered a blow with the recent death of Dame Anita Roddick.

In February, Dame Anita, founder of the Body Shop, revealed she was carrying the virus. She had been carrying it for more than 30 years but only found out two years ago after a blood test.

"Hopefully, World Awareness Day will help raise awareness and people should get tested if they think there is anything wrong," said Karen.

"There is still a lot of ignorance about it among GPs not just the public.

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