Miracle and Mystery

My life has been profoundly impacted and contextualized by the fact that I contracted hepatitis C virus in the early 1970s. Diagnosed in 1995, this knowledge has weighed in on every choice I make. It has been the theme of my story. The longest chapter of my life. It has been with me like background noise, like a hated song that just won’t leave my head, always lingering on the edge of my awareness — the worry, the fear, the angst, the “what if’s”, the obsessive self-monitoring.

Giving the noise some credit, I’ve managed OK, not perfectly [which I’ve learned is an exhausting and impossible endeavor],but well enough to stay healthy and alive. Hope upon hope that if I could do so, a treatment would become available to wipe out the virus. I’ve learned and shared the gifts and challenges of living with chronic illness. I truly believe that I never would have been as healthy as I have become had I not had this chronic, low grade illness as an “opportunity” for growth.

Some of you know that in 2011-12 I endured 8+ months of triple drug therapy intended to rid my body of the virus. I was sure it would work. I suffered so it would work. The treatment was horrendous, causing rashes, sleeplessness, manic episodes, hair loss, low white cell count, low red cell count, other blood abnormalities and debilitating fatigue. I could barely get off the couch. The treatment didn’t work. It was a failure. For months I believed I had failed. I did everything right and it didn’t work. I spent the next two years rumbling with shame, grief, heartbreak and self-loathing, as I tried regaining my trust along with my physical and emotional strength…

Just in time for the promise of a cure.

I was excited and terrified as the buzz started to build last year about a new “miracle” drug, Harvoni,  with a reported cure rate of 96-99% for those like me with genotype 1 [the hardest to impact]. I began to swim in doubt. What if my insurance company wouldn’t pay for it? What if I was one the 1-4% failure rate? Not another failure!

On November 15, 2014, I began a once-a-day regime for 84 days. At ~$1,100 a dose, I am truly blessed that my health insurance immediately agreed to pay for the treatment [all but our annual co-pay]. With each tablet I took, I affirmed my gratitude — thank you, thank you, thank you for this cure. I also experienced new doubt. It was hard for me to believe that Harvoni could possibly be working. Where were the side effects? I felt a little more tired than usual, but it was late fall and winter, a time when I always feel a little more tired than usual. I did my best to let the doubt flow through me. I focused on gratitude and affirmed that I was doing the best I could. In fact, I had spent 20 years doing the best I could to protect my health so that I would live long enough for a cure. Perhaps part of that success was genetics, another part pure luck and part the pretty-good but less-than-perfect small choices I made each day. Or maybe I’m just plain lucky. I was here. I was receiving treatment. It was meant to be, whatever the outcome.

During the time in treatment with Harvoni, I had the honor of being coached by my colleague and dear friend, Barbie, as she incorporated her new training in The Daring Way™ [based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown] into her practice. I explored the arena of creativity, and courageously took up watercolor painting for the first time since junior high school, learned more about my digital SLR camera, wrote about my hep C “story” as a chapter for a book [The Energy of Healing, published in June 2015], and enrolled for my own training in The Daring Way™.

I completed treatment in early February and then came the long wait until May to have the definitive blood work.

HCV not detectedI still look at this and take a deep breath. Not just virus free — I’m told that this is a cure. Forever. Really? I ask. Really. It’s a mystery to me how “they” can be so sure, it’s such a new drug, but I’m willing to live in the mystery of this miracle.

So as I decide, at last, to share this news in my blog, I ask myself what IS different? I still have pretty good genetics, still pretty good luck [knock wood], and still make pretty-good but less-than-perfect choices each day. I still have a great insurance company and good doctors. What’s truly different is the noise is gone — the theme song in the background, the annoying background noise is gone.

When I told my son, Nick, the good news, he said, “Wow, Mom, you get to start a new chapter in your life.”

The noise is replaced with peaceful silence. Sometimes so quiet, it’s unsettling. I breath into the space, content with a few inadequate words to describe what is indescribable. I’m free to not know what my end will be [as if I ever really knew] and I am happy to live with the mystery and write a few new chapters.

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11 Responses to Miracle and Mystery

  1. Oh Cate…WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am so very very happy for you and touched by your writing….thank you for sharing. I would love to know more about the Brene Brown training too…whenever there is time…love you, grateful to you and for you.Nettie

    From: Cate LaBarre To: annette1702cr@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, December 28, 2015 3:58 PM Subject: [New post] Miracle and Mystery #yiv7392661615 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv7392661615 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv7392661615 a.yiv7392661615primaryactionlink:link, #yiv7392661615 a.yiv7392661615primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv7392661615 a.yiv7392661615primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv7392661615 a.yiv7392661615primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv7392661615 WordPress.com | catelabarrecoach posted: “My life has been profoundly impacted and contextualized by the fact that I contracted hepatitis C virus in the early 1970s. Diagnosed in 1995, this knowledge has weighed in on every choice I make. It has been the theme of my story. The longest chapter of ” | |

  2. Lorraine Hochman says:

    Ahhh Cate, such beauty, grace, and willingness to be who you are inspires me, but does not surprise. I love you, I love your tenacity, your vision of your life and that you are meant to be here now 💃💃💃

  3. Jenny O'Haver says:

    I don’t know you Cate but I’m so happy for you!! Best wishes now and in the future.

  4. Congratulations! Truly a miracle, enjoy the silence, swim in it, take long restorative naps in it. Relish it. XO!

  5. Jerry says:

    Cate…what a personal story to share..and I just see you being so open a person and in touch with who you are. You are a unique and special soul …who brings value to all of us…I hope ur Sunshine’s are brighter and the sky blue as that noise fades away..
    Jerry

    • Thank you Jerry. It’s not always “easy” to share personal stories, but it feels like the right thing to do. I question the line between being vulnerable and oversharing. I’ve sat with this since May and now it felt like it was the right time. Truly a fresh start for the new year.

  6. Jerry says:

    Cate…what a great story to share…and what a nice ending as the dark winds that swirled at the edges of ur mind are banished..enjoy brighter sunshine bluer skies and gentle breezes as ur smile brightens all who know you…
    You have always brought value to each day..and now ur step will be lighter.
    Jerry

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