As described on my blog, I was diagnosed aged 20 with autoimmune hepatitis. Unfortunately, this liver inflammation had been ongoing for an unspecified length of time which meant that my liver was already scarred (had cirrhosis). I was set on a course of steroids and immunosuppressants to dampen my immune system which thankfully brought my elevated liver enzymes down to a reasonable level.
I am very grateful that this condition doesn’t affect my ability to carry out daily activities and I work full-time without much time off other than bloods tests and consultant appointments. I do worry quite a lot about the future and how long my body will keep running so well for, but this is quite defeatist and so I tend to take things day by day. Although I shouldn’t really let this stop me from doing anything, I am a bit anxious when I go abroad and wouldn’t really ever consider moving abroad for work which I probably would have done if I hadn’t been diagnosed with AIH. Things like cheap travel insurance and getting a mortgage are also a bit problematic because as soon as you mention ‘cirrhosis’ on an application form, alarm bells go off.
I’m very proud that I managed to complete my chemistry degree despite being diagnosed with AIH during my third year at university. It has definitely made me a stronger person and I am more confident in being myself. For example, when I was first diagnosed I’m ashamed to say I was down about not being able to drink alcohol (not that I was ever a raver!). Now, I really don’t mind – it’s become part of who I am - the only thing that annoys me is other people’s attitudes towards not drinking. After I explain about my liver condition, people are generally understanding, but there are very occasionally people who just cannot accept that you don’t drink.
In reflection I think this has made me the person I am today. It has made me much more mature, confident and I have an appreciation for my life which I didn’t really have as before. I think as a young person you believe it is your right to have good health and you take your life for granted. I am now more focused and driven to achieve what I want with my life.
From time to time though I have a wobbly and get upset about everything, and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t give my right arm to not have this condition. But I now learn that it is pointless wasting energy thinking like this and I can only focus on being as healthy as I can be with the situation I am in. I certainly think I deal with this whole situation better than I did when I was first diagnosed and so hopefully with time I can keep learning to chill out more over it! (Although I do understand how serious it is.)
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