Liver disease affects people of all ages at different stages of life.
Here, Kirsty, who lives with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), shares her own experience of liver disease.
Gifts in Wills help the British Liver Trust run its support groups, as well as a helpline managed by a liver nurse who is amazing at supporting patients and answering difficult questions.
A degree with a difference
‘When you’re at university you expect exams and lengthy dissertations to be your biggest stresses. That wasn’t to be for me.
‘I was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) during my third year at university, aged 20. Unfortunately, my liver had been inflamed for a while which meant that it was already scarred (I 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.
Vital support from the British Liver Trust
‘I was very grateful to find the British Liver Trust. They are a small national charity that focuses on supporting people with liver conditions and their families. They help explain medical terms clearly and show you how to ask the right questions when you go to a hospital appointment.
'They also run support groups and a ‘Love Your Liver’ campaign, both of which I have been involved with. I found it really helpful to meet others who are living with a liver condition and not feel so isolated.
‘Gifts in Wills help the British Liver Trust run its support groups, as well as a helpline managed by a liver nurse who is amazing at supporting patients and answering difficult questions. They also help to fund research – really vital for helping find treatments and even cures for liver conditions.
It’s part of who I am
‘I’m very proud that I completed my chemistry degree despite my diagnosis. 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 – and 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 very occasionally there are people who just cannot accept that you don’t drink.
Taking things day by day
‘I am very grateful that AIH doesn’t affect my ability to carry out daily activities and I work full-time, just with time off for 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 it stop me from doing anything, I am a bit anxious when I go abroad. Things like cheap travel insurance and getting a mortgage are also problematic because as soon as you mention ‘cirrhosis’ on an application form, alarm bells go off.
A new appreciation for life
‘On 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 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 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.’
Free Wills Month
October is Free Wills Month, when charities highlight the many ways you can write or update your Will for free. Please visit our legacy pages to find out how.
Once family and friends have been taken care of, why not consider a gift in your Will to the British Liver Trust? All gifts, large or small, make a difference by providing much-needed support to people affected by all types of liver condition.