In April 2014, just after my 17th birthday, I had acute liver failure, which led to my diagnosis of Autoimmune Hepatitis. This condition was life-altering, as it meant that I was no longer the happy, energetic, ambitious teenager that I was before it happened. I had suddenly gone from studying for my first-year A Level exams and doing normal activities such as shopping and doing exercise, to being completely bed-ridden and too weak to do anything that I enjoyed.
After a horrendous fortnight of countless tests, procedures and a liver biopsy in hospital, I was thrown into a new life as an invalid. Everything in my universe turned upside down. I was put on strong steroids (and later, immunosuppressants) and every possible medication there is, of which the side effects were a nightmare. Also, I missed all of my AS exams, so I was forced to accept that I would have to repeat the academic year, crushing my dreams of completing my A Levels (and going to university) with my friends and my twin sister. I was no longer active or mobile, I was extremely fatigued, I had to swap from a regular diet to a soft-food diet, I wasn’t sleeping at night and my immune system was severely weakened.
Fast forward to the year 2016. My liver condition is on-going, and on top of that, I have developed inflammation at the back of my eye, so I have regular contact with the hospital for that too, and I am on heavy medication for it. Overall, my health has significantly improved, and it continues to improve with each day that comes, because I have left it in the hands of God and the doctors. But living with Autoimmune Hepatitis is difficult, frustrating and exhausting, and at times, my life seems like an endless waiting game of hospital appointments, incessant pain, agonising looks of sympathy from strangers and forced subjection to the doctors’ brutal instruments of torture!
I do feel that people treat me differently when they hear about my illnesses. It is a drawback, yes. My life is not normal, and it never will be again: there are a plethora of side effects, problems and limitations that come with the diagnosis.
However, instead of focussing on the negatives, I prefer to focus on the positives:
- My illness did not stop me from gaining 3 A grades in my AS Levels, and I hope to achieve similar results in my A2 exams, so that I can pursue my goals of studying History at university.
- My faith and spirituality has increased as a result of the trauma that I have experienced.
- I have a greater appreciation of life in general, and I refuse to take anything for granted any more.
- I have become a much stronger person in the long run, and I know that there is nothing this life can give me that I won’t be able to handle.
Truthfully, I would much rather not have these illnesses, as my battle has been very tough and physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically draining, and I occasionally have to take the time to cry a little, but, on the whole, my disease has changed my life for the better. I have learned a lot from my experience, and I know that it was really a blessing in disguise. I can safely say that Autoimmune Hepatitis is NOT going to defeat me: if it is a weakness, then I am going to use it as my strength. I will continue fighting it and staying strong.