I am a 57-year-old white American male infected with Hepatitis C. I am involved in a controlled medical research study by Roche Pharmaceuticals of an experimental Polymerase Inhibitor (RO5024048 also known as RG7128) drug therapy for the virus. This document is the story of my illness and the experience of treatment. My lovely and pretty damn wonderful wife will be contributing her take on the experience as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Changes In Visualizations During Treatment

There is a great deal of evidence that creative visualization can influence the actual physical and mental performance of people in the real world. Studies have been done on academic test performance and athletic performance to use two examples and the evidence has indicated that if one group spends a specific amount of time visualizing successfully completing a task and another group spends the same amount of time practicing the task, the two groups have similar results upon undertaking the task. There is also evidence that the same sort of creative visualization influences recovery rates and treatment outcomes in disease situations.

It was with that in mind that I created my own visualization when I started HEP C treatment in the RG7128, RO5024048 clinical trial. I imagined that the polymerase inhibitor RG7128 was an armored division of fast moving powerful tanks that struck quickly and with lethal force at the HEP C virus. The interferon and Ribavirin were the methodical infantry units that followed the tanks and mopped up the remaining resistance from viruses that were either entrenched or bypassed by the fast moving armor. I visualized that image often throughout the clinical trial. After being tossed out of the clinical trial because of a viral breakthrough, my visualization metaphor changed. My tanks had run out of gas and were now abandoned by the side of the road.

After transitioning into Standard of Care therapy I still used a military image when I thought about my battle with the HEP C virus, but now it had switched to an image of slogging trench warfare with my infantry (interferon and Ribavirin) in hand-to-hand combat with the virus. It was going to be a 12 month struggle but they were attacking an already weakened foe and had strength of numbers and better supplies on their side. I used this image for several months and sure enough, after 14 weeks the numbers came back negative indicating my infantry were winning.

Then there was the possible viral breakthrough in December after six months of treatment and the subsequent return to being virally negative in January. The metaphor was fairly tattered by then but I tried to hold to it. As the months of treatment ground on and I eventually went on disability, the only military image that seemed to fit was the battle of Stalingrad; except I didn’t know which side I was on. Holding on till the end of treatment was the only concern. This carries on the military metaphor quite well actually. At the end of a long tour of duty on the front lines, the primary concern a soldier has is surviving until it is over.

At the end of treatment, the viral load was undetectable and the viral activity was negative so we can assume that the visualization was either successful and contributed to the treatment or at least did not inhibit the effectiveness of the treatment. I would recommend the technique to anyone undergoing any kind of treatment for disease. There is no need to use a military image, whatever is vivid and emotionally engaging will work. It is no doubt easier to maintain the metaphor for shorter treatments than longer ones, but anything that can help healing is worth pursuing. Just hope your metaphor doesn’t run out of gas on the side of the road. There is nothing sadder imaginarily speaking than watching your elite troops quit the battlefield.


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