Interview and podcast: Shane O’Sullivan’s lived experience story.
How illness can be a catalyst for change.
If Shane O’Sullivan had one piece of advice it is this: if someone is worried they might have contracted hepatitis B, please go and get tested. He believes there is no shame in seeking treatment and support, and he wants people living with hepatitis to know that a diagnosis is not the end of the world. In his experience, treatment and support is readily available, and for the most part, he has not been judged for his condition.
Shane was born and raised in Ireland but moved to Australia in his mid 20’s. After a few years backpacking, he realised he fitted in well and decided to stay. He is now happily settled in Melbourne and plans to stay in Australia, but is also aware that he never knows what the future may bring.
When Shane was first diagnosed with hepatitis B, his partner at the time started showing signs of jaundice and after a check up with a doctor, discovered she had contracted the virus. Shane had shown no symptoms and had no inkling he was ill until his diagnosis came soon after. It was a total shock and he found the news difficult to process. He was mostly unaware of the illness, and terms like ‘cirrhosis’ and ‘liver cancer’ set off alarm bells. In the first few months following his initial diagnosis, Shane tried to support his partner and remembers feeling frightened for both of them, along with a sense of shame that he may have transmitted it to her.
He wishes he had more knowledge of hepatitis B before being diagnosed as it may have relieved some of his initial fears. There were a lot of things Shane didn’t understand, but with education and support he has been able to better inform himself and others.
Shane describes his journey as “a continual learning process, not only for himself, but for those around him.”
His treatment has been relatively straightforward, and Shane feels fortunate that his liver is still in good working condition. Until the past few years, Shane’s treatment plan consisted of biannual checkups, but a new GP encouraged him to seek a second opinion for treatment options. A different specialist suggested medication to help bring his viral load down and get his liver function back in check. Shane feels lucky he hasn’t had difficulty accessing treatment but is also aware of his privileged position living in Australia, with English as a first language.
Today, Shane tries to live a healthy lifestyle and likes to stay active, and while alcohol was a feature of his social life when he was younger, after his diagnosis he decided to stop drinking. Shane has observed that in both Australia and Ireland, social life is often centred around alcohol, although he has noticed a shift in younger generations.
Shane believes that being diagnosed with an illness such as hepatitis can be a catalyst for positive change in one’s life. Today, he is living a more balanced lifestyle and feels he is in a much better place in his life. He now sees his experience as a bit of a blessing in disguise, and is keen to share his journey, as a lived experience speaker for LiverWELL.