“We were left to connect the dots because the medical profession is failing to address an epidemic that kills more than 700,000 people a year”

By Alan Wang, USA

“My Uncle Peter passed away in his mid-50s. Then Uncle Lutzer a few years later, and it eventually caught up with my Uncle Henry in his 60s.My family only knew my uncles died from liver cancer because the doctors never say a person dies from hepatitis B. So, we didn’t know what was killing us until around the time I met Jill, who became my wife. My liver became so badly inflamed that a doctor finally diagnosed me with the chronic form of the virus.

It was only because I was an anchor and news reporter with a medical reporter friend who connected me to a leading hepatologist that I got the attention I needed.

Only then was I asked about my family history and encouraged to talk to my family and begin treatment. Later, we found out my older brother and sister had been rejected at the blood bank because they had hepatitis B. Then my mother and younger sister decided to get a blood test… They had it, too.

We were left to connect the dots because the medical profession is failing to address an epidemic that kills more than 700,000 people a year. It’s bad enough that hepatitis B is a silent killer with few symptoms until it’s too late. It’s also ignored by Asian cultures that consider talk about deadly diseases to be taboo.

Sometimes I wonder if hepatitis B is being ignored here in the U.S. just because it impacts so many Asians, especially given the country’s history of discrimination toward immigrants. I think about that a lot. I also think about the millions of other people who could lose the same joy I have because they simply don’t know they have the virus. And about how lucky I am that my early treatment gave my liver a chance to regenerate itself.

We’re not just trying to cure cancer, we’re trying to prevent it before it happens. The biggest battle is against ignorance, among patients and doctors. We can do this.”

Alan’s story was provided by the Hepatitis B Foundation as part of their #justB campaign. The #justB storytelling campaign aims to raise the profile of hepatitis B as an urgent public health priority and helps put a human face on this serious disease by sharing stories of real people living with or affected by hepatitis B. The campaign is a programme of the Hepatitis B Foundation in collaboration with StoryCenter and AAPCHO. For more stories, visit the Hepatitis B Foundation website

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