Since my story may give hope, inspire, or cure someone, I feel that I should share it with as much detail as I can. Therefore, it may be a bit long, but bear with me.
My name is Dimitry. I am 42, borne in North-West part of Siberia, where I still live and work as a translator. As a child I often got sick with different things, nothing major, but in general, I had a weak immune system with lots of sore throat, cold, flue, ear inflammation, and I also had poor food digestion due to biliary dyskinesia (peculiar shape of bile duct, which is a genetic feature). So I got hospitalized a few times with dyspepsia and dyskinesia. One of these times at age of 11 or 12 doctors ran more tests and I first got diagnosed with HBV. Then my family got tested too and it turned out that my mother and my little brother (7 years younger than me) were also positive (they still have chronic HBV to this day). I was 11 or 12 at that time, but it was assumed by doctors that I got my HBV when I was 2 or 3 or 4 in children’s hospital, because in the early 1980s there was a massive outbreak of HBV in children in the area where we lived due to infected syringes (back then they had multi-use glass syringes that they just boiled and reused). Now such a thing is impossible thanks to single-use syringes. Doctors just assumed I must have gotten it there. So, we actually do not know exactly, who infected who in our family. The only thing I know for sure is that I got HBV somewhere between age of 0 and 11.
My mother took the news very badly with much anxiety and stress, which was further aggravated by one doctor who told her that it was exactly like HIV and there was no cure for it. She stressed and she cried a lot and obviously her constant fear and anxiety affected me and my brother rather strongly. Her stress and fear obviously permeated into us. I remember seriously thinking at times that we were not going to live very long with this thing. We were not given any treatment as the doctor told my mother that since liver condition was OK we should wait until viral load becomes very high and then we should start treatment (which is actually correct). But after a few years our mother stopped going to doctors, she just gave us non-medical liver protectors including food supplements like dried silybum marianum (milk thistle), and no antiviral treatment. Initially she made us do blood tests rather frequently and over the years we had various periods of higher and lower viral loads going back and forth, but again no antiviral treatment. So, year after year we lived on and the pain and dying that we feared never actually happened. And with time you just get tired of fear and it transforms into this little feeling in the back of your mind that you are simply a bit inferior to other people and may not live to 80, ha, so what. In a few more years we reduced frequency of blood tests and stopped taking dried thistle and all. When I got into college I did not even think about HBV. I completely leg go by that time. I drank a lot of beer and wine in the first years of college, like really A LOT. The good thing is that I never smoked, only very rarely, like half a cig at a party. My immune system was, as usual, somewhat suppressed (maybe partly because of HBV), like very often I had colds, herpes on the lips grew into big blisters etc.
When I met my wife (medical student at that time) things changed for the better. First off, when we met, it was hard for me to tell her I had HBV, feeling like a good looking apple not wanting to disappoint someone by being rotten inside. To my huge surprise she took it so lightly like it was a scratch on my hand. Like, so what, it’s just a virus. It even bothered me at first. Soon I understood her mindset and it was VERY different from what I expected. She is now a nephrologist (kidney doctor) and just as back then she has always believed that even in people with serious disease healthy lifestyle is the main driver of longevity, not medications, like even with chronic illness one should take drugs only in acute stages if there is no other way to avoid decompensated organic damage. So gradually she took me off of alcohol drinking and since that time I drink only 1-2 glasses of wine at parties. But still, despite reducing alcohol, at one time about 15 years ago I got really bad test results showing high viral load and also high ALT and AST, so it was an acute stage and we decided to try treatment. I did interferon-A injections for 7 months, but it did not help, instead I developed many side effects like arrhythmia and hair loss. Viral load did reduce for a little while, but there was no full cure and the virus persisted. This was the only time I ever tried antiviral treatment. I was really frustrated at that time, both because of little effect and because of the heavy side effects suffered in vain. After that sometimes my test results went to low viral load, then again to high, fluctuating from year to year like before, so I did nothing and just continued living as usual.
In the period of time between 10 years ago and December 2022, when I suddenly found that I was cured of HBV, a few things did change in my life, but actually not many and the changes were not so drastic. I do not think it was lack of anxiety or no attention to the infection that cured me (although some people say that the less attention you pay to something, the sooner it will vanish from your life). I do believe that those little changes in the past few years somehow contributed to my spontaneous cure.
In December 2022 I did blood tests and got the following results: HBsAg negative; HBV DNA by PCR method – no viral particles found; HBcAg (total) positive; HBeAg negative; Anti-HBsAg positive, anti-HBe positive. This is functional cure from HBV infection. In adults infected with HBV such a cure occurs in about 80% of cases. However, in chronic HBV like in my case such functional cure is achieved very rarely. The immune system in chronic HBV carriers makes attempts to eliminate the virus and in most cases it fails remaining overwhelmed by the virus, but occasionally the immune system is able to successfully take over. So, it is actually not a miracle. Rather it is a rare case of successful immune system’s attempt. Now HBV genes are most likely still there in my body but confined to just some liver cells without active replication (kept at bay by anti-HBsAg).
From the following part of my story you will see that I did not do anything extraordinary to achieve this, which means that for you it is just as possible to achieve this functional cure as it was for me. Also, for all we know, such cures may be completely sporadic and not dependent on anything we do to try to achieve that.
Still, I feel like I should tell you everything that preceded my cure in detail so that you can find something of value for you. I will start with physical aspects and then move to psychological, which I feel are not less important.
First of all, being by far not the healthiest person out there, during all these years of no sports, no physical exercise, sitting work and frequent colds I developed a few other conditions to worry about apart from HBV, like spinal issues, heart arrhythmia, and the food digestion problems didn’t go anywhere. So, a few years ago my wife started to put me on a moderate yoga once a week for my backbone issues (just moderate 1-hour exercise once a week). And she also gradually introduced a lot of vegetables and greens in my meals for stomach issues, like some arugula, parsley and other cruciferous plants, also mustard, olive oil, avocado - all of these with the regular food that we normally eat like soups, salads, chicken and fish (we rarely eat pork or beef) in proportions that I felt comfortable gradually increasing the share of the greens. This change in diet may have played a role in the cure, but I do not think it was a big one.
What may have contributed more were the small weekly yoga sessions probably through the simple mechanism of boosting the immune system.
Also, several years ago I started to do short exposures to cold, not cold water as many people do, but cold air, which is much easier (that’s a kind of a lazy version of cold exposures). In winter, which lasts 9 months in my place, I go to forest and take my clothes off except for pants and boots and walk or stand for a couple of minutes and then put the clothes back on and/or return to a warm place. This way you won’t get cold because exposure is short. This is a really good jolt for your immune system and I know that for a fact, because my colds subsided since I started doing that, and the lips herpes blisters became so infrequent that they are almost gone now! Even when I sometimes get a tinkling and scratchy feeling in the lips it remains only a tinkling sensation without growing into blisters as they did before. This is a clear indication of a stronger immune system in action. So, these short cold exposures definitely helped!
In 2019 I broke my arm and got operated with titanium plate put on the bone, which is still there and will probably stay in me forever. Titanium is biologically inert and should not interact with body cells in any way, so this is probably irrelevant. I don’t know why I mentioned it. Just in case.
The psychological changes actually were rather significant for me. First of all, no stress in my case. Parting ways with stress and anxiety for me happened a long time ago. The last time I felt stress and frustration was right after the interferon treatment. After that I never felt stressed over my HBV and I barely even thought about it really. Somehow, with knowing that liver cell damage comes from active resistance to HBV and also after all those years of living together with it, we all (my family) kind of came to peace with the virus feeling that we should not resist or disturb it. We simply accepted our fate and lived in hope that the virus stays dormant and inactive. And this is not a stretch. I have been really living my life for many years in full acceptance of remaining HBV-positive for the rest of my life, however long it may be, not even thinking of any resistance. I really truly let go. And there is nothing great or unique about this. Especially if you consider other new challenges in life coming with age, those new other conditions to worry about on top of HBV. And I think it is quite common among people with decades of chronic disease. I don’t think this letting go thing is of great importance.
The important thing is this. The actual big change in my psychology in the past few years was a huge leap in empathy. For some reason unknown to me I became many orders of magnitude more empathic, like an antenna feeling the smallest emotional moves and vibes in other people. Like I feel what other people feel. Practically speaking it has a downside to it in that some scenes really hurt. But as a consequence, you tend to focus less on negative things and really start to appreciate the good things. With that also comes a sense of general gratitude to life or to the universe for being alive and having opportunity to experience all this beauty. I became much more emotional. My choices and actions became more often driven by intuition than before. I now more often choose comfort and compassion over hurry and competition. Growing empathy is also commonly associated with ageing. But in my case, it is like full gas, all the way. I know that many people will not be impressed with this boring philosophical empathy thing. Moreover, it is hard to imagine how becoming a softer doormat than you were can help with fierce internal fight to eliminate a persistent virus. Well, I don’t know how, but it just does. I don’t know the mechanism, but I am sure it played a role in the cure. Also, if you passionately pursue any large-scale many-year goal in your life, then obstacles tend to fall off or bend to give way to that. Cherishing and pursuing long-term goals and desires were shown to add to overall health and longevity. I’m glad I have that, too.
My story is not meant to be an instruction to take any specific course of action. Every person is unique with their own infinite universe inside. It is quite possible and even more likely that your way is completely different from mine or anybody else’s. Try to focus more on the big, important, and long-term things in your life instead of investing too much energy in anxiety and in fighting the virus. It seems that if your mindset is right and your lead a healthy life aiming at some greater future good, your body will come along with that and find a way. I wish you all good health and long exciting life.