I started my Journey with PSC around 11 years ago and almost immediately without a diagnosis moved to Cyprus. However, before I left the UK I was told my liver was off the scale by the GP and having ALT levels of over 800 could be my norm. Yeah right!
Then the Cyprus journey began. My first dealings with a GP was in the local village where we were living. A really lovely man who, after I had explained my symptoms, said “You just need to go home, eat some onions and drink a glass of red wine and, while you are there, have a shave and you will feel so much better”! Oh, if only it were that simple eh? I then thought it can only get better from here on in… and it did.
Can you believe there is somewhere you have the option to go straight to a specialist instead of going through a GP and waiting months for an appointment? Well, in Cyprus you can. You register at the hospital on the day, pay a small fee and are ready to go.
I booked an appointment with the liver specialist in Paphos hospital and explained my symptoms that, at the time I did not know were caused by PSC, but this guy knew straight away. I remember the reply so clearly to this day. “I know what is wrong with you, but I cannot say right now. We have to perform some tests to confirm what I think it is, is right.” Cue the ERCP, Ultra Sound, various other scans and blood tests.
When the results came back I was told I had PSC. It was so emotional finding out because without knowing exactly what PSC was, I was so happy to have a diagnosis to be able to move forward with my life.
Cyprus and the health service to an outsider can look like a lot of people standing around drinking Frappe (Iced cold coffee) and smoking cigarettes, but underneath all of this are teams of the most caring, highly skilled professionals I was so thankful to meet.
Yes, during the next few years I had my fair share of infections, hospital trips, scans and ERCPs, but all along the way, the Cypriot way of making you feel that whatever it is, we will conquer it together shone through.
What must the other patients have thought about me? A young man that looks OK leaving the hospital each time with half of the pharmacy in his bag. That reminds me…. On a lighter note, in one village hospital, I remember seeing the sign for the pharmacy spelt Farmacy. Also, the medication per item cost me 0.50 Euros. So, for example, if I needed 10 boxes of something it was 0.50 Euro total, but I do have to pay 30 Euros to see my doctor even though I have a medical card so, maybe it all evens itself out.
Coincidentally, as Cyprus is a small Island, they do not perform liver transplants, hence why they sent me back to the UK.
At the end of 2015, my consultant in Cyprus saw my condition was deteriorating and that I could not stop itching. No amount of the lovely Questran was helping so, my consultant wrote a letter to the health ministry for me to be referred to London for an assessment to be put on the transplant list. I have said it before and will say again: The NHS has helped me this past year and a half more than I could have imagined and have been truly amazing.
Cyprus kept me going for as long as they could and the NHS put the final touches and eventually, the most important touches in giving me my life back.
Stay strong, stay positive and thanks for reading.
Peace Love & Light