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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 July 2007, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Celebrity Health - Anita Roddick
Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
A routine blood test revealed Hep C
In a series on celebrities and their health, the BBC News website talks to The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick about life with Hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver.

Dame Anita Roddick first set up The Body Shop in Brighton in 1976 to create a livelihood for herself and her two daughters while her husband was away trekking on horseback from Buenos Aires to New York.

Her environmentally friendly ideas were ahead of their time and her "green" cosmetics store soon took off.

Now the brand, which she no longer runs, is sold in more than 50 countries.

Anita is also known for her campaigning zeal, adding her voice to human rights injustices, to ending animal testing and to anti-war campaigns.

HOW DID YOU FIRST REALISE SOMETHING WAS WRONG?

I did not even realise that I had it.

HOW DID YOU GET DIAGNOSED?

It was at a routine insurance blood test.

They found something was wrong, something a bit bizarre.

So they did another test and another test and they found I had Hepatitis C.

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE DIAGNOSIS?

I knew nothing about the disease. I did not know the difference between Hepatitis A, B and C.

When I was first diagnosed we did not know how long I had had it. Eventually I found out I had been infected from a blood transfusion following the birth of my youngest daughter, Sam, in 1971.

I couldn't just sit back and say I am just waiting to die
Anita Roddick

That was the only blood transfusion I have ever had and thank God the surgery had kept my medical notes.

Most of the people my age with Hepatitis C have it following some sort of medical intervention.

Hepatitis C works very slowly. I lived for 35 years with this silent killer and had boundless energy.

Then we realised it had moved to cirrhosis of the liver.

I realised then that what I had been putting down to age had been the symptoms of Hepatitis C.

I got more tired and started forgetting things. I have read everything I can about the disease and I got a lot of help from the Hepatitis C Trust.

WHAT WAS YOUR TREATMENT?

I can't really have any treatment because I have both cirrhosis and a particular strain of the virus that makes me unlikely to respond.

Also I have had some tiny heart attacks that I put down to getting in and out of aeroplanes so often. They have not affected me, but mean my doctor has counselled against treatment.

But when I got the diagnosis I started to take control of my health.

I couldn't just sit back and say I am just waiting to die.

HOW DID YOU FEEL DURING TREATMENT?

I used alternative therapies such as going to a detox spa in Sri Lanka, which was fantastic.

And I have taken a course in macrobiotics.

You absolutely shouldn't drink alcohol, which has never been a problem for me.

Hepatitis C
It can seriously damage the liver and its ability to function, mainly spread through infected blood or other bodily fluids
In England the number of people infected with chronic Hepatitis C is estimated to be up to 500,000
It can take decades for the symptoms to appear

Everything with alcohol had to go, even mouthwash. And so did fatty foods because they made me nauseous.

I do a lot of stretching exercise and listen to people when they say what has worked for them.

You don't expect to get cured, but you do get a healthier body.

HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW?

I have regular check-ups with a blood test and MRI scan.

Before these appointments I always think "oh my God" as I wonder whether the cirrhosis will have moved into a tumour.

I visit Addenbrooke' s Hospital, Cambridge for this because this would be where I would have my liver transplant, if and when the time came.

Although having said that, there are not many livers around for transplant.

People in Britain would rather be buried or cremated with their organs, but my view is that when you are dead, you are dead.

Computer image of Hep C virus. Photo Credit: CNRI/Science Photo Library
Many are unaware that they have Hepatitis C

I am constantly itchy and have to use topical creams to help with that. The itching is caused by the body trying to get rid of excess bile.

But I do not want to be defined by my illness.

I am just waiting and seeing - by nature I am an optimist.

People say to me: "Why don't you sue the NHS over this." But you can't blame an organisation over something they did not, at that time, even know existed.

And for the last six months my condition has been stable and that does give you a real uplift.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO OTHER PEOPLE WITH THE SAME CONDITION?

You may be at risk if you had a blood transfusion before September 1991 (since then donated blood in the UK has been checked for the virus) or if you have been injected with a contaminated needle - through body piercing, tattoos, poorly sterilised equipment and sharing needles.

Dame Anita Roddick spoke to promote the work of The Hepatitis C trust.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A look back at Anita Roddick's achievements



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