Kate Wong never understood the extent of hepatitis B until three years ago, when her father was diagnosed with liver cancer caused by the chronic hepatitis B virus.
“It was hard to believe because he was so healthy,” said Wong. “But like the vast majority of people inflicted with this disease, it often goes undetected.”
Her father passed away earlier this year. Shortly after, Wong found medical records dating back to 1981, when the family first arrived to the U.S. from Vietnam, diagnosing her father and 5 out of 6 of his children with hepatitis B.
“We weren’t told it was infectious; we weren’t told to get our regular monitoring; we weren’t told it could eventually kill us,” recalls Wong. “My parents tucked the information away like an expired bus ticket. I was 6 at the time and had no idea.”
Twenty years later, two of Wong’s sisters developed an acute case of hepatitis B. They received treatment for extreme fatigue and jaundice and recovered. It was then that Wong was tested again, but she did not receive any information on what it meant to have the disease.
Wong hopes to educate others, so that they will not undergo the same fate. She recently became involved in the SF Hep B Free Campaign through the SF Department of Public Health, volunteering with The City’s Perinatal Hep B program, working with expectant mothers who are Hep B positive.
Wong now encourages everyone to take charge of his or her health.
“Learn as much as you can on this deadly disease,” she said. “And continue to fight until there is a cure.”
This article will be featured in Sing Tao Daily, World Journal and AsianWeek.com during the month of May as part of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.