BEING diagnosed with Hepatitis C and finding out he could have had the disease for the past 40 years was a tough wake up call for artist Paul Exton.

But the 63-year-old, of Old Town, was able to undergo the debilitating treatment programme to rid him of the disease thanks to his love of art and the help of a local support group for Hepatitis C sufferers.

Paul says letting his creative talents flow has helped get him back on his feet and one of his pieces of artwork, entitled ‘Treatment’, will be exhibited in the town later this month.

The artwork consists of a plank of wood with scrap metal and syringes strategically attached to it.

“I realised when I went on the treatment for Hep C that there would be some adverse effects,” said Paul.

“It has been tough, so I thought what I would do is a piece of art to represent the highs and the lows.

“This piece represents the pain and suffering you go through, and the different emotions.”

Paul was diagnosed with Hepatitis C – an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver – just two years ago, but he believes the virus could have been living in his body for up to 40 years. The most common way in England that people catch Hepatitis C is by sharing equipment to inject illegal drugs.

He said: “I didn’t even know what Hep C was until I was diagnosed, so it was a shock.

“I was part of a 60s hippie movement and there was a lot of drug experimenting going on – I did try using needles a few times, not that often, about 10 times at the most, and I can only trace it back to that.

“I was suffering with tiredness and feelings of depression, but besides that I felt quite well.”

Last year, a liver biopsy revealed that he has cirrhosis of the liver, as a result of Hepatitis C. He was put on treatment called Interferon and Ribavirin which involved injecting himself every week, and is now six months virus free.

He said: “People of my age who did drugs many years ago should get tested. And even though the treatment is tough, I'd encourage all sufferers to go on it. I am now free of the virus, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of the Hep C group which I read about in the Adver.”

Hep C Positive meets every Monday at 6pm at the Broadgreen Community Centre, in Broadgreen. Call 07580 025116.