Monday, December 28, 2015

Day 2, Scheduled For Surgery

Joe and his wife Alexandra Christmas 2015
I hope everyone had a great Christmas this year, as I know I sure did. It was filled with laughter, fun, games and most importantly, family. God surely has blessed us in 2015.

On December 10th, I had a scheduled first time visit to a gastroenterologist in Tavares, FL. As some of you may recall from my last blog, I was visiting my family doctor for the referral needed to get up to this point for a specialist appointment.

The appointment on the 14th of December went great. I met Dr. Baskar of the Lake Gastroenterology Associates. The visit with him was short and sweet. He informed me I am a high risk patient, and in much need of a colonoscopy and endoscopy. Taking my hemophilia into account, Dr. Baskar has coordinated an effort with my hematologist a plan of action based on two possible outcomes. An extensive Factor VIII treatment regimen if polyps are found, and a lighter post-procedure regimen if no polyps are found.

Fact: Being HIV positive for over 30 years results in one being a high risk for colon cancer, (coupled with over 30 years exposure to hepatitis C and severe hemophiliain my case). My goal is rewrite the rule books based on colonoscopy screenings for HIV patients not from 40 years of age, but at 35. Many factors play a role in our increased risk, including long-term exposure to HIV antivirals, compromised immunity from exposure to HIV, and it's just the nature of living with the disease for over 20 years.

So the date has been set for January 7th, 2016 in Leesburg, FL. The hardest part of all this that I face is the drinking of the giant jug of electrolytes and no solid food diet. I'm not used to not eating at least something small prior to taking my morning HIV medication, so this should be interesting. Dr. Baskar has informed me that if polyps are found, they will be removed. This is a good thing, and now after months of waiting, we'll finally have a baseline procedure for a 36 year old hemophiliac with HIV, formerly cured of Hepatitis C.

Part of me is naturally nervous and anxious, but the other part is relieved that this procedure has finally been scheduled. I'll know once and for all the results, given my family history of colon cancer as previously stated. I will report back a couple days prior to the procedure to give everyone an update.

This is the final post of 2015, and I just wanted to thank the Hemophilia, HIV and Hepatitis C communities for all their support, warmth and encouragement the past year of blogging and advocating. My goal is simple, to live transparent, so hopefully you can be educated, well versed and ready to tackle any problem that may arise in your own life. As we close 2015, let's not only reflect on the blessed year we've had, but a new on the horizon. God Bless!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Day 1, The Journey to Rewriting the Rules on Digestive Health

So shortly after this video on November 13th, I successfully acquired proper referral to Gastroenterology for possible future screening colonoscopy. I've followed state protocol while living on disability, and now the date has been set to finally meet my digestive health doctor on December 10th, 11:30am. 

I'm not nervous at all, as I know I'm doing the right thing in pursuing this far more sooner than when it's potentially "too late." Given the family medical history of colon cancer on my mother's side, and my long HIV-positive status, it's vital that no risks be taken. We only have one life to live, and by screening early, I'm hopeful of establishing a baseline reference point for the future of my own digestive health. 

So after December 10th, I will follow up with my online blogging family, and let everyone the outcome of my first visit. Will they do scans? Schedule a colonoscopy? That's the game plan at least. I truly and sincerely hope by doing this important decision, that someone is paying attention to this and through my case, the rule book can be rewritten for those living with Hemophilia, HIV, Hepatitis C, or all three. If you know someone that needs to read this, please share my web site link, as I want everyone to follow my progress during this time. Your prayers and continued support are greatly appreciated. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Road to Digestive Health & Prevention Among HIV, HCV & Hemophiliacs

Let me open this post with some very important information regarding long diagnosis' with HIV. I come from a large family of hemophiliacs, 6 male cousins of mine in total all were born with the genetic blood disorder. 2 have passed over the years from complications relating to HIV/AIDS. Recently, I was informed one of my male cousins has been battling colon cancer for some time, and is now facing lymphoma as well. The culprit? HIV.

We now have ways to stop the virus from replicating it's RNA and progressing to AIDS. Thanks to recent advances in the past 10 years of cART (combination antiretroviral therapy), we can now prolong the lives of HIV patieivets many, many decades if compliance in drug therapies are sustained. But now, the biggest statistic resulting from prolonged HIV infection are various forms of anal, colon, lung, cervical, prostate, breast cancer (among others) are now the leading cause if morbidity and mortality among patients.

Over the next few months, I'm going to tear down some walls, and open the veil of transparency in my life. The recommendation for a colonoscopy is at age 40. But I'm willing to change the rule book for Hemophiliacs, HIV and Hepatitis C patients, and see if we can initiate new standards of preventive care by 35. The quicker we establish a baseline of our digestive health, the better off we are.

With the recent news of my family member's diagnosis, I'm carrying the torch into uncharted ground and posting everything that happens here on my blog. Triumph. Discouragement. Headache. Insurance. All will be brought to the limelight here on my site as my journey to obtain a colonoscopy by age 35 gets under way. The next few months are going to be a bumpy ride I'm sure, but be praying for me during this time that we get answers, good results and change the standards among Hemophiliacs, HIV, Hepatitis C and co-infected patients. It all starts tomorrow morning, 9:45AM, with a visit to my primary care doctor to obtain a referral needed to see a gastroenterology specialist and hopefully get a screening scheduled.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

5 Rules To Finding True Love Despite Chronic Illness

It's hard enough going through life with some small sense of normality, but walking down the pathway of life with a chronic illness can be enough to make one's head swim with anxiety. One of the biggest things I hear not only as a care counselor in church, but a leader among my church's life groups and outspoken advocate of the hemophilia and HIV community is that people simply want to be loved. Being alone and with a bleeding disorder, HIV or both is enough to make some not even chase the dating game, or detour them altogether from discovering the great, "what if's" of life.

To be honest, it's not easy being in your 20's, 30's or 40's - living life single and alone. Compound that with living HIV positive, while attempting to find your soul mate, it can be a towering behemoth most would flee from. Finding someone who is "in the know" can be rare, much less finding a partner educated enough to understand your disease, rather than run from it. HIV is a big deal, and it impacts everyone around you from family, friends and dating.

This list may not translate to every single person living with HIV, Hemophilia or Hepatitis C, but contains enough of foundation to get you started in the right direction for true love. Often times, the biggest hurdle we have to face isn't dating itself, it's our own reflection looking back at us. Once we conquer the skewed image we have of ourselves, and truly realize our worth, we can become empowered not only to find true love, but change the lives of everyone around is.
  1. Circle of Trust - Friends are a precious commodity this day and age, and it's vital that we surround ourselves with friends who are educated, in the know, and will be there for you to love, comfort and listen when you need it most. A great group of friends not only provides a solid foundation, but also helps us launch into new and otherwise uncharted areas. They encourage us, motivate us, and make us feel wanted; that's important for self esteem. Friends also help us stay accountable, socially aware and are constantly engaged in conversations and real life situations. Remove toxic friends, and find ones that elevate your spirits to new horizons.
  2. Don't Believe the Naysayers - One rule of thumb I always encourage people to take to heart is, "you are NOT your disease!" Many of us have been told lie after lie, that we're not good enough, it's pointless, and we're just going to get our hearts shattered. Don't be bound by being a mere label, rather, be an impact on someone's life. Stop listening to the grumpy people who try to dictate what they think is best for you, and start empowering yourself to take a chance every once in a while. If you're true to yourself, people will naturally gravitate towards you, and the naysayers will fade away like yesterday's celebrity gossip column.

  3. Stop... Breath... Focus - If we concentrate all our efforts on this one thing, to find true love, and we relentlessly focus on that one objective, while avoiding our surroundings, we will gradually loose sight and will need to refocus our efforts. Don't focus all your attention on finding your significant other, rather work on being the best you, you can be;  every moment, every day. Remember, your one thought away from contentment. Grumbling is actually more toxic and contagious than any other action we can do. Instead, be content, in the moment, and thankful for where you are, and what you have - not what you don't. So stop, get your bearings, take a deep breath and refocus your goals.

  4. Simply the Best - If you're single and reading this, let's face one fact, you just have you. Work on making an impact, and other's will take notice of your efforts. True love isn't found in an online dating app, it's discovered when volunteering for the local charity organization helping others. When you're truly happy and content with your life and where you are, it's typically in those moments others take notice and are attracted to your self esteem and independence. I've never met a single human being who strays from a confident person, have you? Sure some days are better than others, I understand that sincerely, but approach each day as a new opportunity, rather than a burden.

  5. Honesty is the Best Policy - When I first found my true love, and later married her the following year, I reflected on the fact that I was open and honest with my partner. I told her my diagnosis' and some of the challenges I face daily. A true partner will not flee, rather gravitate towards honesty and humility. I prayed over ten years for a perfect companion to come my way, but I first had to work on me, and get over the "implanted thought" of being a sick person with complications. It's not complicated, it's life. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

One Step At A Time

This past week has been rather monumental for me, once again proving to myself that I am not defined by the limitations given to me from those based in the medical community. With a severely damaged right knee, and ankles that crunch and crackle with each step, I managed to walk a total of 34 miles and close to 81,000 steps last week alone. Of course I was on vacation, and was required to do a considerable amount of walking, but nonetheless, I proved not only to myself that I can do it, but to others as well. Sure I was sore, aching and feeling the result of daily activities by night, but I am conditioning myself to walk more and more. It all started in the theme parks, and walking those successfully, and now I'm able to walk much longer distances. Last week alone, I managed to rack up 27,464 steps in a single day. That's close to 12 miles worth in a single day of just walking. You can do it, you can beat the odds, you can overcome and remember, you are not defined by your disease(s). Any goal worth striving for requires effort, so start small, and build yourself up more and more each day. Before long, you'll be astonishing not only yourself, but your doctors and those that wag the finger in your face and say you cannot. If I would have listened to my doctors in the 80's, according them I would be confined to a wheelchair by age 30. The world tells us no, but the human will is a mighty force to be reckoned with. God Bless! -Joe 

Monday, September 28, 2015

An In Depth Discussion with Joe Burke, Surviving Hemophilia, HIV and Hepatitis C

An in depth discussion about living with Hemophilia, HIV and Hepatitis C, Joe Burke opens up about living daily life with chronic illnesses, and where he gets inspiration from.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Live Educational Interactive Webinar on Blab September 28th, 2015 - 1PM EST

Join “#iStrive2Thrive” founder & advocate for ‪#‎hemophilia‬‪#‎HIV‬ and‪#‎HepatitisC‬, Joseph Burke live on ‪#‎Blab‬! WEB ADDRESS : http://BLAB.IM/BQETVA on September 28th, 2015 at 1PM Eastern. Ask the difficult questions in an all new innovative and interactive platform. Get an inside look into the life of living life with multiple chronic illnesses, and how face your giants head on.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Factoring Up Will Never Be The Same

Today September 11th, 2015 is a date in which we not only pause to reflect on the tragic events 14 years ago in New York City and the Nation's Capitol, but strangely enough, a day of rejoicing within the bleeding disorders community. The FDA announced today that Roche's new drug ACE910 has been escalated to fast track status promising amazing results and a game changer among hemophiliacs suffering with Type A severe clotting disorders.

The new drug will be a breakthrough "subcutaneous injection" steering away from the traditional vein or port access among hemophiliacs today. The under the skin injection will be administered once a week among hemophiliac patients who have no inhibitors to factor VIII proteins. The first trials are expected to commence in early 2016 in young pediatric patients with Type A severe hemophilia. Control studies will be tested in both inhibitor resistant and non-inhibitor patients.

"Sandra Hornung, the chief medical officer at Roche, said that the FDA granted permission because they recognize that it meets a segment of the population that it hasn’t met before."

As a hemophiliac myself, having my veins accessed for the past 35 years, this new anti-hemophiliac factor VIII will be one to keep our eyes on. Though the nation may mourn the events of 14 years, members of the bleeding disorder community rejoice today in light of Roche's announcement of the new hemophilia drug.

Full Article:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cholesterol, HIV & Hemophilia

So recently I had a lipid profile ran during my latest rounds of lab draws, and in the results found some of my panels to be a tad elevated. My cholesterol levels were at 268, while my Direct LDL was 194. I've personally never had any issues with lipids until now. So as we dive into this situation more, I want to unravel the chaos that can come from having multiple chronic illnesses that effect other illnesses and their treatments. I need to stress before we get started, my elevated lipid levels are a direct side effect of taking HIV medication for over 20 years, not so much diet. I allow myself a splurge day once a week, but beyond that, I actually don't eat too unhealthy.

My family doctor placed me on a fish oil supplement and 10mg Atorvastatin or "Lipitor" for short. But there's a huge problem with statins in the realm of HIV medication. Turns out a protease inhibitor that I've been taking since 2005 called Reyataz boosts the levels of Atorvastatin in my bloodstream, and my CVS Specialty pharmacist pretty much demanded me stop taking the statin ASAP due to the drug interference from the HIV anti-viral.

So with this knowledge, and no longer being able to take lipitor to treat my elevated cholesterol levels, I resorted to a possible herbal remedy that possibly could work. A friend of mine told me about red yeast rice (RYR), and how it's a naturally occurring statin in herbal pill form. Thinking this would be the the possible treatment I needed, I went out and purchased some capsules from my local drug store, and started taking them. But then it dawned on me, what if, perhaps all statins would interfere with my HIV medication?

I found the answer on page 3 of an article on WebMD that gave me the answer. "In addition, anyone taking one of the following medicines should not use red yeast rice: Protease inhibitors, used to treat HIV." So out of the gate, I'm sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place. RYR may be good for hemophiliacs in general, but for HIV patients on protease inhibitors, there is a drug interaction in which the statin level is boosted, and depending on dosing, could be boosted to unsafe levels.

Now this brings me back to my fish oil supplement. Though fish oil has no direct interactions with any facet of HIV disease, I was told by both my hematologist and pharmacist that the extract does interfere with hemophilia bleeding disorders. It has been documented that prolonged exposure to fish oil in hemophiliacs leads to increased bleeding episodes and possible spontaneous joint/muscle bleeds. reports, "Fish oil supplements should also be used with caution by people with hemophilia because they could trigger a severe or life-threatening bleeding episode."

So my problem, and question to not only the hemophilia community, but the HIV family as well, if you have elevated lipids caused by the medications you take for HIV, how are you treating it? Even though my numbers aren't astronomically high, they are elevated enough for me to seek treatment and educate myself in this new world of cholesterol and statins. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Broken Foot & Hemophilia

Gotta say, I clean up pretty well for a wedding!
On August 4th, I attended a wedding as a groomsman, little did I know on this night, I literally would break a leg. Everything about the wedding was perfect; the ceremony, the food, the music, the couple and the church. Josh Moyerman is a dear friend of mine from Real Life Christian Church, and being asked to be part of his special day was truly an honor. I have to admit, I cleaned up pretty nice, and sported my Dapper look just for the wedding.

The ceremony was flawless, the reception was excellent and the music started as the celebration of marriage began. I knew my bones were fragile, though I truly didn't understand the severity of my own bone deficiency resulting from living with HIV over 30 years. My joints are damaged from hemophilia, but my bone density themselves are deficient due to progressed HIV disease. Long story short, HIV depletes the Vitamin D needed to restore bone health.

The hematoma from the fracture in ER.
I danced the "Macarena," rocked "The Twist," and everything seemed fine. Towards the end of the night, just as everyone was starting to depart, I get up to walk back to the men's changing room to get out of the tuxedo, when the unthinkable happened. I tripped, and fell, rolling my ankle, and in an effort to counter-balance my weight, then stumbled, which forced all of my weight to the center of my foot. I felt a pop. I knew something was wrong. The swelling happened instantly as a hemophiliac. It was a massive hematoma on the side of my left foot.

A friend helped me to my feet, and escorted me back to the men's changing room. I remember feeling a throbbing pain I've truly never felt before in my body, a break. Keep in mind, this wedding was an hour away from where I live, so I had to drive myself home to "double dose" on factor VIII and then go directly to the emergency room. My night had ended in ER lobby with a fractured left foot. Thankfully, it wasn't my right driving foot, that could have truly been a dilemma getting back home after the accident.

Avulsion fracture of the fifth metatarsal left foot. (actual X-ray)
My wife, a Registered Nurse herself, had one look at my foot and knew it was broken. And surely enough when the X-rays came back, it showed a fracture at the base of the fifth metatarsal. It's a pain unlike anything I've ever felt before. And to make matters worse, my left foot is my dominant leg, as I have a bad right knee stemming from hemophilia related joint injury. So now, my good foot is broken, and my bad right leg has to over compensate. Any weight bearing pressure or walking is completely and utterly out of the question. Not only was the top of my foot swollen severely, but the sole was swollen just as bad, which prohibited any kind of walking.

It's a nasty avulsion fracture, according to the doctor in the ER. He jokingly called it, "The Dancer's Break." Oddly enough, I was dancing hours before, but didn't break it in the way in which everyone assumed (dancing). But anyone that knows me, knows that I'm accident prone. I'm just a big klutz when it comes to stumbling over things, banging my elbows into walls, stubbing my toes on furniture. It's actually no shock that this would happen, and I say that with a smile jokingly.

My makeshift splint . 
After what seemed an eternity in the ER waiting room, it was finally time to splint up my foot. The pain medicine didn't even phase this level of trauma, and I remember being in excruciating pain as they attempted to makeshift a splint on my foot. I finally left the ER roughly around 2AM on the morning of August 5th, and never slept that night from tossing and turning in pain.

The next morning was my breaking point. With a combination of pain, and my Obamacare insurance not wanting to pay for me to see a specialist to get properly fitted for a boot or cast, I was scrambling to no avail to find a podiatry or orthopedic specialist to properly be evaluated. I admit, I broke down, and succumbed to the thought of defeat that I would be stuck in bed for the next 2-3 weeks, because CHA "Clear Health Alliance" healthcare could not find a doctor for me to see that was covered under their plan. For a normal person, this wouldn't be much of an issue, but for a hemophiliac, with bleeding in the joint and a verified fracture, it was a more heightened situation. Efforts are underway for me to change insurance plans over the next few months, and get away from CHA once and for all.

The day after, swelling turns to bruising. 
Thankfully, Hemophilia Foundation of Greater Florida stepped in, and recognized the emergent need and offered to pay out of pocket expenses to get me to the doctors I was intended to see. After a long grueling day on August 5th, by Thursday the 6th, I was seeing Dr. Amit Varma here in Clermont, FL - a specialist in orthopedic surgery at the Florida Sports Injury Institute.

As a hemophiliac, having a broken bone is more amplified because of the bleeding into the joint and surrounding tissue in which the break takes place. In my own situation, the swelling, bleeding was far more painful than the actual bone break itself. It took a solid 7 days to controlling the bleeding and keep the swelling down by dosing on Factor VIII.

After all is said and done, I'm healing nicely now that I have my padded boot to walk around in. I'm expected to no longer need the boot in 1-2 weeks, and the bone itself will be fully healed in 4-6 weeks. I have a follow up doctor's visit with my orthopedic surgeon next week on the 20th of August, and I will find out how well my foot is healing. Prayers for healing and recovery are warming welcomed.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Conversations With A Survivor

Join me on July 22nd, 1PM EST live on 
‪#‎Periscope‬, as I tackle some of your questions in real time about living with ‪#‎Hemophilia‬‪#‎HIV‬ and ‪#‎HepatitisC‬. Periscope is a mobile app, and is totally free to download, no ads or quirky gimmicks. Be sure to add @istrive2thrive as a follower so you'll get a notification that I'm live! Like, follow and help me share this awareness and advocacy event. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

One Year Ago Today, A Reflection of Life

I officially obtained my one year "post liver treatment" lab results early this morning, marking my official one year anniversary of ending treatment on Sovaldi and Ribavirin. I ended treatment on July 7th, 2014. After one year of completing the toxic regimen, the virus remains "Undetected," which means the my Hepatitis C is 100% medically, officially and without question gone for good.

It's a little overwhelming to know that I don't have to face one of my dreaded fears of liver transplant, ESLD (end stage liver disease) or cirrhosis. I always projected my life going downhill in my late 30's based on how many years I actually had Hepatitis C and the estimated pattern of how the virus was attacking my liver, which was pretty regular. But now, God has gave me a new sense of normal, I'm cured. I don't take this cure for granted, and I walk each day with a new fresh perspective, and certainly with a sense of humility for the extended years added.

I remember a deep conversation I had with my wife before we exchanged vows, and in that late night discussion, I told Alexandra some things she should be prepared for concerning my health, age and overall well being. I recall that night being tearful, sorrowful and painful. But true love conquers all barriers that life hurls at us. Thankfully, she stuck with me, and now, the cure has happened. All those dark disturbing things we talked about won't happen the way I envisioned my life to progress. Even though it was my job to inform Alexandra the consequences, she loved me regardless, despite the difficulties and trying times, that's the power of "real love."

Quotes from Joseph Burke
When I first met my wife in 2008, my mind was so fixated on the "what if's" and the "could be's" instead of what God can truly do with a little patience. That was the life lesson I was taught by the Big Man upstairs, patience and forbearance. I treated once in 2006 for 24 weeks on Ribavirin and Interferon injections, to ultimately relapse 3 weeks after treatment ended. I had very little expectation going into this new treatment on Sovaldi, but despite my fears, it worked! No more fixations and daydreaming about my life spiraling out of control as my liver fails. It's pretty overwhelming, even as I write this, as the tears of rejoicing just flow.

I recall my wife telling me often, that she was praying for my cure. She frequently reminded me in church and home that her one main prayer was for the cure to happen. Above all else, she wanted her husband around, and the moment that prayer was answered, and God showed up, was mind blowing.

I'm fortunate, lucky and persevered through the trying times that us hemophiliacs faced in the 1980's and 1990's. It wasn't easy being a bleeder with HIV and Hepatitis C in those days. The stereotypes imprinted from the negative press are still very relevant today, but it's my job through this blog and "I Strive 2 Thrive" to educate the masses, and offer hope to those who suffer with my illnesses. It's enough to have hemophilia alone, but combine HIV, chronic pain and my now my cure of Hepatitis C, I've become empowered to educate those who still have those uneducated beliefs about any of the illnesses I endure daily.

This win may be of science, and the pharmaceutical company Gilead for manufacturing Sovaldi, but the real win here is one for God. He allowed me endure just a little longer, become married, and through that I learned patience and a deeper understanding of who I am, and whose I am. I count my blessings daily, and don't take each breath for granted. This cure has empowered me to help and enrich others lives, and do it with love that only comes from God. Today marks two anniversaries in my life, my parent's 37th wedding anniversary and the one year anniversary of my cure. Funny how God does that right, almost like a wink and pat on the back as I'm reminded how truly awesome He is.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Conversation with A Modern Day Miracle

After several years, I finally get the chance to speak at my church and before my brothers on my testimony and how God has radically changed my life. This 18 minute interview gives an in depth perspective on the life I've lived, and offers a ray of hope for those who struggle with Hemophilia, HIV or Hepatitis C today. This interview marks the 11 month post-treatment point since my Sovaldi and Ribavirin liver therapy from last year. July 7th, 2015 will be one full year since I completed liver treatment, and even though I don't know those results yet, I am confident based on my 6 month undetected status that God's got this once and for all. 

It is my prayer that those who watch this are encouraged, enlightened and filled with hope for their own paths and destinies. God has so richly blessed me to continue doing His good work through my church and community, and this interview is just one small part of that initiative. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 

Too Blessed 2 Be Stressed,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Video Testimony

Joseph is not only a survivor of the horrors during the dark days of the pharmaceutical industry, but a living miracle by medical standards. Born with severe Hemophilia Type A (less than 1% clotting factor in the bloodstream), the very product used to treat the blood disease (Anti-Hemophiliac Factor VIII) to many became a death sentence in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Plasma pools were riddled with live HIV and Hepatitis C strains from skid-row and prison locations. As a result, Joseph became co-infected (both HIV & HCV) around age 3, trailing a life of extended hospital stays, appointments and never-ending infusions sessions. Today, less than 1.8% of the 12,000 hemophiliacs in the United States are alive. Joseph is one of those fortunate warriors to carry the torch and be that voice for those who no are no longer with us. In 2014, Joseph underwent extensive liver treatment on the new drug called Sovaldi, and within four weeks of a six month therapy, his Hepatitis C virus was no more. Today, Joseph shares his life, struggles and realities of living with debilitating complications resulting from hemophilia related injuries, and maintains a healthy lifestyle with a well controlled HIV anti-viral suppression regimen. He is unique, unfiltered and a survivor; and it's for that reason God is using his life in a major way.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

10 Health Benefits of Matcha Tea

Matcha tea is a super-powered tea that can be consumed many different ways. There are so many reasons why I love green matcha tea, and it wasn't until recently I found out it's true hidden power, and the positive impact it can have on the body, especially for those living with HIV and/or Hepatitis C. If you have been diagnosed with HIV, HCV or cancer, than consider this health choice option for your day to day.

Matcha is a type of green tea that is grown only in Japan, and has been consumed by locals for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. By stone grinding down the leaves to a very fine powder, the true power of this tea is unlocked. Here are my top 10 reasons why green matcha can radically help your overall health and vitality.

At some point in this modern world, we've all heard this word one time or another; "antioxidant." But what is it, and why should we be aware of it? Imagine this, we're at a baseball game, and the first baseman is our antioxidant. He's our first line of defense to our immune system, and keeps all the players on the field in check. So let's back up, what is it, and what do antioxidants do for us? Exposure to UV radiation over time breaks down our skin's cellular structure, so the health geeks, like yours truly, seek those vital antioxidants to restore and replenish ours cells. Items like raw fruits and veggies, greens and yes, my favorite, dark chocolate. Matcha is loaded in antioxidants, in fact 5 times as much as the most potent super food, the avocado as tested by the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) method for blood-oxygen absorption.

Green tea contains about 30% catechins, whereas black tea contains only 4% of theaflavins. Both are powerful antioxidants. But matcha tea has far more in quantity, which explains why it is associated with more health benefits. The most significant phytochemical in green tea is a polyphenol called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG for short. EGCG promotes brain health, is an anti-cancer fighting agent, increases heart health and promotes weight loss! EGCG naturally increases metabolism safely, burns fat and more importantly, reduces fat storage of cells. There are so many articles on the web about catechins and EGCG benefits, so do the research for yourself and prepare to be blown away at just how powerful these enzymes are for the body.

Speaking of EGCG, The green tea flavonoid has been linked to naturally fighting HIV as true anti-viral. matcha has been proposed to have an anti–HIV-1 effect by preventing the binding of HIV-1 glycoprotein (gp) 120 to the CD4 molecule on T cells. Plants rich in flavonoids such as elderberry, matcha and cinnamon appear to block HIV-1 and can thus help in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. So if you've been diagnosed with HIV, talk with your doctor about matcha, and consider drinking it even while on your HAART anti-viral regimens as an extra line of defense for your immune system.

For centuries, Buddhist monks have consumed herbal teas like matcha to promote a state of calm while meditating, yet remaining alert; without the "downer" effect of a pharmaceutically induced calm. Research has shown that this is directly due to the amino acid L-Theanine. L-Theanine promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain, which induces the calmness, while remaining focused, alert and attentive.

For those of us with liver disease, Cirrhosis, Hepatitis C, or fatty liver, there is hope for us yet! New studies have shown that green tea has antifibrotic effects! Which means it can reverse and heal certain grades of liver fibrosis, improve portal vein function and dissipate the collagen bands around your liver that form during fibrosis. Did I mention it purifies the blood as well? Holy smokes, that's some potent matcha! For more information on matcha and liver disease, click here.

When scientists injected matcha extracts in tumors, the results were profound. The EGCG extracts we were discussing earlier actually shrunk cancerous tumors in the body. The catechins in green tea are able to break the molecular link between infection and cancer. The EGCG's are also active in breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin and lung cancer and cancer of the oral cavity and oesophagus, tumors in the liver, pancreas, intestines, stomach, bladder and brains. The growth of tumors is slowed down. The EGCG's in matcha stimulate cancer cells to self-destruct. For more information on anti-cancer properties of matcha, click here.

The introduction of L-Theanine into the brain causes the production of dopamine and serotonin. These two chemicals alone have been shown to enhance mood, increase memory, aid in better concentration and just overall increased motor skill function. I'm pretty sure that's something that we all could probably benefit from, right?

I'm from a family where elevated cholesterol levels have to be monitored and is something inherited. Even with my HIV regimens, I often have elevated levels of cholesterol, which I have to monitor with proper food intake and nutrition. That's where matcha comes in, Research in various cultural ethnicity groups have shown that men who consume regular 2-4 cups a day of matcha had a lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and an increase HDL (good cholesterol). Matcha even reduces and normalizes blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. WOW!

Before matcha is harvested, during the last month of growth, the plants are covered to block out the sunlight, which causes the plants to produce a tremendous amount of chlorophyll. It's been known for a while that chlorophyll is a natural blood detoxing agent and immune system booster. That's why trends like juicing "green drinks" loaded in chlorophyll are so widely popular today. Chlorophyll is stored solar energy. But the camellia sinensis, the plant grown before matcha is made, produces 10 times more chlorophyll than any other plant. Think of it like this, one cup of matcha is equal to 10 cups of traditional green tea.

I personally consume matcha two ways. I buy the powder locally from a health food store, or sometimes online from I like the brand "DoMatcha," but you may find your own brand through trial and error. I prefer a typical warm tea, two teaspoons of matcha powder with a 1/4 cup of soy milk and warm water. I also enjoy Starbcuks own Teavana line of green matcha. My favorite drink is a Venti Iced Green Matcha Tea with Soy and light ice. It's so good! I call it the HULK drink, because that's exactly what it is, a powerhouse to good health and strength.

Matcha consumed with warm water and just the powder has 0 calories and is loaded in dietary fiber! So... what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Refined By Fire

Sorry I haven't posted in the past month, it's been a roller coaster lately, but in a good way. I had a doctor's appointment two weeks ago on February 24th, and for the first time, my infectious disease doctor Katherine Smith uttered those words I've been longing to hear since I started Sovaldi last year: "You're Cured!"

Living life post-treatment is one thing knowing your labs are looking great, but hearing those goal achieving words uttered for the first time gave me so much confidence going into one year post-treatment. This time last year, I was very ill from side effects of the regimen I was on. I was reflecting on some of my older posts from Easter 2014, and multiple ER visits along with numerous side effects leaves me with only one conclusion; we are "refined by fire." The human spirit is a strong and powerful mechanism.

July 7th of this year, I will officially be one full year post-treatment. A few of my friends, locally and online, have had some serious issues since concluding their Sovaldi regimens, one of which is the dreaded relapse. A friend of mine, younger lady, late 20's from church, treated on Sovaldi and Ribavirin just as I did last year, but relapsed. She, like myself, was a geno-type 3a, I've been offering some moral support and council for her just this past week, and it seems to be effective. Whether I relapse or remain undetected at one year is pretty much a waiting game and in God's hands. I've accepted both outcomes and am ready to tackle whatever it is next I have to do. 

Nothing in life is earned by our own merit. You don't just wake up one day and be automatically cured of a life altering illness. Struggles are a part of life, so are disease and illness. If the human condition is never constantly tested, how are we to be refined and made better? I'm a leader at my church for a weekly event called "Real Men." One of the questions I'm asked most, why do bad things happen to good people? My response is usually simple and forward: "Because they have to." In 1 Peter 1:7, Peter writes, "so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So when you're in that moment, the world is crashing in, all hope is lost, instead of giving ourselves a pity party, we need to stand up and dust ourselves off and move forward. Life is one continual refining of our condition, to make us stronger and more courageous for the next trial, and the trial after that.

One of my favorite musical writers and performers just this past week announced on social media he has a solid mass in his right kidney, and doctors are 90% sure it's cancer. Mark Hall of Grammy award winning Casting Crowns, made the announcement about his condition. But like the very song Mark penned in 2006 'Praise You In This Storm', "I was sure by now God You would have reached down And wiped our tears away Stepped in and saved the day But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining..."

One thing I can say, I am at a truly peaceful moment of life. Rejoicing in my cure and striving towards July for the one year post-treatment lab results. I can't say it's been an easy road, truth is, it's been anything but smooth. The roller coaster of life has peaks, dips, turns, 360's and maybe even a few slow points, but my advice for those reading this, be ready for anything. Life isn't about what we define it to be, it's about giving God glory in season and out. So with each struggle, our life is being refined physically, mentally and spiritually for our betterment. In the heat of the moment, we don't see the lesson, but just know we have to be refined by fire in order to come out shining like gold. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Today, My Life Changed Forever

It's pretty astonishing to think about it, and I'm still attempting to process the real scope of things surrounding the past year of my life.

On January 21st, 2014 I began a journey that would ultimately change my life forever, I treated my Hepatitis C with a new breakthrough drug called Sovaldi. Rapidly within 4 weeks of therapy, my virus went undetected, indicating that treatment was working and I was on my way to 20 more weeks of medication, lab work, doctor visits and a plethora of side effects. By the end of treatment on July 7th, 2014, I was still undetected and on my way to hopes of a possible cure.

My infectious disease doctor told me treating with Sovaldi and Ribavirin, I stood an astounding 94% chance of being cured even co-infected with HIV.

Having previously treated with much more toxic and brutal drugs in 2006, this new therapy was a breath of fresh air, but also had it's own mess of side effects. But in the end, the side effects weren't severe, and I powered through treatment like a iron arrow going through the heart of a dragon. Not just any dragon, the king of all dragons, Hepatitis.

The results are in today January 12th, 2015, 6 months post treatment, and officially I can say I am cured of Hepatitis C once and for all. My dragon has been slain, and my life is forever changed. I'm still sitting here processing the events of the past 24 hours of my life after getting this spectacular news. Sovaldi truly works, and the words cure and HepC can now be uttered in the same breath with confidence. Click on the graphic to see the lab work for yourself.

As I pause in this time of reflecting, evaluation and focusing on God more, I am truly humbled by the events of the past year of my life. Never again will I lie sleepless in my bed pondering my own fate. No more weeping in the pillow of my own mortality, and the fate of my beloved wife. To never fathom again the thought of liver transplant, end stage liver disease, cirrhosis or liver cancer is for the lack of better terms, new.

But, I can't forget to give credit where credit is rightfully due. If it wasn't for my persistent faith in Jesus Christ, my surrounding band of brothers and church family, my amazing wife and the endless sacrifices of my parents, none of this would be possible today. Thanks to my caregiver Dr. Katherine Smith for treating me, and lastly to Michael J. Sofia who developed this new miracle drug called Sovaldi.

My blogs will continue, as this is just the beginning of a new era for myself and I Strive 2 Thrive. I am working on a new video documentary as we speak, and I hope to share it with you hopefully by Spring of this year. Forever grateful, eternally humbled and delightfully changed, thanks to everyone who has been a part of this amazing journey with me the past year.

In His Holy and Blessed Name,
Joe Burke (I Strive 2 Thrive)