It was back in 2005 that Steve Farmer suddenly felt ill. His belly swelled to an alarming size and the symptoms quickly led to a diagnosis of a failing liver.
He wasn’t an alcoholic. What he learned was that he’d been living his adult life with hepatitis C, for perhaps 25 years.
Just over 10 years later, Farmer is preparing for his first World Transplant Games (in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Aug. 23 to 30), and will compete in the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Triathlon on Aug. 2 at Elk Lake.
“(Looking back) I was tired at times, but I chalked that up to being tired,” said the View Royal resident. “And I learned a lot. Hep C gets a stigma around it that’s really untrue; it’s mostly everyday people who have it. A lot are baby boomers, which is why it’s so important for baby boomers to get checked.”
With a liver functioning at 10 per cent, Farmer was put on the list for a transplant. It took a year to receive one and another three years to recover fully.
“Once your transplant takes, then you can begin the 72-week interferon (Hep C) drug treatment, which is brutal, like having chemotherapy. Awful flu symptoms go on and on.”
Following that Farmer spent six years volunteering with the non-profit organization Hep C B.C., including a stint as president. “I really wanted to help build awareness and get the word out about Hep C.”
Eager to live a healthier lifestyle after the recovery, Farmer gravitated to triathlon and it has been an outlet.
“It’s social and it gives you a goal, same as the World Transplant Games. Once I have that on my calendar, it motivates me. I wasn’t sure about triathlon until I started with Tri Stars, who are so welcoming for all levels.”
He’s competed in the ‘virtual triathlon’ of the Canadian Transplant Games three times: 2006, 2012 and 2014. The 400-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike and 5K run are broken into separate events. By completing all three, you qualify for the triathlon event, which the 57-year-old won for his age bracket (50 to 59) at the last two Games.
The distances are nearly the same as the sprint distance of triathlon, with the addition of 350m in the swim portion. He’ll make the Self-Transcendence his fifth sprint triathlon on Aug. 2.
For Farmer, the race is a warmup for the Transplant Games, where he is excited about the idea of crossing paths with 1,500 people who have also experienced life-saving organ transplants.