Bel K., who is currently living with stage 4 PBC, is the ultimate fighter. A single mom to a teenage daughter, her journey has not been easy. Her eyes are jaundiced, her feet unbearably itchy (hence the forks she carries everywhere she goes to ease the scratching) and her fatigue overwhelming, but each day she presses on with a vibrancy that can’t be denied. She is determined to help more people recognize and understand PBC, so they can be diagnosed faster and more smoothly than she was.
Back in 2009, Bel, who works as a college professor of geography during the school year and as a guest Geographer on luxury cruise lines during the summer, had been experiencing unusual itching and fatigue. She saw a doctor for these symptoms, and was initially misdiagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. She tried 27 different medications for intractable pruritus before being correctly diagnosed with PBC three years later in 2012. Despite her long road to diagnosis, she says her mental toughness was a big help in accepting her disease and preparing for the journey ahead.
Mental toughness was a big help [for Bel] in accepting her disease and preparing for the journey ahead.
Growing up on her family’s coffee farm in the Dominican Republic, Bel honed her indomitable spirit at an early age. She has visited 103 countries – hoping to continue traveling if her health allows it – and speaks six languages. She has tried to instill her core values in her daughter, including the importance of seeking out the beauty in the world around you, even when it doesn’t appear that way.
Bel, who is currently on the UNOS waiting list for a liver transplant in MN, strives to maintain a positive spirit despite the significant challenges she faces, and is passionate about spreading the word about PBC to everyone she knows. As Bel says, “It may be too late for me, but if I can help just one other person by educating others about PBC, that is my goal in life.”
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