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Jenny’s letter: “My parents and I were shocked at the news; we had never heard of this disease.”

Dear Scientist,

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My name is Jennifer Tucker, but you can call me Jenni. In 2016, between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I received news that at the time felt devastating: I was diagnosed with stage 3 Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, or NASH. Stage 4 of this disease means your liver has gone into cirrhosis, which could increase your risk for a transplant; however, I learned the damage up until early stage 4 is reversible. My doctor predicted that I was about a year away from cirrhosis of the liver, so at age 19, my life was changed forever.

My parents and I were shocked at the news; we had never heard of this disease. When my liver specialist explained it to me, it sounded like something an older person should have, not a teenager. That’s when I learned my liver thought I was a 60-year-old alcoholic who weighs 300 pounds. I had never had a drink in my life, nor do I ever want to. I’ve been overweight my entire life, but I also knew that there were people bigger than me. So, I was confused: Why was I being diagnosed with this disease? Apparently, my genetics and lifestyle made my liver this way, and even after many years of attempted dieting, its status only worsened.

Knowing I was diagnosed early enough to reverse the damage, my parents and I decided to take better strides for our health. It was not easy by any means. I had to unlearn what I knew about food and change how I’d done things my entire life. It’s been both incredibly frustrating and challenging. But once I gained the knowledge, met the challenge, and finally saw change, it was overwhelmingly encouraging.

I felt strengthened, especially because I didn’t realize how sick I was until I started feeling better. Before my diagnosis, I had been exhausted all the time, even when just sitting at home doing nothing. I would get at least one migraine a week. I was also very pale, with absolutely no color in my cheeks. But once I took hold of my health, I had so much energy! I thought to myself: Is this how I’m supposed to feel all the time? After about a year of healthy eating and regular workouts, my family and I collectively lost about 150 pounds.

Even though this illness has presented a daily challenge, I’ve learned how to overcome my challenges—and I’m now better and healthier for it. I cannot thank my doctor enough for figuring out what was going on with my liver. And I want to thank you for all the incredible work and research you are doing to get a better understanding of NASH. It’s so important that we learn more about this illness to help people diagnosed in the future retain hope and health.

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Sincerely, Jenni Tucker

This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's BG BrandLab in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.

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