I fell ill last year in March. My family doctor asked me to get an X-ray and a scan. Later, I found out that I had drug-resistant TB (DR-TB).
By April, I was at the Zhytomyr TB Dispensary receiving treatment. I think I contracted the disease from a relative who was also receiving a similar treatment. When I found out that I had DR-TB, I could not believe that this could happen to me. I cried for the first three days.
Treatment in lockdown
I was diagnosed during the countrywide COVID-19 lockdown and it was difficult to find any public transport. The family doctor was kind and came to my house, but the scan cost 1000 hryvnia (US$ 36) and was so expensive. A friend helped me with 300 hryvnia (US$10) but I had to manage the rest.
If they were not afraid, then why should I be?
During the lockdown, no-one could visit me in hospital. The initial medication was tough, I did get a swelling in my throat one night, and I was apprehensive. Whilst I was in hospital, my husband started a relationship with someone else and now we are separated.
During my time in hospital, I met other patients who had more severe forms of TB. A lot of them were addicted to alcohol and were working to get better. In hospital I did not understand their will to live and move ahead in life. Their mental state and their physical condition (in the hospital) seemed so incompatible, but it also gave me hope. If they were not afraid, then why should I be? I spoke about this with my psychologist at the TB Dispensary.
Technology can make a difference
Once public transport started functioning again in my hometown, I moved in with my mother. I continued my treatment at home, through video-observed therapy. I would record myself taking my TB drugs and send the video clips to my doctor.
I can only tell others to be determined and to be focussed on getting better...
The whole duration of my DR-TB treatment lasted nine months; initially (in the first two weeks post treatment) I felt too weak to move around, but now I feel completely fine. I also received food parcels from MSF during this time.
Valuing my life more
I lost my job once I was diagnosed with TB. I decided to quit my job, as my employers were not very happy with the long sick leave. Since I was in hospital, I was not able to register at the job centre, and MSF helped me financially. Today earning money is a challenge and I am looking for a job.
I was afraid, but after successfully completing my treatment, I can only tell others to be determined and to be focussed on getting better. This is a personal thing but now I value my life more and so should others.
In collaboration with the regional TB hospital, MSF in Zhytomyr offers free care involving the combination of a shorter treatment, the use of new highly-effective drugs (bedaquiline and delamanid), outpatient care, psychological counselling and social support services.