I never met my mom (she abandoned us before I could hardly crawl) and I have only relied on my grandparents and my brothers for help and support in my life. I am a shy, quiet person and can sometimes go unnoticed in a group. When I was asked to join the MSF support group for people on MDR-TB treatment, I was very skeptical and I was not sure it would add any value to my life or help me in anyway. I told the nurse that I would go but I only said that to get her to stop bringing it up. I am probably the youngest person on MDR-TB treatment in Epworth, and I did not want to be part of a large group of old people talking about things that don’t concern me, like making ends meet and how work is busy and stressful.
My friend – Isaac – I call him Sekuru (Uncle) Isaac to be respectful, visits me at home from time to time and we talk about the things that are bothering me and he offers a lot of really good advice. He is also on MDR-TB treatment and he was abandoned, just like me, however he was abandoned by a lot of his family members who did not understand the MDR-TB illness and did not want to be around him. He says that this experience made him stronger and I believe him because he doesn’t even cry when he is talking about it. He has seen a lot and has gone through many hardships in life and his guidance and words of encouragement are full of wisdom.
It was Sekuru Isaac who finally convinced me to join the support group .He said I did not have to talk while we were there and that I could just sit and listen, plus if I didn’t like it I could stop going. So I did go and I have been attending the meetings for nearly five months now. The support group discussions focus on our thoughts and feelings about MDR-TB, the perceptions of others and the stigma by family, friends, and co-workers. We also discuss the factors that affect our adherence to MDR-TB treatment.
In today’s session we were looking at our own lives - the counsellor calls it self-awareness. The session allowed the group to support each other by sharing different experiences and discussing the issues they face related to this disease. We had a practical meeting where we went around and looked at different trees and their surroundings.
The tree was likened to a person experiencing different circumstances in their lives. A tree goes through different seasons and is affected by various weather patterns. Some trees had scars – just like the ones I have on my heart – left by the pain of being abandoned by my mother. In life we see similar situations where people say hurtful things to us or about us that scar us. In the community scores of people say cruel wounding things about people receiving HIV or TB treatment.
However some of these trees with scars also have fruits, lovely flowers and bright green leaves. This supports me and encourages me as it is an indication that just because one has been hurt in the past by peoples words or actions, one can overcome these obstacles and go on to live a beautiful, fruitful successful life.