Finally, this is the moment I have been waiting for. I have just been told today that I am cured of DR-TB and will not have to endure dozens of nauseating tablets which I have been taking every day for the past two years.
I am so happy and cannot hold back my joy. The last two years have been the most painful in my life. First being diagnosed with DR-TB at a tender age of 14, a highly stigmatized disease was not easy for me. People would ask what type of TB he has which needs injections every day for eight months. Some would even ask what type of TB is it that he has to take about 18 tablets every day for two years. This is in addition to the anti-retroviral drugs I am taking.
The treatment of DR-TB alone scares many. My situation was worse. I would have naturally preferred my mother to nurse me during that period. Unfortunately, I have never known my mother as she passed away when I was still an infant. I don’t even know her face. But I want to thank my grandmother who has been there for me all the time. I don’t know how I will repay her, but she has been the super granny, the best in the world.
Due to lack of information, DR-TB is still stigmatized in my community. However, the medication makes it even worse – it’s daunting. So being diagnosed with DR-TB is a double tragedy. You have to deal with the stigma as well as the agonizing medication.
My only wish and plea to those overseas where these drugs come from is at least if the treatment could be made simpler, shorter and less painful. Having an injection every day for eight months is not easy. In total I received close to 200 jabs over eight months and my body was now numb; I no longer felt the pain of the needle. In the initial days I really wished if I could quickly complete this painful phase and just take the pills.
But the pills were not better either as I would take nine in the morning and the same number in the evening. I would feel like vomiting after taking them and at one point I wanted to quit. I doubted if I could hold on for two years having this nauseating feeling every day. I had surrendered my fate to the Almighty as this was beyond anyone’s control.
I had also become much of a liability. I felt overstretching the community health worker, the nurses and my family as all played a crucial role in my treatment. The community health worker has been visiting me every day with my medication. She is doing it voluntarily and I feel this left her with little time to also attend to her own business. I want to thank her for this generosity.
But thinking of it, I don’t know why we cannot have just one tablet a day and for a shorter period for this type of TB. Whilst I am grateful that the drugs have kept me alive, but it was like going through hell for me so that I could enjoy this life. I don’t think it has to be so painful for one to be cured of DR-TB. If only I had an opportunity to talk to those who make these drugs, my appeal would be please can’t you just combine all these 18 tablets I was taking every day into one. And why not make it powerful so that I don’t have to endure two years taking them every day, the shorter period the better.
You see if this treatment was shorter, I would have only dropped out of school maybe for just three months and rejoin my group. But now, I have lost two years as I could not attend school. The schedule for my medication was clashing with the school timetable so I had to make a very difficult decision.
Now that I have been cured, I have to start planning about my future. I could not do that two years ago as I was not even sure if I would make it. Now that I have made it, I will discuss with my family about my future. I have had introspection on my whole life and I now view life from a different perspective. I want to work for the better of my community, even without getting any remuneration. I want to encourage those who will fall into a situation like mine never to give up on life. I have been there so I know how it is. This is the only way I can say thank you to those who never gave up on me, the MSF teams, my family and community.
I want to thank my lifesavers, the MSF team. These people kept on encouraging me when I was wearing. I also want to thank those who made it possible for me to get the drugs through their donations to MSF. Wherever you are, please be gratified that you have saved a young soul and I am sure there are thousands others who have been saved through your support.
Now that I am certified cured of DR-TB, as I promised in my last post, I will throw a party to celebrate this achievement. It was not an easy path. It needed perseverance and that accomplishment has to be celebrated.