Fieldset
TB & Me: Facing your fears 

After experiencing severe side-effects to the injectible medication she was taking for multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, Halyna, 55, got a new prescription and is now preparing to continue the shorter treatment offered by Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) at home.

Before I was diagnosed, I felt tired and drowsy and I coughed a lot. I only went to get it checked out because my husband had TB. Knowing his diagnosis and feeling that something was wrong, I decided to get tested.

When they confirmed that I had TB too, I felt… no words can describe how I felt. We never used to think about TB. We thought that it had nothing to do with us, that it wouldn’t touch us.

You live a healthy lifestyle and you can’t imagine where you could catch TB from. 

Starting treatment

It’s a very difficult treatment. At first, I had a fever and nausea and vomiting because of a bad reaction to the drugs. Then, from time to time, I had chest pains. But now, it’s fine – my body is getting used to it.

It makes a difference when they treat you as a person

It’s difficult, but once you understand that you won’t survive without the treatment, you can handle it. There isn’t any other treatment available. But it’s good that we have this one at least.

I’m very grateful to the doctors – they helped me by talking to me, calming me down, and it got better. It makes a difference when they treat you as a person. 

MSF248558.jpg

Halyna holds the 16 pills she takes every day as treatment for MDR-TB
This is one day's worth of medication

My husband died recently and I have no children. I have friends, and they call me, but I tell them not to visit because many of them have kids. They’d better not come in case anything happens. So we talk on the phone.

I've been at the TB hospital here since August last year. The MSF team are helping me to prepare to go home, but even when I leave I'll still be on treatment as an outpatient.

We’re doing the treatment not for the doctor, the nurses or the doctor’s assistant; we’re doing it for ourselves, for our families, for the people that surround us

When I go back home, I’ll live alone. Recently I went to the village, to the health post there, with the MSF staff, and we spoke with my neighbours. I have good neighbours, and I’m on good terms with them, despite this disease. 

Encouraging others to complete treatment 

I can see that not everyone is serious about their treatment. Some people think that if they don’t take their medication once, nothing will happen.

Some people trifle with treatment: today they’ll take their drugs but tomorrow they won’t. They think that the TB will go away, but it won’t – it’s a serious disease.

We’re doing the treatment not for the doctor, the nurses or the doctor’s assistant; we’re doing it for ourselves, for our families, for the people that surround us. We live among people after all. 

MSF248547.jpg

Halyna Uvarenko, TB patient
Halyna is preparing to leave the hospital to finish her treatment at home

There’s a lot of information on TB in the newspapers and at medical centres and hospitals. But unfortunately we think that it doesn’t concern us, that this will never happen to us, and that’s why we don’t see it.

I’d like to tell people to be more careful, to have X-rays, get check-ups, have regular blood tests in order to be certain about themselves and others.

And people need to know about the symptoms: you cough, sweat and lose your appetite; you don’t think about food in the way you did before.