Growing stronger

Marine's husband returns from Russia unable to work any more because of his HIV infection and his drug resistent TB. He started on DR-TB treatment feeling umwell he stops taking it. After his death Marine moves away with her daughter to try and start a new life to then discover she has DR-TB. 

My mother’s traditional upbringing to obey the elderly had brought tragedy both to her and to me. Now I started to only listen and follow the instructions and recommendations of our treating doctor.

I realized clearly that I was the one to be responsible for my child’s life, and not the expectations from other people, not even from my husband. But very soon, in addition to all my difficulties, I would get another one. I had to take care of my husband. He also came back to Armenia because his condition was so bad that he was unable to work anymore. His HIV infection was in the last phase; we came to know that his TB was drug-resistant and his liver enzymes were higher than normal. Finally he started DR-TB treatment but after one and a half month he was feeling so well that he stopped taking it.

During that time I took my child to kindergarten. But the rumours in the village were spreading too fast and very soon the parents demanded to get the child out of it. Even the other children started to offend her. I was forced to take her out of kindergarten and she had to stay home, taking her daily drugs. There was no happiness in her life. This and the avoiding attitude of relatives and neighbours were very hard for my husband. Maybe this psychological stress also contributed to the abrupt development of AIDS. There was a time when he wanted to get the treatment, but it was impossible because of his liver. He died.

Three months after he passed away I decided to move. I wanted to start all over again in a new place where I could be a normal person, and where no one would stigmatize us. I found an apartment in another marz (region) and my mother-in-law offered to pay the rent. Then I started to look for a job. It was very difficult, yet very satisfying, to be the one who made all decisions. But fate prepared one more hit for me. A new examination revealed that I developed drug-resistant tuberculosis too. It scared me because I was aware of that type of TB. I had seen the number of drugs my husband had been taking, and I knew both the side effects and the length of treatment.

My first thought was that this was too much and that I could not overcome this. But then the thought of my daughter gave me the strength to go on. I started DR-TB treatment in RTBD, a hospital, and continued in a polyclinic. It turned out the challenges I went through didn’t break me, but made me stronger.

You may be surprised reading this, but right now I almost feel happy. I live like all young women, with my daily difficulties and only while taking my drugs do I remember that I am sick. When my child asks me why she takes pills every day I tell her it is vitamins for her to grow healthier. I never thought it was possible to live peacefully with these two complicated diseases.

Still I have many financial problems, especially after my mother-in-law stopped helping with the rent. I can’t find permanent job, and the available jobs are all from early morning till late evening. My child will suffer a lot from it. She is too young to control her treatment alone, and I have to be there to give her drugs. Luckily I get some support from NGO`s who works with HIV/AIDS in Armenia, and I am very grateful for that.

My biggest concern for the future is how I will tell my child about her disease. Of course I will turn to appropriate specialists, but until that day I think I’m going to serve as a good example with my life and lifestyle for her. I’m going to be the living proof that it’s possible to live with this disease.