When I first got pulmonary TB at the age of 19 in year 2001, my only wish was not to be prevented by this disease to go on and finish my studies, pass the CPA board exam and then work for a big auditing firm. I thanked God that I finished college and passed the board exam. But getting a job after becoming a Certified Public Accountant was a different story. Rather than accounting the revenues and expenses of big companies, I was accounting how much money my family were spending for my medication and how long have I been undergoing treatment since the time I was diagnosed of the disease. Five years which was equivalent to nine cycles of treatment under the management of private physicians was reasonable enough for a patient like me who had been compliant with the treatment to lose hope and question God on when my prayers would be answered. I was bargaining with the Lord, telling Him that I am willing to give up my dream of being able to practice my profession just to be cured from TB.
In year 2006, I was referred to Tropical Disease Foundation (TDF) by my physician. During that time, TDF was the one specialized in treating drug-resistant TB. My disease was already categorized as an extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB. XDR-TB strains arises after the mismanagement of individuals with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). It meant my treatment options are seriously limited.
I relocated to Makati as the treatment would require going to the clinic everyday, 6 times a week, for a minimum of 18 months. My desire to get treated from the disease was unquestionable but then the treatment was undeniably challenging. The drugs that I took during my treatment had many side effects. Sometimes, it felt like the drugs that I was taking to save my life could also be the reason to lose what I was fighting for. It's not easy to suffer from headache and vomiting almost everyday and it was terrifying to experience electrolytes imbalance, drug-induced hepatitis and mostly an irreversible hearing loss when all you simply wanted was to be cured from TB.
You can just imagine how hard for a patient to ready himself in the possibility of becoming totally deaf when the only option was to get treated or else be dead. Before I had my treatment at TDF, my previous doctors had exposed me to other injectable TB medicines. All other side-effects of the medicines I could endure but the irreversible damage to my ears was the least that I could take. Yet I had no choice, I had a very limited line of drugs to take being an XDR-TB patient and choosing to save my hearing seemed to equate in giving up my life.
I finished 18 months of treatment, and started being involved in advocacy activities for TB. Through the efforts of TDF and in partnership with other agencies, they produced MDR-TB Patients Speak video where I was one of the patients who was interviewed. I felt that I was blessed to have survived 8 years of continuous TB treatment and was very grateful to the Lord that I was led to TDF where I got cured and at the same time where I got my first job. March 2009, six months after being declared as cured from TB, my life was once shattered when it was found out that I relapsed.
When I learned about it, my first question was, "Will I die?". As I was aware of the severity of the disease, I couldn't fathom what else was waiting for me but death. Though, a high level of uncertainty in being treated from the disease existed that even the best doctors could not guarantee the positive result of another re-treatment, I still chose to undergo another 24 months of treatment coupled with right upper lung lobectomy.
With God's mercy, I was declared cured after 26 months of treatment. It was truly an epic battle authored by the Lord. This year I officially finished the 2 years post treatment follow-up and currently enjoying a good and healthy life with my previous nurse turned husband Stuart. The discolored skin that I still have and the irreversible profound hearing loss that I will carry through out my life will always remind me of the years I battled with TB and will also be my motivation in joining the call for timely and proper diagnosis and accessibility to quality TB care and treatment. With all the years I spent being a TB patient, I owned it as my responsibility to be involved as much as I can in TB advocacy activities. I started blogging for TB & ME, was interviewed for FighTBack magazine, and was also invited to participate in World TB Day Celebration last March at Washington DC.
As I wanted to reach drug-resistant TB patients locally, I started volunteering for speaking engagements in PMDT (Programmatic Management of Drug-resistant TB) Treatment Centers here in Metro Manila. I and my husband also got involved with the Department of Health (DOH) initiative for TB information dissemination by featuring my story in Maalaala Mo Kaya of ABS-CBN which was aired on national TV last October 12.
In the many times that I prayed to God for healing, He had answered "not yet". It could have been easy to accept that answer of God if it was only a year or two of waiting, but waiting for 10 years was a totally different thing. I would always be thankful to God that He always led me back to Him in all those times that I started to crawl away from my faith in Him and I commend Him for giving me the patience to wait for His perfect time.
God's delay never defeats His purpose. I am now able to practice my profession as an accountant alongside with being an advocate for TB to which I believe God took 10 years to mold me. And to you Lord, it is undoubtedly that "Yes" is my answer to your perfect time.
Link to MMK October 12, 2013 episode
Link to MDR-TB Patients Speak
Link to FighTBack Magazine
April 2009, celebrating my birthday together with hospital health workers
October 2013, Stuart and I together with the lead actress and actor who played our life story in Maalaala Mo Kaya of ABS-CBN