Through My Sickness

I have heard people say that “sickness can change one’s life.” I experienced that myself when I was diagnosed with lymph node tuberculosis, a non-contagious, localized type of TB that is so debilitating that it had altered my lifestyle completely.

In 2005, I was on cloud nine when my pregnancy reports came back positive. Everyone at home was so excited to hear the news! However, those happy days were suddenly transformed into days of despair when I noticed a small lump below my jaw line. The doctor suspected TB but said that I was not a candidate for treatment, since I was pregnant and strong medicines could harm the developing baby. All this devastated me! Once the test confirmed that it was TB, I was put on a course of mild medications and the lump subsided by the time my daughter was born.

I was pregnant and strong medicines could harm the developing baby.

I thought I had recovered, but it soon relapsed and I was back on medication. At the time, the presence or absence of the lump was the only obvious indicator of my illness. However, after a couple of months of the disease being in remission, I noticed that the lump was back again and was growing bigger. I decided to consult a TB specialist since I was worried that I had been going through this for over a year without complete relief despite being on strong and expensive medications.

Even though lymph-node TB is considered non-contagious, I was worried for my daughter, who was just a year old, and for my other family members as well. I was afraid they might contract the disease.

Fast forward to 2010—Five years after the onset of this disease, I was still without a cure. I felt miserable! I had started to consult a very good doctor who specialized in TB treatment. He felt my disease was drug resistant and so he had put me on a combination of high-end drugs and injections to combat the infection. He suggested that I undergo minor surgery to have my lump removed, which had by then grown to almost the size of a golf ball. This would reduce the disease load and make treatment more effective.

Five years after the onset of this disease, I was still without a cure.

I did have surgery, but the medicines were very strong for my weak body. Traveling to the office had become a nightmare; I experienced nausea, tremors, and loss of appetite. Furthermore, my hair, which I had adored, was starting to fall off. Such were the side effects! The pressure of working, taking care of my daughter, and managing household chores was so overwhelming that I almost decided to quit the job that I had treasured so much for over a decade.

I discussed my situation with my supervisor, who granted me a "paid medical leave for a few months," even though I had only requested a “leave of absence for a couple of months” to recuperate.

That grace period allowed me to recuperate from this illness.

If you are going through the roller coaster ride that is chronic illness, know you are not alone. We don’t always understand why we go through difficult times. They are often emotionally trying as well as physically trying times. If you are going through a time of illness or suffering, please do not hesitate to write in to one of our mentors to talk about it. All conversations are strictly confidential.

Photo Credit Annie Spratt