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What Getting TB At 26 Taught Me About Life

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Who will marry me? Who will marry my siblings? Why should I not talk about it? Is it because I am a woman?

These were my next worries. It was the year 2009 when I was battling one of India’s most dreaded diseases – tuberculosis (TB).

I, for the longest time, didn’t want to share my story with anyone. I had begun to consider TB as my dead past. I didn’t even want a mention of TB in my future – only because, as a woman, I didn’t want to lead a lonely life.

Why do we fear society so much? Especially when society rarely comes to our rescue? We have to fight our own battles – alone.

Yes, I am a TB Survivor. I had TB when I was 26.

Every year around Diwali I start coughing. Spending these days in long queues at my local doctor’s clinic was my yearly routine.

In November 2008, I again developed a persistent cough which needed immediate attention. When I consulted my local doctor, he declared me allergic to sweets and fried food. It disheartened me as I knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Diwali, this time around as well. Despite that, I followed my doctor’s advice. I took the prescribed medicines and got rid of my cough, for a while.

After a few days, the cough returned and this time it was accompanied by low-grade fever. When I re-visited my doctor, I was surprisingly held culpable for not taking medicine on time. He marked some fields in the form and asked me to visit the imaging centre, the next day.

Looking at my x-ray the next day, my doctor turned pale. I was immediately referred to a specialist who assured me on the grounds that it wasn’t cancer, after all. Just TB. I was confused. Was I supposed to be happy because it isn’t cancer or shed tears because it’s TB? I went with the latter and burst into tears. The specialist recommended further tests to confirm the diagnosis and indeed I had extra-pulmonary TB.

I was worried and asked the specialist whether I would be infecting my family with it. He made it clear that my TB was non-infectious. He further added that pulmonary TB is infectious whereas extra-pulmonary is not.

I started with the treatment under the specialist’s observation. Every morning my father, administered the first dose of TB medicine. Different slots of the day were allocated for other TB pills. And just like that life became a process of managing TB medication.

A week into the treatment, side effects from the medicines made my life miserable. I started vomiting and had a constant uneasiness in my stomach. I contacted my doctor, who altered my dosage. Every 15 days I was asked to get a blood test, to keep a check on my liver.

In a short span though, my body adapted to the TB medication and I started leading a somewhat regular life. I was told that I would be TB free in nine months and began looking forward to that. I was misled.

After 10 months of medication, a bulge was found on the right side of my chest wall. I brought it to the notice of my doctor who recommended a surgery. Meanwhile, I continued with my medication under the specialist’s observation for two more months.

A few days later, when he saw my reports he was surprised. “The glands have enlarged,” he said. “What does that mean?” I asked. “It is not cured.” He said those heart-wrenching words looking at my dad. He scribbled something on a notepad and just like that I was referred to another doctor and another hospital.

Next day, Zarir F. Udwadia, India’s leading chest physician, looked through my papers, in a fastidious manner. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “There are only four drugs for treating TB and they still couldn’t use them properly.”

He made changes in the course of my medication and asked me to get another test in order to determine which strain of TB I had. Soon, my strain was promoted to Multidrug-resistant TB or MDR TB. I was on treatment again with injections for the next two years.

Every three months, I had to visit him with my x-ray and blood tests. I was responding to the second line treatment well. I felt better and became hopeful again. And in 2011, I was declared TB free.

My TB journey was not very difficult. At least, I don’t think so. All thanks to my family, especially my father who financed the treatment. The only thing I had to endure was the physical pain which is a side effect of the treatment. Another side effect that I had to endure was acne. Other than these, nobody around me could tell that I was fighting a dangerous disease.

That said though, TB did disrupt my life at multiple levels. It made everything awry. I had a plan like everyone else – get married by 26; have babies by 29, and see them grow for rest of my life. But dealing with TB taught me a few lessons. I realised that I was craving for an easy life with no difficulties. Surviving TB turned out to be the best teacher for me as I learnt that pain is the only way to grow.

TB is curable. Let us collectively fight against it. The right diagnosis, proper treatment and the much-needed awareness about it are necessary to defeat TB. Fight against TB, not those affected.

Ms Keyuri Bhanushali is an accountant turned copywriter and is now leading a fulfilling life after seven years of MDR TB treatment.

Survivors Against TB is a community-led movement which is fighting towards strengthening India’s fight against tuberculosis (TB). This article is a part of a campaign on TB and stigma. While India is home to the highest burden of TB cases, awareness remains poor and stigma widespread. In extreme cases, it also leads to discrimination at workplaces and schools, social isolation and neglect. Why is it that in India, where one Indian dies of TB every minute, we discriminate against this disease? How do you address a disease when you cannot talk about it or admit that you have it? The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the detrimental effect of stigma on TB patients. Stay tuned to know more.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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