Tuberculosis. A word that is so powerful that it shakes up people’s lives.
What is Tuberculosis or TB and why does it make everyone so scared and weak? What defines the condition, also makes it special and gives it power? No one speaks about it.
India has 2.2 million cases of TB, and yet patients find themselves lonely. Wonder how I know all this? I had tuberculosis. Not just the normal form, but the form where only a few medicines work on you.
It hit me when I was at the peak of my life. I was just finishing my studies, working hard as ever, keeping myself fit, being productive and fueling my ambitions.
Then, I fell sick and had a fever. Ignoring what was happening, I kept going. But things didn’t go well – chest pains started, I lost my appetite and weight, the fever kept rising, and finally, we had to undergo some tests. I was then, diagnosed with tuberculosis.
I was shocked and taken by surprise. I was absolutely fit and healthy apart from just falling sick recently. How did it get here? In contrast, my doctor was completely normal and said it was just normal tuberculosis and that a lot of people get it. His response made me realize how common it was to have tuberculosis and I made my peace with it.
It did not stop there, my condition kept getting worsened despite the medication, and within a few months we realized it was not just tuberculosis – it was extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis.
The problem wasn’t contained in the physical aspect. It affected me mentally. I had to park my dreams and ambitions and didn’t think my life would be ever the same again. At 21, I was not ready for this.
Depression and TB are rarely spoken of in tandem. It’s always about taking your medicines on time and not missing doses. But that isn’t the end of it.
The medicines are strong, have a lot of side effects, and you’re supposed to take these medicines ranging from a minimum of six months to two to three years or more, depending on your condition.
Imagine not being able to share what you’re going through, hiding and living in the shadows, not talking about your condition to anyone and popping pills every day in silence.
This brings us to the golden question – why don’t people talk about TB?
It’s a clear and straightforward answer – it has too many myths around it. Some of the most common ones are:
1. Tuberculosis only happens to poor people.
2. It happens to people who are weak and unhealthy.
3. Tuberculosis makes you untouchable, and you cannot be around someone who has it.
4. You can’t eat with them or use anything that they might have touched.
5. If a patient coughs around you, you’re going to be infected, and hence they should be isolated.
Tuberculosis for a girl is an added nightmare to the things that they already go through. Some of the most common myths around this are:
1. Don’t marry a girl with TB. She might not be able to be an ideal wife.
2. She won’t be able to conceive a child.
3. She wouldn’t be able to take care of you. If she’s had it before, she can get it again.
These myths are the basic reason for all the stigma and isolation, which makes tuberculosis the silent killer. You would be surprised to know the number of people that walk around you every day and are going through this dreaded condition without having the ability to even speak about it because they are afraid of losing their jobs, breaking their marriages, being excluded from society and worst – made felt like an outcast.
The first step to solving a problem is accepting it and speaking about it. Tuberculosis has been around for years, and India has had the highest number of cases.
The single most important step to be taken is to normalize TB as any other disease or problem and debunk the myths that surround it. Empower people with the right information and help others speak about this condition.
If we don’t start tackling this problem right now, the future will be bleak.