I am a trained architect and urban designer from MIT. After working all around the globe, I came back to be of value to my own country, to design and plan cities in India.
A little more than two years ago, though, while living in Mumbai, I went to get a mild cough examined. The examination didn’t go so well.
More tests revealed tuberculosis.
On further investigation, they realized that it was multi-drug resistant tuberculosis- a type where the normal course of treatment has no effect.
The treatment for MDR-TB is more like that of cancer.
I was put on extremely harsh medicines. For the first 6 months, I took injections every day. My other medicines continued for 2 years.
2 years doesn’t sound like a long time. But it is. Every day taking medicines you know will make you feel sick and more miserable because of the massive side effects was an uphill battle. I had to deal with unforeseen unbearable side effects like intense pain, nausea, fatigue, fear of losing my hearing, constant vertigo and physical discomfort.
Every day and every moment was a struggle.
Things took a turn for the worse about a year into the treatment.
I developed what is referred to as a neurotoxic brain, a side of effect of the toxic medicines I was taking.
Essentially I lost control of my own brain.
It started with pretty harmless symptoms like losing focus, fuzziness, generally being slow.
However, with time it escalated to hallucinations (yes- Televisions and radios were talking to me), anxiety attacks, constant crying, depression, an acute sense of hopelessness and ultimately suicidal tendencies. Rational thoughts were replaced with thoughts of anxiety, sadness, fear and suicide.
People who know me will tell you how unlike me that is. On some level, I knew that too.
When my parents and doctors realized what was going on- panic set in.
All my medication was stopped for a few days. My brain was allowed to rest. The honeymoon though didn’t last too long. With modifications to my medicines, I was put back on them. My body had to get used to them again. It was a cycle of regularly throwing up for a while. It was the toughest thing I have ever done in my life. There were many days when I almost gave up. My medicines and I had staring matches of sorts. Somehow I managed to continue taking them.
My family, especially my mother had a huge role in the process. Their continuous encouragement is one of the main reasons I didn’t give up.
With time, even though my medicines didn’t stop, I managed to retain some iota of a life. I went back to working almost full time and exercised regularly.
Prayer, faith and daily discipline kept me going- a real testament to the resilience human beings are capable of.
We all are.
In 2013, the year I fell sick- 9 million people around the globe became sick with tuberculosis and 1.5 million died.
Out of the 480,000 people who developed MDR-TB, 210,000 didn’t make it.
I was one of the lucky ones.
I was blessed with the most efficient and experienced medical team one could have, along with the most supportive and encouraging group of family and friends. My superiors at work made the journey a lot easier. I had no responsibilities and family to support. My entire focus was on getting well.
Not everyone has that luxury. People who generally contract this disease have trouble putting two square meals together.
My treatment ended after 24 months in August 2015.
I am free from tuberculosis, multi drug resistant tuberculosis.
But so many still suffer. We still lose so many people to this disease. MDR TB is, in my opinion, one of the largest public health threats that exist and it’s not going away anytime soon.
– Priyanka Kapoor