"In November 2008, at the age of 26, I developed a persistent cough which needed immediate attention. When I consulted my local doctor, he declared me allergic to sweets and fried food."

Keyuri Bhanushali Copywriter, MDR TB Survivor

In November 2008, at the age of 26, I developed a persistent cough which needed immediate attention. When I consulted my local doctor, he declared me allergic to sweets and fried food. I followed his advice, 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.

I remember my doctor turning pale as he looked at my x-ray. I was immediately referred to a specialist who assured me that it wasn’t cancer, after all. Just TB. The specialist recommended further tests to confirm the diagnosis and indeed I tested positive for TB.

I was worried and asked the specialist whether I would be infecting my family with it. He made it clear that my TB, being extra-pulmonary, was non-infectious. I started with the treatment under the specialist’s observation. 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.

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 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.” Just like that I was referred to another doctor and another hospital.

Next day, Zarir F. Udwadia, India’s leading chest physician, went through my file, 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 my medication ordered a few more tests. 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. Admittedly, my TB journey was not very difficult. 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 on multiple levels. I had a plan like everyone else – get married by 26; have babies by 29 and watch them grow for the rest of my life. All of that went awry. But dealing with TB taught me a few lessons. I realised that I was craving 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. We must fight against TB, not those affected by it.