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What Men Should Know

I survived TB, so can you

Sonwabiso Gugu Mdingazwe from Eastern Cape didn’t know much about TB before contracting it. Sonwabiso didn’t think he would ever contract it because of a lack of information around the disease. He shares his story.

Before contracting it, did you know what TB was?

I had an idea of what TB was but I had never thought much about it in detail. I had heard of people who had TB in my community, some stayed in the hospital, took treatment for 6 months, but never paid much attention to it. I never gave it much thought because for some reason I never thought I’d ever contract it, this can be cited to lack of information. Another reason I think caused this is that even if someone died of TB, it was never disclosed even on the funeral day they’d just say so and so died of chest complications or poisoning.

When and how did you find out you had TB?

It was in 2008 when I was working in a warehouse in Centurion. (It is next to a dam), for December holidays we closed and I came back home in the Eastern Cape as everyone does. Mid-December, I started to have flu which got serious near the end of that month so much that I went to a local doctor on the advice of my family on the 29th of December. The doctor checked me and told me in passing that I might have TB. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the resources to test me so I just got flu medication and went home.

The “flu” got better a bit as I was taking the doctor’s prescribed medicine. My problems started Mid-January the following year after I finished my medicine, the “flu” got worse. I started to lose my appetite, I had night sweating that was also out of control and I was coughing non-stop. I tried over-the-counter medication but nothing worked. I lost a lot weight, I couldn’t eat anything with fat and any sweet foods. I lost so much weight that by the time I went to the Doctor, I was less than 40 kgs. That is when I was diagnosed with Pulmonary TB. I received intense counselling about what TB is and what was to follow.

What was the first thing that went through your mind when you found out?

Two things first came to mind; death and relief that at least now I know what I am dealing with and I will treat specifically what I am sick with.

Please tell us about the treatment process.

The treatment process was not an easy journey but with determination, I was able to take the pills for the prescribed period. For the first two weeks, I was required to take the medication at the clinic so they could monitor my progress. So, every day I would go to the clinic before 10am to take the medication. When the two weeks was up, I was then given pills to take at home and was required to come back to the clinic every month.

The side effects of taking the treatment included me over eating. Fortunately, I was staying with people who had stayed with someone who was on TB treatment so they understood this. The other side effect was that the medication change my urine and faeces to red, it was a bit scary at first, but I got used to it with time.

How are you doing now?

I am doing fine at moment and I’m taking good care of myself. The fear of contracting is there, especially now that we have COVID – 19. I’ve had minor scares which turned out to be just flu.

What advice would you give someone who just found out they have TB?

Don’t give up and don’t lose your will to live. TB may be one of the diseases with a high death rate, but it’s curable and you can survive it, I did. Don’t walk this path alone, family and friends’ support is important on this journey so if you can, please include them, share what you are going through with them so that they can know how to help and be there for you. Most importantly, DO NOT stop or default on your treatment as it gets even harder to treat a defaulter.