My name is Patience Moshidi known as Matseleng.
I grew up in Lebowakgomo in what is considered to be an average middle class family. I am the third born child of the seven children from the same father and mother. My father and mother have been working since the 70’s as educators and they are both still alive. I attended primary school where my mother worked as a teacher since grade 1 until I moved to Lebowakgomo to complete my primary and secondary education. I continued with my tertiary studies at Vanderbijlpark where I completed my Diploma. I started working in 2006 as a Financial Administrator in Nelspruit.
I came across TB in 2010 while still working as a financial administrator. I started noticing that something was wrong when suddenly my stomach was getting swollen and kept on growing within a period of three weeks. Other signs included a loss of appetite especially for meat, excessive occasional night sweats, tiredness, weight loss, vomiting and fever. As a result thereof I then visited the private doctor and was later (after undergoing several tests through a General surgeon) diagnosed with Abdominal TB.
It was difficult to figure out how I contracted TB. I was not commuting with a public transport and had lived in a suburb. Surprisingly enough, the person I stayed with at the time did not have the disease at all. My weight had deteriorated from 65kg to 59kg when I started TB treatment with the government clinic.
Three months after taking the treatment, I still showed no signs of improvement even though I was taking the treatment properly as prescribed by the doctor. Six months passed and there was still no change in my health. Fortunately, it was during the time when Government had approved that all non-pulmonary TB patients should be treated to the extended period of nine months instead of the initial six months treatment period. Again my health did not change even after the offered treatment extension of nine months and my weight was now at 46kg.
During all this time going in and out of hospital I was still at work, carrying out my normal duties which resulted in my leave days being exhausted. Eventually I started seeking further help with the private health care doctors. They added another two months treatment but this time with the boost of TB injection daily for the entire two months. In the process they discovered that I had abcesses in my chest and later in my abdomen. All were removed on different occasions by undergoing operation. A lymph node sample was taken through the laparotomy operation which confirmed MDR-TB. After 15 months of being on TB treatment, I was finally diagnosed with MDR-TB, whereby I had to be transferred to SANTA hospital in Barberton Mpumalanga for six months.
Subsequently I was given sick leave for a period of six months. The experience terrified me in the two weeks spent at the hospital. I literally cried myself out because of poor treatment from the health professionals; it made me feel as if I had brought this deadly disease upon myself. The poor conditions in the ward, including rusty equipment and abysmal food, lack of doctors and a shortage of pills made me protest that I be discharged to be cured at home in a clean and healthy environment.
After six months of sick leave I returned to work. I must say that treatment for this condition is extremely difficult. It was very difficult to cope at work with the side effects of the medication especially the cramping of feet due to the pain from the injection, but I had to endure six months of the painful injection and two years of MDR-TB treatment until I finish the course.
During this process of the sickness, I have experienced stigmatisation and being rejected by colleagues, nurses and community because of my low weight and general weakness in my body. The experience has made me realise the importance of information – without knowledge one can easily perish. This agitated the need to give back by helping others who are going through this experience, to share light and educate about the disease and how to conquer challenges of the disease until they finally find their way back to their life purpose.
I lost every memory of my physical structure; I kept arguing with friends and family comparing myself with those who were known to be slim, seeing myself bigger than them against all odds, even if it was evident that I had lost too much weight. Personally I have seen the hand of God in the process. I could also not have made it without the LOVE received from my friends and especially my family. Above All, I came out strong and alive. I am a diamond.
Remember that your strength to fight the disease is inside you, don’t look around. You may be stigmatised, rejected or ill-treated by friends, colleagues, family, health workers and communities. It’s a phase that you have to go through in the journey to your recovery. It was never meant to kill you; like a season it will pass.
The first thing here is to ADAPT to the life changes that comes with the disease, because the quicker you accept the quicker you heal.
Aquire knowledge about the disease from well-informed health workers, research about the disease and interact with other people suffering the same disease – most importantly, look up to the people who have overcome the disease against all odds. Look at Mandela; he was in his old years and in prison. Don’t you see that this is a hero’s disease?
So get up and fight the hero’s fight. Trust me, you will emerge stronger.
LET THE DIAMOND SHINE!