Zolelwa Sifumba

Hello.. my name is Zolelwa.

I’m currently a medical student at The University of Cape Town and contracted TB while doing clinical rotations in hospitals in Cape Town. In October 2012 I was diagnosed with Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis Lymphadenitis and was to get through 18-24 months of treatment.

Going through treatment was a nightmare. I had side effects daily – nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and insomnia, as well as a darkness that came over me, a deep depression, which is a known side effect of treatment.

I had to endure 21 pills a day for 18 months and 6 months of daily injections that left my buttocks black and blue, causing my body to be in constant pain. Added to that was the constant fear of losing my hearing, becoming psychotic or the failure of my kidneys or liver (amongst many others).

I went through daily suffering from isolation and minimal support from loved ones, confusion of whether I would return to medicine as a career, side effects of treatment (present and expected) and the prospect of my life ending at the age of 22 from an ancient illness that I’d contracted from being exposed to it in the career path that I’d chosen. It was hell – a daily dose of it.

Fortunately, 18 months later I pulled through and now share my story all over the world in the hope that it will educate many and motivate people to protect themselves and their loved ones from TB and support loved ones suffering from it. I carry the title of occupational MDR TB Survivor & Activist – I’m proof that TB can be beaten!

I also carry the message that, as health care workers, we should not be expected to work under such hostile conditions; our healthcare system needs to support us is by minimising our risks of contracting TB within the workplace. We also need better drugs that will not cause us to be ill or suffer from such harsh side effects. We need CHANGE!

Let us all protect ourselves from contracting TB. The stigma attached to TB must fall!

Having TB and taking treatment for it is a battle. Never let anyone minimise your daily struggle toward health; it is hard and if you are struggling, please do not hesitate to ask for help, particularly from those who are beating it or have beat it – their advice and support are the only reason I made it through.
DO NOT GIVE UP. It is very easy to give up, I know that very well, but I’m here to tell you that as hard as the journey is, it is one that you can complete. TB can be beaten – we are a living testimony to that!

Read Zoey’s blog here.