When Jade October from Kuils River, Cape Town, met her biological dad again after 18 years, she didn’t realise her life would change drastically.
The 19-year-old was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) in September 2018 after she visited her biological dad, Elroy October, when he was in hospital. Elroy suffered from TB and died from the disease in April of that year.
After experiencing a persistent fever and chronic cough, doctors at Melomed Bellville Private Hospital diagnosed the second-year criminology student with the infectious disease.
On Sunday, 24 March, also world TB day, the ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher completed her last round of medication and is feeling positive about her recovery.
Despite the stigma around the disease, Jade, who recently joined the organisation TBproof, has decided to share her journey with TB to bring awareness to the debilitating disease.
Here’s her story:
“I’m a 19-year-old female, a daughter, sister and partner. I’m also a teacher and student who contracted pulmonary TB.
In April 2018 I lost my biological father, whom I never had contact with for 18 years of my life, to my TB.
In the final stages of his life, I went to visit him at the hospital and this is how I contracted the disease. Because I wasn’t educated about what TB and its symptoms were, I lived with a disease which I had no clue about for months.
Many days I felt weak but I kept pushing. I completed my first semester of studies, I worked two jobs as per usual but deep down I knew something wasn’t right.
My energy levels were low and I had terrible symptoms which only became worse.
In September 2018 due to chronic coughing and three misdiagnoses I was sent by my GP to have an X-ray performed.
The results were handed to me and because of my curiosity I opened it and the closing statement ended in “features highly suspicious for P TB”.
I remember crying for that entire day because of my fear that my life would be taken from me.
I was too ashamed to share my story, not even with those closest to me because I feared the stigma that would be placed on me.
I started my treatment later that month and in the beginning, I took six tablets daily for two months.
It was an unforgettable experience. Many mornings I sobbed because of the struggle I faced to digest the medication, I struggled to eat, I was so weak I slept for hours and hours on end.
Many days I found myself bent over the toilet seat unable to stomach a meal. I just had one thing in mind: to never allow others to see my struggle.
My family was my greatest support system, my partner pushed me to believe that I could conquer my TB.
After two months my medication was reduced to three pills a day. Good and bad days came, there were times my partner would beg me to take just one more bite of my food, so I could gain energy.
This journey left me with two decisions: either you become a victim of your circumstance or you soldier through your battle.
I decided that even if my story just changed the mindset of one person, educated just one person it would be worth sharing.
There’s hope, it’s curable and you can maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
In the words of TB advocate, Dr Zolelwa Sifumba ‘TB makes us all a demographic, as it lives in the air and anyone can breathe it in, so speak your truth as you never know who you could be helping.’
My name is Jade October and I’m a TB survivor.”
Image credit: Supplied