GUEST BLOGGER: Tsholofelo Hope Leballo- " Tr_th "
The road to healing takes truth and it cannot happen without u in it. So here is my truth…
In the midst of my student life, I experienced one lesson I had never thought to prepare for. I was one of those students who took part in everything – academics, leadership positions, politics, sports and a social life – until one day when I fell ill. Being the person I was then, that was just a minor hitch that was not going to stop me going about my days. After a few days of self-medication, I consulted my doctor and turned out to have bronchitis. I took the necessary medication but continued to have a bad cough, fever, fatigue, weight loss, nausea and still thinking it was a passing phase. Upon further testing, I was diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB). At the time, I didn’t have full understanding of what that entailed or what would follow.
What did follow was lots of medication, horrible side-effects and tears; that turned out to be the better part still…A few weeks into taking TB treatment, I developed an itching and burning sensation that began on my arms and would later spread all over my body. After a lot of complications, I was eventually admitted into hospital and diagnosed with Steven Johnson Syndrome (SJS). SJS is an adverse condition that affects skin and mucous membranes and occurs as a result of reaction to medication. In my case, my body was rejecting rifampicin, a component of the regular TB drugs. SJS is, to date, the most painful experience I have ever had. It is a feeling of literally burning alive and in severe cases leads to damage of organs, sight and death. I was fortunate to have a mild case that affected my lungs and my skin, which I still recall quite vividly peeling off in some parts while other parts developed scarring. As a result of the above, my TB treatment lasted for a period of 9 months and a segment of my lung was damaged, which I then had to remove through a lung operation. Today I have a chronic cough and changed skin; but I appreciate the simple gift of being able to take a deep breath without pain or discomfort and feel blessed to be alive and healthy.
As mentioned, this is an experience I had never imagined and that is one of the reasons why I share my story; to raise awareness about TB, SJS and general health, especially amongst the youth. There are a lot of things we get prepared for in life but health is hardly ever at the top of our priority list. I learnt the hard way that, without it, everything else takes a stand still. I also share a lesson that my experience taught me, that sometimes there is pain and suffering that subsists beyond any medical interference. With me it came from feelings of failure, constant anxiety about my health, feeling less whole after my operation and less attractive after my skin condition. I spent a lot of time after my treatment still hiding under all of it.
Today I carry the experience and especially the marks with pride and I share my wish for every woman out there to stop putting so much pressure on themselves to look a certain away, and learn to fall in love with their body and their overall wellbeing.
To those who are ill, healing takes a strength that I did not always have but when I decided to have a positive attitude, healing became much easier.
To those feeling “flawed” or “unhealthy”, embrace yourself and deal with whatever it is proactively and in a manner that does not allow it to have power over who you are.
To my family and friends and others out there, God bless you for your support and may you continue to support those affected.
To everyone who gets to read this, I invite you take this journey with me…
Hold onto hope and always remember that you are beautiful.
FB: Tsholofelo Leballo