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How I Found Out I Have Tuberculosis At 25

Disclaimer: Some contents in this post are potentially disgusting and/or sensitive to read as I talk about how I discovered my current health condition. Please consider before you continue reading.

10:00 AM – I woke up… no, not to the sound of the alarm but to the heat inside my room. I realized it was almost noon time and that explains the very hot weather. I immediately went downstairs and head straight to the sink. I cleared my throat, ahem. Then I noticed that the discharge was different – a tiny and frothy blood-streaked phlegm.

Seeing blood can be worrisome but I didn’t panic when I first saw it because I recently started wearing braces for my teeth. I assumed that the blood could be caused by some bleeding in my gums while I was asleep. But then the next day, it happened again. And then on the third day. On the fourth. Until it reached one week. The blood only came up when I clear my throat every morning. So I started asking friends who wore braces before if they experienced the same. I learned that they had but never for seven straight days! And that begins my road to anxiety.

I convinced myself that I will be fine and that I didn’t need to see a doctor. I never consulted the mind of Mr. Google because it will worsen my anxiety, and I was almost certain that if I started researching I’ll end up reading about cancer. But I did it anyway. And boy, was I right.

I was already terrified, but in the back of my mind, I also wanted to understand what’s going on with my body. I spent hours in front of the computer screen, opened hundreds of tabs, and read different articles, blogs, and forums… then BOOM! Everything led to either lung or throat cancer. As a person who goes to the worst the case scenario, my anxiety level skyrocketed! It was almost unbearable. I disliked the person I was becoming. I was being paranoid. I’d open Google if I feel anything unusual in my body.

When I realized the possibility of cancer, I eagerly researched to find a natural remedy to cure myself. I am not the type of person who takes medicine when I’m sick. I try to avoid them as much as possible and rely on my body to heal itself. My efforts did not go in vain. I found natural remedies and dedicated my time to prepare them every single day. I also started being more gentle on my body. Eventually, the blood went away for weeks. It was long enough for me to forget it happened in the first place.

And then it came back…

This time around there was more blood discharge and it would come up at any time of day, not just in the morning. There were times that I’d cough up a teaspoon of blood. I took the same natural remedy but it didn’t stop anymore. It went on for two weeks. Because I am hard-headed, I still didn’t want to see a doctor. I convinced myself that I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine… until I am not.

When I finally went to a doctor, my first diagnosis was I had tonsilitis. One of my tonsils was swollen. I was advised to resist the urge to forcefully clear my throat after I wake up or any time of day because it could lead to bleeding in my throat. But… my doctor was not satisfied with his findings. He was worried about how thin I was. Never in my entire life was I worried because this has been my body size. My doctor advised me to have a chest x-ray.

The next day I went to a medical diagnostic center. I got my x-ray result after a few hours of waiting. Then I went straight to my doctor’s clinic. On my way, I stopped walking for a few minutes to accommodate my curious mind. I needed to know the result before handing it over to my doctor. I took the x-ray result from the envelope it was in. I was absolutely confident because all my previous x-rays were normal. When I finally read the result, it said that there were suspicious densities in my left upper lung. I was confused because it wasn’t the usual finding in my x-ray result. But I didn’t bother maybe because I didn’t understand what it was.

The remark from my x-ray result was what surprised me a lot. It said, “apicolordotic view was suggested.” My heart was beating a mile a minute. What on earth is this? I was rushing to ask Mr. Google what it meant. I did quick research but I didn’t understand what I was reading anymore. I was very disoriented. I was afraid that it might be something expensive like a CT Scan or MRI. I was concerned about the suggestion instead of the result. In my head, I was already shouting, “No, no, this can’t happen. I’m saving up for an upcoming trip and I can’t and don’t want to cancel it!” I already programmed my mind to join the trip because my friend and I planned it for almost a year and it was already canceled once. Canceling it again would be heart-wrenching.

Anyway, I finally arrived at my doctor’s clinic. During my follow up check-up, he hanged my x-ray film into a film viewer. He showed me the white portion on my left upper lung. It was an indication of an infection. Basically, the air in our lungs appears as the dark shadows in the x-ray film. Anything denser than air will appear white.

There was a big, imaginary question mark in my face when my doctor informed me that I have tuberculosis. I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t know what to feel. I’m the most cautious person I know and I got this disease??? Tuberculosis never occurred to me because I didn’t have excessive coughing. I would just clear my throat both as a habit and an urge because I felt something’s in my throat. I also thought that tuberculosis can only affect smokers. But this is a misconception.

I was in a state of denial for a few weeks. Every time someone opened up about my health condition, I’d just dismiss it by telling them it’s no big deal. “At least it’s not cancer,” it’s what I always say. It was my initial reaction in dealing with this disease. Until one night, I remember I broke down in my room when it finally sank in that I have tuberculosis. I talked to God and asked him with a shaking voice, “Why? Why me?” I do not have a definite answer to my question yet, but I have learned to understand and accept why this happened to me. I chose not to live in the shadows and that is why I am writing this piece. My story is only one of the millions of tuberculosis cases in the world.

As much as I do not want to take medicine, I have to. Thankfully, I have to only complete a six-month course of treatment for tuberculosis. I am now in my fourth month, and I am looking forward to the day when I can finally say that I came out on the other side.