Vanessa’s Story From Snohomish County, Washington, U.S.A

Chest pains and throwing up were two nasty side effects that 19-year old Vanessa encountered when she took medication to treat her latent TB. Diagnosed in 2012,  she dealt with negative side effects from the TB drugs for four long months.  She acknowledges the positive support of her mother, TB doctors and nurses for getting her through this challenging treatment. Witnessing the stigmatization of TB in Kenya where she spent her early years, Vanessa  believes it is crucial to stop the shunning of persons with TB and that this can be accomplished with greater TB education here in the Northwest and around the globe.

In Vanessa’s words…

“I think the relationship you have with your doctor and also the social support system is important. My mom was really supportive and telling me that it is fine.

Doctors here have a way of talking to patients, and making you feel like, “okay we can do this.” But in Kenya, you have to do this by yourself. You feel like you are alone. That is why people get scared in Kenya. But here I meet the doctor every month, I can call my doctor to tell her how I’m doing. That makes me feel like I have a relationship with the doctor. Like we are going through this together. If you’re sick, it is you and the doctor, not just you by yourself.”

“You have to ask questions. You have to tell your doctor and nurses what you are going through and just speak up, so you can get the information.

It was hard in the beginning to just have to hide the fact you are taking TB medications because of the stigma that goes on with having to deal with TB.

The first 2 weeks of taking the TB medication were kind of hard because I was throwing up and then I had chest pains. I had to go to the clinic to just figure out if I should stop taking it or have me be on a weaker version of the drug because I was in the 4-month TB medication. So I decided to just keep going on it, and then it got better.

Don’t be so scared of TB. I think the stigma is not helping to those people who have to go through the treatment and everything, so if we can just get rid of the stigma and just educate people more.”