Mar 6, 2013


I woke up three-hundred and seventeen days ago on my twenty-fifth birthday and I had my own plans. I would go to the dentist and prove to be cavity-free. I would head in to work and be greeted by balloons or banners. I would head over to our main hospital to present my giant thesis to the world and stand there as people gave me complements, right? All day I'd hear "Happy Birthday!" and "Oh congratulations on your research!" 

Instead (after being cavity-free of course) I got to work and heard "your tuberculosis test came back positive. It appears you have converted. Please call back immediately, we'll need to see you at the main hospital as soon as possible."

Not exactly "Happy Birthday."

So I called and I gathered my things and I headed to Shreveport: for my research presentation and for my tuberculosis. I spent the day running from waiting rooms to exam rooms to my presentation and back to the waiting rooms, back to the presentation and then to get a chest x-ray.  I was late to my own birthday dinner on account of there being a backup in radiology. Not exactly what I had planned...

But I was lucky, I really do have a rock hard immune system and I was very proud of its hard work. Turns out I was exposed to tuberculosis some time in the previous year. My immune system was strong enough to fight the TB, but unlike many other 'germs' immune systems can't kill tuberculosis. They can only trap TB, like a burglar in a prison. I was never contagious, they called it LTBI or Latent Tuberculosis Infection. The hard part about LTBI is that (although I wasn't sick then) later in life if my immune system were to get weak for any reason the TB could prison break and I'd be as contagious as Fantine, Doc Holiday, and Satine (crazy how many people in movies have TB).

And that's where the treatment came in. Isoniazid is prescribed for LTBI, they say it kills off the TB for good. No escaping later in life, no worries. Only worries would be the side effects of 9 months of medication that work over your liver. Or going once a month to the Health Unit to get checked when the contagious TB folks didn't want to put their masks on. Or the fact that Isoniazid causes crazy fatigue and sore muscles like you've run a marathon when you just jogged for 15 minutes

They gave me one bottle at time. They checked my liver at almost every visit because I begged them to. For two-hundred and sixty-six days I have taken my 'tb pill' every night. I once even had to drive two hours back to my house to get my medicine when I took off for the weekend to Louisiana without it once. Nine bottles of thirty pills each; that's two-hundred and seventy pills. I saved every empty bottle.

But this week we are celebrating.

There is only one bottle left. This week, I finish all my pills, all of them. I have them counted down to the very last one. After tonight I will have only four left. Sunday will be the last one. And I will be truly celebrating.

It may not seem like much. I'm sure you know people who are battling incurable diseases, who are having surgery after surgery, who have disabilities they may never be able to overcome. I know those people too. But this time, even though it was very small, it happened to me. I have been tired, so tired for the last 266 days. When I wake up my body aches and my mind races to worry if today is the day my liver will start failing. I have tried numerous times to workout, to be healthy, but every time there is surely more pain than gain. Just this Saturday I 'worked out' by playing Just Dance for fifteen minutes; on Monday morning my arms felt like someone had stabbed right through them, I could barely lift them. Apparently lactic acid metabolism is something that's pretty crucial to survival, even if Isoniazid doesn't quite allow it.

So I know I have not overcome something you would consider a major tragedy or a deathly illness, but I'm celebrating anyway. Because next week I don't have tuberculosis, I don't have to travel with my medicine, and I can run for more than 5 minutes without regretting it for the next week.

I'm celebrating. Because I was exposed to a disease that killed 592 Americans last year and kills about 990,000 people in the world every year, and I lived. I had doctors and I had medicine. And so many people are not that lucky, they would have loved to have this medicine.

The Lord has been so good to me. He is so good to teach me to stop and realize how much I need Him, and how much he loves me, and how much I have to be thankful for. How in control he is, even when things seem hard or unfair. And maybe I'll need to know that later on, maybe I'm learning just a bit ahead of the curve.

It's hard to explain the excitement and the anticipation of what I will feel like next week. What it will feel like to wake up without Isoniazid attacking my sweet little energy-processing mitochondria (nerdspeak for cells). 

Just so happens Spring Break is right around the corner. It's our very first Hess vacation where neither of us has to work (yes, including our honeymoon... crazy, I know). And so I can sleep in, and I can run around, and we can take a road trip. And I couldn't have asked God for better timing. It's like I get to celebrate with an entire trip of fun with that wonderful husband of mine (who, for the record, has gotten me out of bed and off to work on more than one occasion in the last nine months when my body felt like an undercooked brownie).

I'm celebrating. And I'm trying to make sure I remember. God told the Israelites to setup stones and write on their doorposts and tell their children of the great things He had done for them. So they would remember. So I took it upon myself to paint.

And that painting is going to hang in our hallway to remind us of how God was faithful. How I had plans of my own, how I had what I thought were the very best expectations. And how even a call on my twenty-fifth birthday to tell me I had tuberculosis, it couldn't stop my God from being faithful. For He had bigger plans than mine.

This painting is just the first of many frames to line our hallway. I want to frame and remember the times God is good and provides for us even when the world may not see it looking in. And when our someday-children ask us why our walls are so full of frames, why we have so many pictures in the hallway, we'll point to each frame and tell them our stories of how good the Lord is.

Feel free to celebrate with me, maybe we'll see if they can make it an official holiday.  Happy Last Week of TB Medicine (for me)! Enjoy, and of course be on the lookout for a blonde Louisianian dancing a jig on Sunday... because it'll probably be me :)

1 comment:

  1. What a great story! I'm proud of you!

    Your father-in-law


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...