Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Got TB

Six months before I found out I'm positive, I was diagnosed with TB adenitis. It started with a persistent dry cough that has not been going for a month. I went to several doctors, and took different antibiotics. But the dry cough didn't resolve. I even had high fever one time. The fever went away, but the cough persisted. One day, I noticed a lymph node on my neck. I was a bit paranoid, so I immediately consulted an EENT. He said it was an infection. I asked what caused the infection. He just said, many factors. He didn't like to expound, so I stopped asking. He prescribed antibiotics. But the lymph node didn't heal. It got even bigger. After three weeks, my doctor asked me to have a CT scan then recommended an Incision & Drainage procedure, a minor outpatient surgery to remove the abscess that was causing the swelling of the lymph node. I got scared, coz that was the first time I was put in an operating room. The procedure took only 45 minutes. Then, I said, finally... it's done. This lymph node is gone. I then had breakfast in a nearby restaurant right after the surgery, then went home. 

After 2 weeks, I noticed the wound was not healing, and there were still a few small nodes that can only be noticed when touched. I tried to go back to my EENT, but he was on a long vacation. I went to another EENT accredited by my HMO. He examined if I had polyps in my nose, then advised me also to go to a pulmonologist. He said that lymph nodes are sometimes caused by TB, so I better see a pulmonologist. So I saw a pulmonologist. I had my X-ray done. I tried to read about TB. What I read scared me. TB on the lymph node (also called extra-pulmonary TB or ePTB, or TB adenitis) is caused by the same bacteria that is causing TB in the lungs. But only people with low immune system are the ones that normally get ePTB. In some countries, it is common practice by doctors to advise patients with ePTB to also undergo HIV testing. With this knowledge, I saw my pulmonologist, hoping that he wouldn't ask me to have an HIV testing. I had my HIV testing in 2006, and God knows how scared and stressed I was while waiting for the result. It was a week of sleepless nights because during that time, HIV test result takes one week to come out. I didn’t know if I have the courage to go through that ordeal once more.

So, I saw my pulmonologist. He asked me to have my X-ray and PDP skin test, and fortunately (I thought), he didn’t ask for an HIV test. My X-ray result came out. PDP skin test showed positive result, but my lungs were cleared from any infection based on the X-ray. So, my pulmo concluded that I didn’t have a pulmonary TB, but I had an ePTB. At the back of my mind, I knew I could be HIV infected, but I didn’t discuss it with my pulmo. Then, my first EENT came back from his long vacation. As a courtesy, I showed him my PDP test and X-ray result, and told him that I’m already seeing a pulmonologist who diagnosed my illness as ePTB. My EENT said it was most likely TB. He also advised me to see an Infection Disease Specialist. I told him, I already have a pulmo who is treating my TB. He said I should still see an IDS for second opinion. Hey, the sound of Infection Disease scared me so much! I haven’t heard such a medical specialization before. Do they specialize in HIV? I feared that if I went to an IDS, he/she would definitely ask for an HIV test.

So, I just consulted my pulmo, and never saw an IDS. I thought a pulmo is also a medical doctor anyway. And my pulmo assured me that whether it’s pulmonary or ePTB, the medication is the same. I was prescribed with 4 tablets of Quadtab (a combination of 4 antibiotics in one tablet) which I had to take for 2 months. After that, he would change my antibiotics to 2 tablets of Rimactazid (a combination of 2 antibiotics) which I have to take for another 4 months. Wow, TB treatment will take 6 months long! One good news though was I didn’t have to stop working since ePTB is non-contagious. At this time, I was already losing some weight, which my pulmo also attributed to my TB.

Ok, I took my medicines religiously. After 2 months, my lymph nodes were all gone, and the surgery incision healed. I started to work out again at Fitness First. Finally, after months of TB medication, I’m gonna have my life back. In a few months, I can go to the bars again and drink. I looked forward to be sick-free and be normal again. I already started going to the gym. I started going to a bar, without drinking alcohol. I even went to a beach with my friends for summer. Yes, I’m having a normal life again! Until one day....