On August 24, 2010 I tested positive for TB.
What happened after that would change my life forever. (dramatic but true).
My routine physical exam involved a PPT test. This was what tested positive. My chest x-rays were negative, meaning was just a carrier of TB, not sick at all and fairly common.
Because in America we have all but conquered TB, and because I tested negative the year before, it was determined that somewhere along the lines of being in Chinese hospitals and holding non-vaccinated Chinese babies in 2009/2010, I came across someone with full-blown TB, they snotted on me, and the germies got inside my body.
Not cool when you have to turn health forms into your new university (who has given you a full scholarship) 2 weeks later.
For normal patients in America latent TB is no big deal - just take some pills with some nasty side affects and move on. But things were different for me because in less than two weeks I was to return to my home on the other side of the world, leaving me to deal with monthly refills and blood tests in a health care system vastly different than my own and all the while speaking a foreign language.
Part of the shindig with Isoniazid (my pills) was that I was not allowed caffeine or alcohol for 6 months.
REPEAT: I HAVE NOT HAD CAFFEINE OR ALCOHOL FOR 6 MONTHS.
I can't believe I still walk upright.
I can honestly say that a positive TB test was one of the most formative things in my life so far. Getting latent TB has changed my life. Having TB has focused me, made me grow up quite a bit, and disciplined me. My social life has done a 180, I used to spend every weekend in the bar, dancing my brains out and chatting with fair-weather friends. I probably spent more money on margaritas than food.
I used to be a severe caffeine addict. I've been known to drink 8-10 diet cokes a day. I did this for years. I had tried to give up diet coke before but it never stuck more than a month or so. I always went back to the bubbly beverage of happiness and aspartame whenever I got sad. Diet coke made me happy. But this time, health was on the line. When someone tells you, "don't drink caffeine or your heart will explode and if your heart explodes, you have to explain it to a Chinese doctor," there is a sudden burst of motivation that was lacking during previous quitting attempts.
When I moved into my dorm, a few of the girls living here were excited because, "loud, fun Jessica" was moving in. But to their chagrin, loud, fun Jessica was exhausted every night by 10 because she didn't drink caffeine anymore and was not going to be joining them at the club because she didn't drink alcohol either. Talk about a serious change in persona.
It's been a big deal in my soul. It hasn't been an easy road, but it has been a formative one. I feel more stable, my emotions have been less up and down and I feel victorious over caffeine addiction.
For the past 6 months I've drank 15rmb bottles of Perrier at Chinese Starbucks because they don't serve decaf coffee here. Seriously, so many aspects of social life revolve around either caffeine or alc. It's especially hard in China where drinking with someone is a sign of respect. I have offended many Chinese people at dinner parties who were unaware of my situation when I politely refused their wish to cheers me. It's been such an experience in discipline to completely block these things out of my life and focus on taking my pills everyday.
And let's not even talk about the weird side affects - but they involve a lot of bodily fluids.
But none of that matters anymore because today I took my last pills.
Done. Donzo. Hao le. Game over.
It was very anti-climatic actually, because today was my first day of classes. There was just so much more on my mind that I barely noticed the pill bottle was empty.
This afternoon I reflected a bit on the experience. I've been in and out of the Red Cross hospital TB ward, stood in line while farmers bartered for their meds, seen positive TB charts strung on the wall while the patients cut me in line, had under the table blood tests done every month for free by my best Chinese friends, been told I'm too fat to take blood out of my arm, sat in the ICU waiting for people to finish surgery on infants so they could take my blood, worn an awesome monkey face mask, seen suffering and pain in the TB unit, and been exposed to the inner dealings of health care in China in a personal and real way that would not have been possible if I was not "sick." I truly believe that this was a small situation that has prepared me for something bigger later on in life.
According to my doctor friends, I can have caffeine tomorrow. Thursday I have my final blood test at the hospital and on Friday if all goes as planned I am allowed to have alcohol if I so desire.
It's cool to see how my care was set up long before any of this was reality. Who knew that my BFF's in China would be doctors and that I would get a job in a hospital the semester that I had to take these pills? Divine providence right there, people. It alls falls under a master plan and a reminder that sometimes the big man upstairs works in dramatic and attention-getting ways.
Tomorrow I have a Starbucks date after classes. And I'm not ordering a Perrier. It's gonna be a Venti Mochachinochoco-lovin. And I'm gonna get a refill. And then go shake in convulsions in the corner. haha. Or not. Maybe I'll get a tall. You know, because it's cheaper.
So anyways, that's over. Whewwww. Put it in the life experience box and treasure it. All this reminds me of some of my favorite words in the Bible, "And it came to pass..." haha, I love that. It came to pass. It's always how the Gospels start stories and it is just so cool. It came and it passed. It came TO pass. Awesome.
Now time for some homework that definitely came to pass. I'll go hit the books, you go think of 3 things you are thankful for, starting with something health related...kapeesh?
walk slow. xoxo.