Mark Agana was healthy, sporty, and never thought of being vulnerable to any medical problems until one day in September 2014 when he felt weak, lost his appetite, and had an unusual hard cough which lasted for a few weeks. At first, he was in denial of suffering from any serious condition until these symptoms took a toll on his overall health.

Trying to figure out what was happening back then, he decided to visit The Medical City hospital in Ortigas and underwent a series of consultations and lab tests. After a few days, the results came back and he found out that he was positive of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB), a disease that affects the lungs.

He felt terrible after knowing his diagnosis but still decided to ignore the results and observe his condition for another week. As a result, he suffered from pneumonia and had to be admitted so he could receive the proper treatment. He was then prescribed antibiotics for both pneumonia and TB, which the latter had to be treated in the next six months.

After taking the prescribed anti-TB medicines for three months, his condition became better and he started to feel healthy again and do the things that used to do – travel, sports, and exercise.

However, as he suddenly stopped his medications without any professional advice and never underwent further tests to see if he’s completely cured of TB, the disease struck back months after. And this time, it had more serious complications.

In February of 2016, he started noticing that his lymph nodes were growing bigger and becoming more visible. He was having fevers again, weight loss, fatigue, and night sweats – the same symptoms he felt when he was diagnosed of PTB back in 2014.

So, he decided to visit a health facility in Manila to undergo further tests as he was afraid that his TB might have come back. Unfortunately, the results came out and he was diagnosed of lymphadenitis, an offshoot of TB that affects the lymph nodes.

After his diagnosis, he decided to go back to his hometown in South Cotabato so he could receive the proper treatment. For the second time, he needed to take anti-TB medicines and had to endure early morning check-ups at the TB DOTS center in Koronadal City Health Center so he could receive daily dose of streptomycin, an antibiotic used to treat a number of bacterial infections including TB.

This is where he met fellow TB patients and was able to mingle with them. This eye-opening experience allowed him to see the capacity and quality of health care system in the country.

“It was a very rewarding experience to learn more about TB and the stigma in the society that prevents the effective detection of TB cases in the Philippines,” Mark said.

Now that he’s finally TB free, he wants everyone to realize that anybody can be susceptible of TB especially if one does not pay attention to his lung health. He also now uses his voice to advocate for easy access to screening and treatment facilities especially in the rural communities.

“I learned that everyone is vulnerable to acquire TB when exposed to the bacteria. Even athletic and healthy people can get infected. I learned to access treatment and care and not be ashamed of having TB,” he added.

Now that Mark is part of the TB survivor advocates of TBFreePH, he aims to reach a wider audience and talk about TB from a male perspective and raise awareness about dangers of self-medication.

 

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