Gemma first became ill at the beginning of 2009 at the age of 23.
“My first symptom was weight loss – at first I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t till I had lost a stone that I went to the doctor. By this point I was feeling like it was somewhat out of control and I didn’t like it. I also suffered from terrible night sweats
“Once I had taken notice of the night sweats and weight loss, it was another few months before I noticed that I was feeling incredibly fatigued, it was like having the flu but with none of the pain. I could sleep for 13 hours a night, and would still need a nap in the afternoon! “
Although TB was discussed and suspected at her first visit to the doctor, it took six months from the referral from her GP until she was started on anti-TB medication. “In the interim they were convinced it was cancer, and many other nasty sounding diseases “ says Gemma. After numerous tests, she was treated by the professor of medicine at St Georges Hospital for TB of the kidney.
Gemma has always lived in South London, and although she’s done a little travelling she has no idea how she picked up TB, however it is suspected she may have first picked it up at school.
“When I found out I had TB I was actually relieved! By that point I felt so awful I just wanted answers, it was awful not knowing.”
The start of treatment was particularly tough, as she still felt ill and lethargic, plus was feeling ill from the medication, with the nausea the worst part. Her treatment lasted six months.
Gemma’s family were very supportive of her during this time, but others found it more difficult. She found that no matter how much she explained to people it was not contagious at that point, it still had a lot of stigma surrounding it.
“At the worst point of my TB I was completely fed up, but too tired to be angry at it anymore! It was a bad time, for me and everyone around me. If I look at photos of me and my family at that point, I’m not the only one who looks ill! It was incredibly tough, but has made me a stronger person. “
“Today I am absolutely fine; following my treatment I started running to gain back some of the muscle loss from the result of being ill. Since then I have even completed the London marathon and a number of half marathons.”