Nazhira – Peru

Nazhira and her mother, long ago abandoned by Nazhira’s father, moved to Lima when Nazhira was two and her mother needed treatment for cervical cancer. As Nazhira’s mother earns just 5 USD a day cleaning a hostel, they had to stay in a room with her mother’ friends, one of whom had recently started treatment for tuberculosis (TB). When Nazhira was four, her mother brought her to the health center, and then hospital, noticing she was losing weight and had no appetite. They recommended that she start treatment for TB. Her mother, sad and guilty, worried that, “by coming to Lima for cancer treatment, I made my daughter sick.”

The medications affected Nazhira terribly, causing nausea and vomiting. Her doctor exchanged the pills for syrup, which tasted terrible. Her mother had to play games with Nazhira to convince her to take her treatment. Nazhira was almost halfway through her first-line treatment when the friend with whom they’d been living was confirmed to have multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). Nazhira’s doctors wisely recommended changing Nazhira’s treatment to second-line drugs.

This meant that all the time, effort and pain spent on the previous treatment had been in vain—Nazhira and her mother would have to start again from scratch. Making matters worse, two days later, Nazhira’s mother was also diagnosed with TB and hospitalized. With no other family, Nazhira was placed in the care of the sisters of the church. Nazhira was suffering not just from this unfamiliar environment, but also from her new treatment. For a long time, she cried with each painful injection.

But soon Nazhira was reunited with her mother, who told her that the treatment would help her be, “healthy and beautiful [so she could become] a model.” She began to accept the shots better. Now, in her sixth month of treatment, she feels much better, has gained weight and is very excited by the prospect of beginning school.

Story Collected by: Cynthia Pinedo, Carmen Contreras and Leonid Lecca (Partners In Health)