Give more mothers like Diane a story that ends with hope

Published: May 8, 2024

Categories: Advocacy | Effect Hope News | Leprosy | Neglected Tropical Diseases

Before Diane’s illness, life was peaceful. She had nine children, a good marriage, and a thriving restaurant business that helped support her family financially. Then, everything changed. 

Diane first discovered patches on her skin while she was pregnant. Not knowing what it was, she brought her concern to some of the women in her community. They told her she must be using too much body lotion. 

Diane’s skin did not improve, however, and she started to notice other unexplained symptoms. While giving birth, she realized that she didn’t have sensation in some parts of her body. She also had wounds on her hands but could not feel any pain.  

Diane knew something was wrong. She went to many hospitals, but no one was able to diagnose her. “I spent all my money looking for a solution,” she said.  

Despite her health concerns, Diane continued working to support her family and keep her business afloat. This is the reality for many mothers who struggle with NTDs. Looking for treatment options can take time, often keeping the person away from their family. It can also be expensive and strain family finances, even if they have a good income. 

Eventually, Diane found a medical professional who diagnosed her with leprosy and gave her the proper medication to treat it. “It’s good that I found the disease,” said Diane, “but my life was turned upside down again because it’s one of the most stigmatizing diseases in the world.” 

During this time, Diane struggled to eat and sleep. She also experienced discrimination and social exclusion due to her illness. “It was horrible,” she said. “I fell into depression and lost my taste for life. I was afraid of being rejected by my family.” 

 Part of Diane’s fear came from her desire to protect her family’s health. She worried that living with her family while being ill increased the risk that one of her children would get leprosy from her.  

 Although leprosy is not as easily transmitted as commonly thought, Diane’s fears reflect the experience of many affected by NTDs, especially mothers. Sometimes family and friends reject loved ones with NTDs because they are afraid of getting the disease as well. This can tear mothers away from their children or, in some cases, they might be abandoned by their spouse. This often puts mothers in the difficult position of trying to provide for their children while ill, without a support system, and with almost no opportunities for employment to generate income due to their illness. 

 Amidst all these fears, Diane made the difficult decision to leave her family and stay in the hospital for her 12-month treatment. In the hospital, away from her family, Diane struggled with loneliness. Looking forward to her children’s visits helped her through. “It was a very difficult time in my life,” she said. “My children gave me the strength to live.”  

 When Diane’s year-long treatment ended, she had no business left and, although her children supported her, all her friends had deserted her. She also struggled emotionally with what she had experienced and lost due to her health. Because of this she chose to stay in the post-cure village where others affected by leprosy live together.  

 “Here, in the village, we understand each other better because the village belongs to the leprosy patients,” Diane said. “But, given the duration of the disease, I had lost everything.” After already overcoming so much, Diane had to begin the journey of building a business again from scratch. 

 That’s when the Restore Project, an initiative Effect Hope supports alongside partners like Leprosy Relief Canada and Hope Commission International, came into her life. 

 Diane had started a new business selling juice, but her freezer was very old. This restricted her ability to grow her business the way she wanted to. With support from the Restore Project, she bought a new freezer and a stock of juice. This helped to increase her profits. With this extra profit, and support from her children, she invested in a new fridge to continue to grow her business.  

 Now, Diane’s business is going strong. She has expanded her inventory to sell water and ice as well. “My goal is to increase my initial capital,” she says. “I plan to invest in other projects because I want to restore the financial level that I had before my illness.”  

 After all her struggles, Diane is finally happy and healthy. Now that her business is growing, she can save money to support her children and give them better educational opportunities. Although her path wasn’t easy, Diane can now look forward to the future with hope. 

This Mother’s Day, give more mothers like Diane a story that ends with hope.  

 Your gift can help a mother struggling with an NTD find treatment quickly, get mental health support, and reduce fear so she can stay with her family, heal, and thrive. 

 

 

 

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