Girl Tribe Gang’s #Determination&Disability series helps to raise awareness of women with a disability who work for themselves.
The feature is led by GTG’s Disability Champion, Kirsty Meredith, who speaks with women who work for themselves to get the low down on what life is really like running their own business, and living with a disability.
In this blog, Kirsty chats to Viktorija from London, founder of Your Change Story, who shares her story of overcoming tuberculosis.
I was born and raised in Lithuania (a small country in Eastern Europe) and graduated with an English BA in 2007 (only 7 months after being treated for TB). My close relationship with my family has made a huge impact on my recovery. It helped me stay positive, happy and focused.
In 2011 I moved to London and created a life for myself. It has not been easy to live away from my loved ones but it also taught me independence and shown me that life is what you make of it. Today I am happy, engaged, a home owner and while I’m still working my 9-5, I am trying to make a difference for those who had similar experiences to myself.
Going through TB, struggling with anxiety and digestive system problems has taught me and is still teaching me patience, self-love, appreciation and belief in yourself.
KM: Hello Viktorija, thank you for getting in contact and agreeing to feature on a blog post. Firstly, could you tell us a bit more about your business and where it all started?
V: Hello Kirsty, thank you for agreeing to feature me in one of your blog posts. I always wanted to be able to share my story with the world but never felt like people would care.
Back in 2006 I was diagnosed with lung tuberculosis and was in a complete shock, as I believed this illness didn’t exist anymore. Almost a decade later, I’ve noticed that physical pain and emotional changes are affecting my life and that all of this is stemming from my encounter with TB.
Two years ago I realised that even if my story would help one person, I wanted to share it. I spotted a healthy recipe post on social media, which inspired me to create my page Your Change Story and finally my decision to become a health coach.
I acquired my diploma in 2018 and I am currently building my brand from scratch. Aside from all the things I am planning to build, my proudest moment to date is the ability to tell the world that I had TB and I am not embarrassed by it.
KM: Tell us about your disability and how it affects you in your business?
V: I wouldn’t call lung tuberculosis a disability, but rather a respiratory illness with various outcomes.
Having gone through tuberculosis treatment I have experienced a lot of internal shame, anxiety and physical pain. This has not only made me try harder when looking after myself but also helped me realise that I have a responsibility in showing others that it is possible to fully recover and create something positive from something so destructive.
KM: How do you overcome challenges you face with your illness?
Personally, I have few things that I constantly have to work on.
First, is my physical health. Things like gym, running and specific breathing exercises really help with my physical pain (which although is occasional and not constant it still creates quite a lot of discomfort). In addition to movement, I also try and eat healthy and avoid foods and habits that might sabotage my overall health.
For my mental health, which is probably the most difficult part, I read self-help books, write and share my thoughts with others, go to therapy and take my personal time and rest, very seriously.
KM: Why is it important to raise awareness for TB?
After I left hospital many moons ago, my biggest concern was going to public places (for fear that I will catch it again) and telling people what illness I had.
For quite a few years, only my closest friends and family knew that I had TB. I was embarrassed to tell people that I had an illness that to this day is considered to be a problem of the past. TB is commonly thought to only happen to those living in extreme poverty or unhygienic conditions.
I believe that it is important to help others understand that TB is a very real illness even in today’s society. That it can still happen to anyone. That thousands of people still get exposed to it and have to go through extended and gruelling treatments.
I want to help people understand that it is not just a case of taking medication and being in isolation; it affects your body, your mind and emotional wellbeing.
It is important to understand the connections between all three areas and help those who are struggling, during or after recovery.
KM: What advice would you give to anyone who has overcome TB and is thinking of starting a business?
To those who have overcome TB, I would like to say that there are many people who have gone through the same experience.
It takes a lot of courage and work with yourself to accept that your respiratory system is not the same anymore, and that your body needs to be treated with more respect than before.
I would also tell people going through TB to be patient when finding your peace. This kind of experience is turbulent and can affect you emotionally; feelings of shame when telling people you have TB or fears about going back to the world after spending months in isolation.
My advice for those who have overcome TB and are planning to start a business is to put your health first! Don’t compromise on your sleep, diet, exercise or mental health.
Take care of yourself, address issues you might have and stay focused on your goal! If you have all these areas covered, everything else will follow.