Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

To Get The Shot Or Not

It is that time of year again, flu season.  And for many of us, we have a choice to make.  Do we get a shot to prevent getting the flu?  Or do we take a chance on not getting the flu or the shot?

The decision is an individual one, and for any number of reasons.  And it is not to be taken lightly.  First, I want to emphasize, I am not “anti-vax”.  I believe in getting the vaccine’s we had as children and perhaps optionally some of the vaccines considered today.  The problem for me is always going to be, have the long term side effects been studied on the vaccine?

If you follow my blog, you know this is a major issue for me.  Long term side effects.  Statistics reflect only a five year survival rate for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Clearly, I am well beyond that mark heading toward my 30th year in remission.  Long term studies were not done on exposure to extreme levels of ionized radiation or toxicity from chemotherapy because we were not supposed to live this long.  Well guess what?  We did, and many of us developed side effects later in our survivorship, that were not expected.

You need to understand something.  Vaccines are not profitable for Big Pharm.  Unlike prescriptions that can last decades, vaccines are once and done for the most part.  The pharm company gets a one-time shot (no pun intended) to its revenue.  Vaccines can be rushed to market to meet an immediate need, and you know what that means… no long term studies.  This is one reason I am adamantly opposed to the Gardasil vaccine.  Sure, I can appreciate the fact that it may prevent one type of many types of ovarian cancer, especially since I have two daughters.  But what is known about the long term effects of having received the vaccine?  A legitimate question.  I am proof of living with the unknown, and the unstudied.

But every year, flu season comes around.  A new type of flu is the current concern, requiring a different flu shot than the previous year.  And the concerning thing, the flu vaccine of the year, does not prevent all types of flu.

Also every year, my doctors, not only my primary care, emergency care, but even the doctor I trust with handling my late effects, argue with me, to get the current flu shot.  And I understand the concern.

Like Jim Henson, and many other well known celebrities who have died from complications related to a compromised immune system, I have a compromised immune system.  Mine of course is from having had my spleen removed thirty years ago as part of my diagnostic process, and of course my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  There is a definite reason that if there is a vaccine to prevent the flu, pneumonia, menningitis, etc., and we have a compromised immune system, we should get the vaccine.

The vaccine world got even more complicated when scientists discovered using “live virus” vaccines.  The two most popular uses of “live” vaccines are the flu, and shingles.  Using “live” vaccines on someone with a compromised immune system can be fatal, at the very least, complicated even to exposure to someone who had received the vaccine.

When my spleen was removed thirty years ago, I received a flu shot, and a pneumonia shot.  Since then, and only during a two year period, I received multiple boosters of pneumococcal and menningicoccal vaccines as it was determined my body could not fight those illnesses at all.  The crazy thing is, I still got pneumonia… twice in one year.  Though to be fair, it was bacterial both times, not viral.

But I received only on flu shot since thirty years ago.  In fact, I received two.

In a one week span, I had received a pneumococcal booster, the regular current flu shot, and a swine flu shot during the year we had the huge epidemic.  And that would be the last time that I received a flu shot, ever.  I ended up with extreme side effects, which literally scared those around me.  I made the decision I would never do it again.  The arguments with me to get the shots continue.  And now, they are making it even more convenient for you to get the flu shot.

Okay, maybe I am being a bit sarcastic.  And shoot me for questioning the environment and quality control of storing and receiving a flu shot in a grocery store.  But are we that far off then from convenience stores and drive thru’s?  After all, your arm is already sticking out the window.

I know the risks that I am taking.  One of my doctors put it as bluntly to me as he could, listing the many celebrities with compromised health issues and have died.  I am a soon-to-be thirty year survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, with a compromised immune system.  I have rolled sevens twenty-nine straight times.  I have had twenty-nine straight winning hands of black jack.  I have won twenty-nine straight times against the one armed bandit.  What are the odds that my luck can continue?  A compelling argument by my doctors, and combined with those that we have lost, the decision should be a no-brainer.

But at least for another year…

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2 thoughts on “To Get The Shot Or Not

  1. another survivor on said:

    You don’t seem to understand what a ‘5 year survival rate’ is.

    • I do understand. It is an unfortunately “goal line” that we use to define our success in dealing with our cancer. Others use it as an opportunity to discriminate against us.

      For me personally, as I tried to purchase health and life insurance, and was told I had to wait five years, it was not just a challenge to me, but it was a chance for me to say “fuck you” to someone who did not believe I would survive, and lost an opportunity to invest my money.
      Shoot, here I am nearly 30 years later that they could have had me as a client, instead they told me I had to wait, and I walked.
      But I do know what the five year mark is really for, from a scientific end. It is just too many use it against us. But science was guilty of it at one time as well, because they were not prepared for us to live this long.

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