Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Inject First, Ask Questions Later

The expression actually goes “shoot first, ask questions later.” But I did not want to raise any flares on my post other than what my intentions were meant for, in regard to the Covid19 vaccine. But the expression, whether “shoot” or “inject,” both apply.

As always, I want to stress my support for the current options with the three vaccines for Covid19. I also happen to hold the position, that in spite of my compromised immune system and health vulnerabilities that make me a prime candidate for the vaccine, I am delaying getting the vaccine, as I wait for data (there is currently none), on the effects and risks of the vaccine with people in my health situation. I have written before all the different questions that I have, that have not been answered, in recent previous posts. But two events have come up recently, that have actually added to those questions. I am waiting to hear back from one of the individuals before I write about that one particular situation, but the other situation, I will talk about, is something that fellow long term Hodgkin’s survivors like me, know all too well. It is up to us to share what we have learned, because in many cases, doctors just do not know.

Among my questions about the vaccine: what are the potential effects of the vaccine, such as drawing down our immune system?, and will two doses be enough and if not, how many boosters can be given, and will it be safe?

But now a new situation has come up.

Back when I was employed, I had to undergo annual health surveillance (a physical) at work. This included a test for TB (tuberculosis). This was typically done in May. At the same time, I suffered with spring allergies that would result in an oil based steroid injection that I normally got in June. For years, this was my process. One year however, the surveillance ran late into June, and I had gotten my allergy shot prior to the exams and TB test. Unlike prior years, my TB test came back positive this time. I knew that I did not have TB, so this was going to be treated as a potential “false positive,” meaning a chest x-ray would need to be done to confirm that I did not have TB.

Unbeknownst to me, and without the work physician knowing that I had gotten the shot, and without me communicating with my family doctor that I was going to be TB tested, this “diagnosis” was destined to happen. Eventually I was cleared, and from that point on, I learned to make sure I had the health surveillance done prior to getting the allergy shot.

For cancer patients and survivors, our bodies have been changed physiologically, forever. Our bodies will react differently. Because of the nature of vaccines, to activate our immune systems to produce antibodies, there are concerns for patients in active cancer treatments, but a recent communication from a fellow survivor, reveals that even routine bloodwork was impacted enough following the first dose of the vaccine, to produce false diagnostics to be further looked into, not to mention, send someone’s stress levels through the roof. I know I speak for all cancer survivors, the last thing any of us want to be told, is that we have something additional we must deal with.

A fellow survivor had some bloodwork done, I am not sure of the reason why (it is not relevant anyway). It was done a week after receiving her second dose of a Covid19 vaccine. Results of their WBC (white blood cell count) had jumped 55% from the last result. An elevated WBC can indicate any number of things, from an infection (as simple as a cold or the most serious infection), a result of stress, or as many cancer survivors know first hand, a potential for a diagnosis of cancer.

The high result sent this survivor not only into a major concern, but was then subjected to a whole collection of tests and scans, even a biopsy, all based on that elevated number. These things would have been unnecessary had her medical team considered the vaccine response and the possible effects on bloodwork. In fact, a PET scan which is used for staging cancer patients, lit up like a Christmas tree, but more importantly, it showed that it was the vaccine as the cause for the results.

The good news is, the WBC returned to its normal levels, and of course, there was no further diagnosis. Yes, there was gratitude for the good news. But clearly, the lack of communication, the lack of knowledge, the lack of taking all things into consideration, had the potential to cause mistakes, at the least, a lot of unnecessary stress.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon situation for those of us long term cancer survivors. Just like the rush of these Covid19 vaccines, and again, I support them and believe in them, the research has not been completed. Just like for survivors like me 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago. Medicine is just catching up to us now and the late side effects from our treatments back then.

But in the meantime, we long term survivors, and patients, must be our own best advocates and make medical professionals aware of all of our circumstances when it comes to our care, whether we think the circumstances are related or not. Let the doctors determine if the issues are relevant. But they can only do that, if they know it. And that at the least, falls on each and every one of us.

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