Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Decision By Bagel

Could a baked good have the power and influence, in making a critical life and death decision? To be fair, the particular bagel I am making reference to, is a great bagel. It cannot be found in a Starbucks or in the frozen section of the grocery store. It is baked fresh every day. It is definitely a great bagel. And after this morning, I am one step closer to making one of the more important decisions of my life, whether to get the Covid19 vaccine or not.

What? What does a bagel have to do with the vaccine? Why not just flip a coin if I am that uncertain? I assure you, the decision is not as easy as a flip. First things first.

I am not an anti-vaxxer. And while my initial support of the vaccine process was suspect at best, because of the processes in time that were not followed, it is clear, the vaccines that have been approved or approved for emergency use authorization (EUA), do have an impact on getting of top of, and staying on top of the Covid19 crisis. Also, understanding that the vaccine is not about preventing infection from the virus, the vaccine is about preventing the extreme effects of the virus, those that result in a higher likelihood of hospitalization or death. This is the thought process of someone not treating this pandemic as political or conspiratorial. This is dealing with facts.

I am immunocompromised. My spleen was removed in 1989 as part of the staging for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I learned early on, way before Covid19, I was more susceptible to viruses and other illnesses. I check off most of the other boxes to the susceptibility of the Covid19 virus. I have cardiac and pulmonary issues related to my treatments for my cancer over 30 years ago. I am also diabetic, and overweight (though not obese).

So, when the warnings came out from the scientists, because of my exposure and medical knowledge, I knew I had to take the warnings and precautions seriously. I could not afford to be affected by the smoke and mirror of politics and false choices being hurled through the television and social media.

Lastly, the warnings from my doctors were clear. “Do not get Covid19.” One went as far as to say, “with your issues, it will kill you.” So to be clear, I have taking this crisis seriously from day one. I made decisions that were difficult, such as making arrangements whether to have my children visit, health care, and such, even participating in court proceedings in reference to the Covid19 crisis, all with the mitigation recommendations and warnings in mind.

But you know what I did not do? I did not make it political. I did not make it about vanity. I did not make it a false argument over loss of freedom and liberty. For me, the science was clear. The exploding statistics did not lie. And I did it without being “ordered to do it,” which made it a lot easier. More importantly, the decisions that I made, impacted only me, and my loved ones. Check that, it also impacted others that I might come in contact with, because the care I was taking for myself, was also going to benefit others.

A meme came across my news feed recently. I am not posting it here, because it really is stupid, inflammatory, and completely erroneous in its bravado. But the commentary reads, “444 days without a mask, never tested, with no vaccine, no social distancing and no fear… we are still alive and all our people are still alive too.” And then refers to everyone who did follow the mitigations as “suckers.” The person who posted this, I know personally, and yes, while I know and disagree with their position, the meme definitely does not apply to him. I know for a fact that several in his circle were diagnosed with Covid19, including one death. I do not know if he himself or his family have had it, nor do I think he would ever publicly admit it if he did. But for him to post that meme, is pure bullshit.

Off my soapbox. The vaccine. I believe the vaccine does what it has been studied to do. We are still waiting for other studies to be completed, but for the purposes of saving lives, it appears Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson have products that will do just that. Statistics of success are adding up exponentially. And yes, while the concerns over long term side effects, something I personally deal with from my cancer treatments, it will not matter if you get Covid19 and die just because you did not get the vaccine.

For me, my reluctance at this point has been simple, and based on a condition with my body that I was made aware of a decade ago. When it was discovered that my body was dealing with issues related to my cancer treatments over thirty years ago, one of the studies done, was on titers, in other words, the ability of my body to fight illnesses, especially through vaccines. Three of the illnesses tested were influenza, pneumonia, and menningitis. To be clear, there are three illnesses, but within those illnesses, there are multiple types and strains. So, in determining titers, in other words, how strong your antibody response is, the tests are divided by types and such. In my initial case, I showed no ability to fight most of the types and strains of all three. That was kind of expected. But this was not what was expected. When I was given the vaccines following that determination, and then followed up with titer testing, I still was not registering much response with antibodies for the flu, pneumonia, or menningitis. This was not good. Boosters, additional doses of the vaccines were given and followed up with titer testing. I finally had a response to the flu, and a minimal response for menningitis, and nothing yet for pneumonia. Finally, a third booster would give me the response necessary for menningitis, and finally, only minimally at least, a response for pneumonia. One more booster for pneumonia that year, and I finally achieved immunity with most types of pneumonia (ironically, I did end up with pneumonia later that year, but not caused by a virus, rather, aspirating reflux, a different post is needed to explain that one).

But now you can see my dilemma. I know how my body reacts, or rather, does not react to vaccines. And there are many other fellow long term survivors in similar shoes as me. And up til this point, I have delayed getting the vaccine, on the simple fact, there have been no studies on boosters, which I am 99% certain I will need, no protocol on how/when to administer them and will they be safe.

One odd thing I do not give much weight to, is the fact, that if I would proceed with the vaccine, I would not allow it to give me the false sense of security that it worked. In other words, I would still follow all the mitigation precautions. The vaccine in just the two doses will not give me the ability to do as so many others are able to do now, walk around confidently that they will not get sick enough from Covid19 to end up hospitalized or dead. Keep in mind, with the vaccine, you can still contract Covid19 as many are finding out. The vaccine simply prevents the extreme situations of hospitalizations and deaths. I now know several people, who have had Covid19, had antibodies, got vaccinated, and then tested positive again. But the vaccine has done its job, preventing the extreme effects.

So, what does this have to do with a bagel? For several months now, I have been easing back into exposure, still following mitigation recommendations, masks and distancing. And one of the things I have been doing, is going to the bagel shop on Saturdays. And I have been noticing as time goes on, people and their behaviors as they have changed over the months, as our country gets a grip on Covid19. Plastic barriers between workers and customers are now gone, and so is mask wearing, probably close to 95%. In fairness, I live in Florida, where there has been much controversy over the willingness to cooperate with mitigation and collections of actual statistics, and massive amounts of denial of reality.

So while nationally, Covid19 numbers had gone down, they are starting to creep back up. We have seen this pattern before at least twice, and definitely through other countries. And living in a state that probably 65% of the residents deny or refuse to accept precautions, and a highly more contagious and lethal strain of Covid19 increasing cases nationally, this is a concern. It is not a concern for those who have been vaccinated as it has been determined the vaccine does protect against the variants just as it does the original strain.

But while we live in an “honor system,” people not wearing masks assumed to be vaccinated (you know what happens when you “assume”, you make an “ass out of u and me), and worse, those who still deny or treat the situation as political. And as I cannot tell at least by just looking at someone if I am safe around them, I have two choices I can make. I am already doing so, and plan on continuing to do so, follow the recommendations. I do not care about the stares and glares I get. Not one of those looking at me gives two shits about me living or dying. I have to do what I have to do, and the decisions I make, affect no one. Even better, for the ones who claim they lose their freedoms and liberties, I call bullshit on that too. Because with the exception of going to a movie, and long distance travel, I am doing everything I was doing before Covid19. I am still free. I still have my liberties.

The other choice, I am one step closer to making, and yes, it was because of this morning’s bagel. Years ago, when I first met with my doctor and we talked about my “luck” with not getting the vaccines, he compared my streak with that of someone in a casino. At the time, I was 18 years out from my cancer, so that meant 18 years I had not gotten a flu vaccine. That is when I got this speech. “So, you are familiar with a casino. And it does not matter if you are playing slots or cards or whatever. Let’s say you win 18 straight. Do you really know for sure that your luck is going to continue, especially letting it ride? How many more hands do you think you can get before you bust?”

Well, I am at that stage again. All of the facts are there in front of me. The vaccine works. In Florida, there are two types of people and they react differently to the facts. And then the state itself is not exactly transparent with its facts and statistics. There is an expression when it comes to Casinos, the games favor the house. The odds are not in the favor of the player. I know that, which is one reason I can be in a casino, and not have one itch to play. But with as much as I have on the line, finally getting to a stage in my life, I never thought I would get the chance to see, my daughters grow up, this decision continues to grow in importance.

I will get the vaccine, it is just a matter of when the time is best for me to do so. All I am asking for is one more detail, a booster protocol. In the meantime, I am doing what I have done with every other virus outbreak, learning to function with it. And if that means wearing a mask longer, social distancing, and washing my hands (seriously? We needed to be told to do this? Are people not going to do this anymore now that people are not following protocols? Ew!), I can do just that. And while it has no functional impact on you, it is to your benefit as well as my own that I do continue these protocols.

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