Sunday 6 October 2019

Why I'm an advocate for the flu vaccine

In 2014 I contracted the flu. My immune was still down from chemotherapy, and I stupidly, completely forgot to get the flu vaccine. This was probably one of the biggest regrets of my life. You see what most people consider "the flu" is a mere cold. We are prone in Ireland to believe that the flu is quite common, we use the word nearly in every day life to mean we are feeling unwell. We think common colds, when bad, is the flu. Not everyone will even contract the flu in their entire life. Because of this, we have downgraded the virus in our society, the lines are blurred.

I was on a high finishing treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma, ready to get my life back on track with college and work. I wasn’t thinking about the flu, or the flu vaccine, or anything medical at all.

In 2014 I contracted the flu. I thought cancer was bad enough, I thought Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and my comorbid disabilities were bad enough ...but I was about to find out how unwell I could actually get. Weeks of delirious shaking and sweating and sleeping eventually subsided. Eventually I could stand up without falling over, eventually I could speak properly.
Unfortunately it wasn't the end. The flu left and exhaustion remained, gathering speed. I slept for 20 hours some days, sometimes whole days with no break in between, quickly trying to eat a sandwich before I knocked out again, my (now) husband trying to shake me awake. I could hear his voice but I was completely paralysed, trying to scream through the numb body I found myself trapped in. It was terrifying and doctors had no answers. Good days were few and far between. Eventually it was put to me that I had developed post infection ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) but there was still no help from medical professionals.

In 2014 I developed the flu. A lot of the two years after is a blur. Gradually, so so gradually, I could feel some of the effects subside. I knew myself that sometimes these symptoms, when caused by infection, can get better with time. No magic cures, no special diet, just plain old basic luck. Nowadays I only have phases of falling unconscious asleep, usually a few days a month, sometimes I get away with once every two months. On top of that I have normal fatigue expected with my other health conditions. I’m still trying to build back muscle I lost while having spent so much time asleep, and being disabled on top of this doesn't help.

For this and for so, so many reasons, I am a strong advocate for vaccines, including the flu vaccine. There is a lot of misinformation out there that needs to be fought. And while you may not have ever had the actual flu in your life (as it's rarer than you think -a bad cold is not the flu), consider who you meet and sit beside every day who may appreciate you being vaccinated. Those going through cancer, those with low immunity especially those who cannot get vaccinated, your pregnant friend, or their new born baby, your elderly parent or neighbour. Let's not play devils advocate when the answer to saving someone's life could be €20 and 20 minutes of your time. If you have the medical card, and a chronic condition such as asthma, or if you are caring for someone, you may be entitled to the vaccine completely free of charge in Ireland. Speak to you local pharmacist or GP for all the correct information.

I did this for me, I did this for you
#forjudeforeveryone #forcian #fordad 🖤

• For information on receiving the flu vaccine in Ireland:

• For information about ME:
And for ME support group:

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