Post 2: The flu shot

So I will take one more kick at the flu shot and then move on.  It’s a personal decision as to whether one gets the shot and so it should remain.  (However, and notably, one of my sisters who works in a hospital not too far from where I live informed me that it is not an option for employees at that facility, they are required to take the shot.  I have to think that there is a huge human rights violation in this stance, it just hasn’t been challenged.)

It hasn’t been hard to fill the time that I have been off – all my body wants to do is sleep.  When I am awake I try to do something that gets me out of bed and that’s not a bath, the two things I craved while I was away (my bed and tub) just don’t have the same appeal.  So over the course of the last week I thought that I would look up the product monograph for the flu shot in general to see if the warnings or contraindications had changed much over the years.

What probably surprised me most was that it wasn’t easy to locate the individual monographs. I’ve spent years doing this stuff and have a whole assortment of ways to search.  In a nutshell, going to big pharma and reading about their trade name flu shots gives you some information and generally the PR version as to why the shot is necessary. Most websites usually refer you to the product insert in the packaging for more details.  Hmm that’s not very helpful.  Even when you get the shot, the nurse or doctor doesn’t say “oh and here’s the product insert, be sure to read it.” Actually, it’s one of the few instances where you get nothing detailed. In Canada when you pick up any prescription it is always accompanied by lots of paper outlining potential contraindications.  So no product monograph on the couple of individual sites I visited.  No problem.

The information has to be available to the public and it is.  Even better, it’s nicely captured on one website:  http://www.vaccinesafety.edu/package_inserts.htm.  The list includes those pharmaceutical companies supplying this year’s product.  I’m not entirely certain what vaccine I got, because I got nothing when I had the shot, but I tend to think a GlaxoSmithKline is most likely.  Interestingly, in this instance, on this centralized site, the GSK link to a product monograph doesn’t offer up the information immediately, rather the link takes you to a request page. Anyway, lots of the others are available, read a couple of them, they are all formatted in the same manner, so after a while you can skim through them.

One common element is the following clause:

Nonclinical Toxicilogy:  Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

“TRADENAME” has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility.

This is a mandatory disclosure in Canada, and I am sure if it wasn’t big pharma would have that out of there in the blink of an eye.  Regardless, I get that it is a seasonal product and therefore long term evaluation of the effects of the specific product are problematic due to the changing composition of the vaccine. But likely there are some elements that are constant, how and in what is it suspended and preserved?  My rational mind says we are playing with fire here.  Shooting ourselves up with a vaccine that may or may not help based on a scientific guess as to what the flu will look like.  Creating a man made version of it and then hitting up half the globe with it because people are frightened of what could happen if they don’t get it.  Regardless of where we live, we all start to hear the media buzz – the stories start in September every year about how this could be the worst year ever.  Hmm, wonder who may have a special interest in getting that messaging out?  We are sheep, just a flock of sheep.  Drive us straight to the edge of the cliff and watch us fall over.

My thoughts have tormented me on this.  When did I get sucked in?  I got sucked in when Kevin got sick, I didn’t want to expose him to anything, so I got the flu shot.  I didn’t get sick while I looked after him but it had nothing to do with the shot, and everything to do with the measures we implemented and the diet we maintained.  Feet are firmly planted back on the ground, it only took this hellish experience to get me there.  Enough on this, so much more to cover relating to the cruise.

 

What came first, the cold or the cruise?

So much to write about, but where to start?  Let’s start with the flu shot.  I had a cruise booked from November 12 to 19. Out of Miami, and miraculously none of the four ports we were scheduled to stop at had been decimated by hurricanes, typhoons or other acts of God.  What a lovely thought, kicking off winter going some place warm, but I had to get there first.  That meant exposure, germs, coughing, sneezing, slimey little bacteria lurking to nab an innocent victim.

It was a bit early for the flu shot, but I tracked it down – available at a local clinic.  The clinic was open for seniors and immune compromised individuals.  I spoke to my doctor to get in and get the shot, explaining my travel plans.  Fortunately she agreed with me, I needed the flu shot, my history indicated that I don’t travel well.  Three weeks before my cruise I was in and vaccinated.  Take that, evil germs!

I got the shot on a Friday after work, by that night I was feeling awful.  My shoulder really hurt.  The next morning, full of aches and pains I decided maybe I was one of the unlucky ones to experience a more severe reaction.  Oh, well better the suffering before the cruise than on the cruise.  By the next Monday, I was okay, felt a little under the weather but got through the week.  By the next weekend I felt awful again, body aches and pains, a headache, those normal seasonal things that working in a large office exposes one to.  By the end of the week heading into the cruise I was pumped, felt great.  Ready to go, confident that I had dealt with all the stuff that I now associated with that flu shot.  It was worth it to ensure I was in optimal shape for travelling.

Itinerary:  Friday – drive to Toronto and stay overnight at the airport, Saturday – depart Toronto to Miami where we’d overnight and on Sunday pick up the cruise.  A nice leisurely, stress free, relaxed approach to getting from point A to point B.  Not without risk of germs though, flying has always been the most likely place for me to pick up something.

I was travelling with my sisters – one was healthy, one was germy, also a significant risk for obvious reasons. No fear, I had my flu shot.  I was taking immune boosters, I was going into this trip feeling good, I had this.  Nope.  By Sunday night, the first night of the cruise I started to feel awful. By Tuesday I’d lost my sense of taste and couldn’t breathe.  By Thursday, I had my taste back but had started coughing.  By the time it got to the weekend I was dreaming, or was it hallucinating, about my brass bed and my bathtub. I just wanted to be home.

I always bring some supplies with me when I travel, but nothing touched this.  The ship’s store had no supplies to speak of, and the ports we stopped in had all sorts of available medication – but I didn’t know what I needed.  I had a friend on the same cruise with me.  Thank God!  Not only did she bring stuff, but she brought essential oils to use.  Unfortunately the cough, cold, flu whatever had gripped me too fast but at least I could knock myself out with sinus medication.

So here I sit, at home just writing about this now.  Why, because it didn’t end there.  I managed to go into work the Tuesday after I got back and squeaked out the week.  By last Friday I was in the throes of a high fever, aches and pains, extreme fatigue and nausea.  I decided to stay home Monday and heal, nope got worse.  Yesterday I visit the doctor.  A miracle really, because her office was actually closed, she was doing paperwork, but they squeezed a few people in, and I was one of the lucky ones.  The result – “No point in swabbing you now,” says the doctor, “You’ve had this for a bit.  It sounds like the flu, it’s here in the community, but something else is going on there.  Sinus infection.  And to be safe let’s get a chest X-ray while you’re here.  Yes, you’re contagious until the fever goes away and the cough stops.  Bed rest, I’ll call you when I get the x-ray back.”

Today, she called me about the x-ray.  Pneumonia.  Why not?

Step up to the plate, ladies!

I am fresh back from a week long training session.  I was fortunate to tag on at the last minute and lucky enough to have a manager that is both flexible and supportive.  So off I go to a full week of women’s leadership training.  There were approximately 50 of us in attendance and we came from all over North America.  The training was local for me, so I came and went from the sessions everyday, while others stayed in the hotel.

Reflecting on my life prior to Kevin’s death, training wasn’t important to me.  I knew what my future was, it wasn’t about career, it was about retiring with him and just being and doing together-type stuff.  Take him out of the picture and things have changed dramatically.  Now I don’t know whether I will retire at my earliest possible date, I may just stay on, I just don’t know.  So when a spot came available for the training, I grabbed it.

It wasn’t a week of men-bashing, it was a week of contemplation, awareness, strategy and development.  When it began it struck me that there was a great deal of posturing in the room. That this was a collection of assertive, aggressive women.  I have worked with aggressive females before, some good experiences, some not so good.  There are those that will throw you under the bus and step on your writhing body to get ahead (but there are men like that too). Then there are those that will support you and look for ways to bring out your best.  Life is quite arbitrary in all sorts of ways, who we have to work with is usually out of our immediate control.  I think for this particular training, we all went into the week not knowing what to expect and, let’s face it, nobody wants to look or sound dumb.

We had some crazy good sessions and today, the final day, gave us a session with a financial planner extraordinaire – she was fabulous and if we could have taped the session and shared it with others I would have.  She wasn’t local though, and she will fly back some place south of the border and leave us to action what we learned.  (Max out that TFSA and get rid of that credit card debt! For us females, we may want to consider long term care insurance as we get into our mid to late 60’s.  And, so much more.)

We ended the training with a career planning discussion.  We were set up in groups of six, each group led by a senior “executive” high flyer (a female who has made it to that corner office) who talked through each of our plans, as well as having roundtable input from our peers.  It was at this point that I realized how far we had come from that first day.  The trust and honesty in the group fairly hummed around us.  If I had to use a colour to describe it, I would say it was a kind of golden yellow, the warmth of the sun at the end of the day.

I left the training feeling stronger.  Which is a relief because after the first two days all I could think was that there was too much to take in, and if I made new neural connections then I would have to keep “feeding” them, and if I didn’t keep feeding them then I would become a vacant, blathering idiot!  Anyway, I think if I did fire up some new neutrons that hopefully they came with synapses too – which would be a good thing, since I don’t want that stuff filed away in some dormant foggy area of my brain. This training really kickstarted me into thinking about my future and the degree of control I have over it. I met some remarkable people and I learned some pretty valuable stuff – not just work-related but life-related.  All in all a smashing success for me.

 

I Ache

Wowsie, I tried a little bit of exercise this week and I am still hurting.  It wasn’t even anything big, just some stretching and some exercises based on Callanetics.  But apparently I have absolutely no muscles left.  I’ve come along way in the two and half years since Kevin died.  I was so dedicated to staying well during the time he was ill – I had to stay well and fit, he needed me.  We juiced everyday, we’d have smoothies with spinach, kefir, flaxseed oil, greens, banana, fresh fruit and veg, it tasted so good.   Kevin harped at me every day to be healthy and to make sure I ate right and did the right things.  He was trying all sorts of natural remedies too, so I had to eat them along with him.

Oh, and we also walked.  Kevin and I walked every day up until a couple of weeks before he died.  Remarkable really, through the ice and snow. I would strap some ice grabbers on his feet, we’d take the walker, and away we’d go.  It was only when the visiting nurse told him it was dangerous for him to walk anywhere that he stopped, not only walking but also trying.  Take away hope and you leave nothing.

Anyway, thinking back to how I physically felt at that time I’d have to say I felt very good.  Psychologically a mess, but physically in great shape.  So, I think it’s time to get back to what worked for me. I used two exercise routines, and I liked them. The Genius of Flexibility by Bob Cooley, and Callanetics by Callan Pinckney. Nothing ached when I was following my own hybrid version of their routines.  But, to get back to that point I foresee a whole bunch of pain!

Full Circle

It appears that I am remarkably consistent in my thinking.  All through this journey I am on I have written, sporadically, but still capturing my thoughts on paper.  When I feel melancholy I seem to have a nasty habit of trying to make myself feel worse by revisiting some of my previous writing.  Not all of it was angst believe it or not.  I used these little recipe cards that I kept by my bed, in my purse, everywhere.  When the mood hit me, I captured my thoughts.

Some of my writings contained ideas about how to make life better for people who end up in the same circumstances as me – facing the death of their partner and not knowing what’s expected of one, what it means and what to do – financially, emotionally, and so on.  Kevin died and in that first year I literally had so many stupid problems to deal with – bees in the walls, broken appliances, a flood in the basement, stupidity with the banks, it just kept coming.  And I wrote and I wrote.

But I also wrote, and I found this card last week, about loneliness and what to do about it.  My loneliness is and was pretty much self inflicted and I recognize that.  It takes effort to reconnect with people, physical and emotional effort, and, so far, I haven’t put much into it.  But people, friends and family, are hugely important.  We can be surrounded by people and yet somehow manage to be completely alone.  So on this card I found, I had written about setting up a club for people like me – alone, partnerless, widowed, divorced, unattached, didn’t matter how you got there, just that you were. I had mulled over the name – either the Solitaire Club (Shine on you crazy diamond), or One (one is the loneliest number). I had wanted my club to meet once a month, for drinks and conversation.  I’d written this card just about two years ago.

For the last month I’ve been saying to my daughter I need to do something, to get involved again, find some interests.  And then I find the card.  Go figure.  I guess it is something that I need to do. Put a little effort into life , and pick up the pieces and make a new puzzle.