As a child I was terrified of monsters. They lived under the bed, lurked behind corners and haunted the dark spaces at night. As I grew up the monsters changed but the terror didn’t.
Instead of thinking some dark presence was going to eat me up while I slept I feared blood poisoning from cuts, unsafe food and when I moved to Australia, spiders and snakes.
Moving to Byron Bay in the early 90’s I became part of a health focussed, organic, solar powered yoga community. We shunned anything unnatural or chemical. No roundup for us, no on grid electricity and definitely no unnecessary medical intervention.
I gave birth to my baby boy in a tub in a one room 7-sided house. I had no ultrasounds during pregnancy, planned a home birth and even when the pain became unbearable called an acupuncturist to help me manage.
When it came to medical intervention just after the birth, we did the heel prick test and that was it. Months later when the pamphlets from the doctor recommended vaccination we politely declined. I had read the pros and cons, reflected on my own experience with vaccination and trusted the advice we had been given by friends. We wanted to give our boy every opportunity to develop a healthy immune system. And by then anything discharged from western conventional medicine seemed monstrous to me.
When my son at 19 announced he was getting vaccinated for just about everything I freaked. Hadn’t I raised him to be afraid of monsters too? Letting go of my overprotectiveness and trusting his choices was huge for me. But I did it.
As many of you know I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 42. Was it the monster of being in 9/11 that caused it? Breathing in that cocktail of chemicals washing over our neighbourhood in Brooklyn? Was it that weird flu I had just after? Whatever the reason, which I will never know, I am now living with a chronic disease. One that requires at least 5 shots a day of a synthesized chemical to keep my blood sugar in just the right range so I don’t fall into a coma. When I think about it’s insane! We take our life so for granted until we are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
Slowly over time and as I have grown older I have had to face many terrifying events while trying to uphold my beliefs and ideals.
When the pandemic first hit I stayed calm. On holiday here in South Africa we had very few cases and went into lockdown early. Things looked hopeful. I felt relaxed. I hadn’t stopped travelling for 10 years. Staying in one place was a god send. Time to create a garden, adjust my diet, heal and renew.
Those living with diabetes were asked to self-isolate. Apparently 40% of all admissions to hospitals here are with people living with some form of diabetes. At first we were told just keep your A1c ( a 3 month blood sugar measurement) in range and you should be fine. But then we were informed that COVID didn’t discriminate when it came to diabetes. Better to stay home period. So, I did.
When news of the vaccine came to the rest of the world. I had already decided. No way was I going get it. As I watched family members, get Covid and recover I thought, “they survived. Maybe it’s not as bad as they say.” Of course, all the theory’s about alternative treatments were rife on my newsfeed. I started feeling overwhelmed with all the info out there. There was that monster again, just around the corner, maybe under the bed, or in the dark spaces. Waiting only for me.
I’m not quite sure what the tipping point was. Maybe it was seeing my beautiful grown up son in his 5th lockdown in Melbourne. My parents each ending up in hospital for different health reasons. The death of my Aunt and one of my closest friends. Watching the spread here in South Africa of the Delta Variant. Hospitals over crowded. The country buckling under riots. The feeling that if I had to leave to see family as a person living with diabetes I would be risking my life. The irony being I risk my life every day with diabetes and yet I have a semblance of control through medical intervention. But with Covid? How could I be sure that a 24-hour flight and exposure in multiple airports etc wouldn’t be the linchpin. And if I wanted to return to Australia without getting vaccinated it would cost over $20,000. Was I willing to live in fear and isolation for the rest of my life?
Asking myself these deep and challenging questions was important. I had many things to weigh up. Luckily, I didn’t have to make my decision alone. My parents and siblings had already had the vaccine. They were doing well. My brother had done a ton of research. Being somewhat of a science geek he had weighed up the risks before getting vaccinated. Seeing many yoga teachers and friends in the US proudly displaying there “I got vaccinated” stickers was encouraging, but it didn’t make me any less certain. It was like lemmings jumping off a clip. Everyone just keeps jumping, should I? Could I?
And then there was an opportunity to get a shot. We had waited for months for the Vaccine. I panicked. It was crunch time.
That night, as I lay in bed I went through absolutely everything that could go wrong, from anaphylactic shock, to blood clots, to fevers, to this weird thing flowing through my veins. You name it. And then I thought all about what could go right. I could see my son and parents and family again, I could go for a walk with friend. I could go into a bookshop and choose a book. I could see some of Africa, teach in person again. Interact with friends, be in society. 18 months is a long time to be in isolation. It was time to let go of my fears. To face that monster and trust my decision.
I had my first Pfizer shot last week with minimal side effects. In fact, I felt like the energiser bunny straight afterwards. Facing my fear and doing it anyway I felt a huge sense of relief, like when you jump off that high diving board into cool, clear water and happily swim to the shallow end. Thinking, “I can’t believe I did it, I’m such a dill for being afraid”
Like many of those who chose to get vaccinated I have no idea what the long-term effects will be. But for once I do trust the science and the many friends who have like me chosen to take the plunge. For those sitting on the fence I hope my message encourages you. For those friends who are a hard ‘no,’ I get it. I really do. This was one of the hardest decisions of my life.
With great respect…
Rachel, as a person who had the vaccine and did not get an immune response, I think you. You see, I use a medication that makes it so I can live with RA. That medication, Rituximab was my last chance; I had failed 5 in the 13 years before. The medication (brand Rituxain) wipes out all of the body’s B-cells. The vaccine relies on B-Cells to have action. No B-Cells, no immunity.
I am now off of Ritaxin and expect that I will need to be off for the next 8 months. Then it may (may) be possible to have an immune response. In the meantime, Sheryl and I are mostly confined to our limited area. We cannot see the grandchildren, no movies, no travel, no, no. We are expected to be where we are unless the world generates enough immunity response to shield us and many others from the awful outcome of having COVID-19.
Basically, we are relying on others. So we say thank you, and hopefully, in a year I hope we meet don’t he road somewhere.
Wow Rik, Thank you for sharing your story and I understand how difficult it must be to be in isolation for so long. As John a;ways says to me, at least we have each other. So having Sheryl must be a gift beyond measure. That you can have each other during this time. I pray your body develops an immune response and all is well and yes I do hope one day we will meet.