I’m aware that everyone has a different reaction. For myself, I found it helpful, before I got my second shot, to know that there was a range of possible responses, from minimal to more dramatic. It made it less scary. I hope that sharing my experience can be helpful. It wasn’t fun, but I’m sure glad I did it.
The second shot
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
It’s odd to be feeling sick when I know that what it is is an immune response and that it will pass soon. Knowing that is psychologically helpful but it doesn’t help with the physical experience. Feeling sick is feeling sick.
I spent yesterday afternoon lying around watching TV, having been knocked off my feet by the second immunization I received on Monday. At first, I thought I was among those who skated through it, feeling tired, perhaps, with an achy arm, but nothing too dramatic. Last night, however, I lay in a fog with a temperature of 100.7. My muscles ached. My skin hurt, a feeling I remember from childhood, always a sure sign, along with a strange slightly metallic taste in my mouth, that I was getting sick. But this time, I wasn’t getting sick. I had been made a little sick in the service of preventing real illness.
A friend has recently started chemo for breast cancer. “I was sick as a dog the next day,” she said matter of factly after her first treatment. I didn’t have to have chemo, for which I have always felt both relieved and guilty, as if I didn’t fully pay my breast cancer dues. I did have radiation, another process that does damage in the service of healing, only extended over seven weeks of incremental frying of flesh. One is grateful for such life-saving treatments at the same time as one is made miserable by the pain and discomfort.
I talked with a different friend this afternoon. She got her second shot a week ago and is still feeling the effects. “If I’d have known how bad I’d feel,” she said, “I might not have done it.” I don’t have any such doubts. If this is how my immune system is responding to the prophylaxis, my heart goes out even more to those who have suffered the aches and pains, chills and fevers, of the real thing. I am beyond grateful for these hours of discomfort.
And I learned something about myself. It turns out I don’t like lying around watching television in the afternoon.