Friday, February 6, 2015

Perspective on Vaccines by a Cancer Mom. Seeing the Gray.

We live in a world of gray. Many shades of black and white.....

There is nothing in my adult life that troubles me more than those who cannot see the gray in deep issues.  We should vaccinate...  We shouldn't vaccinate... Black and White... This just is not the case with anything, let alone vaccines.  I feel I have some unique perspective.  You see I identify as being one of those "crunchy" moms. Granola, hippie, natural... you get the point.  I had heard the horror stories about vaccines and felt strongly about them.  We chose attachment parenting, baby wearing, nursing, etc.....  A common movement among mothers today.  I was not sure I was okay with the risks of the vaccines when a lot of these diseases seem to be eradicated diseases.  And I know this is a common thought process.  I also have met numerous moms who believe firmly that vaccination is the reason for a serious medical issue they experienced or are still experiencing with a child. It seemed very scary as a first time mom.

The flip side to this is my current reality.  Years after I had to make these decisions about vaccines, I am also the mother of a radiant 4.5 year old.  Big blue eyes, adorable blonde curls, and personality for miles. She is my baby.  My only child.  A child in treatment for cancer.

At 2.5 years old our worlds were turned upside down when she was diagnosed with Leukemia.  Did you know 1 out of 285 children (American Cancer Society) will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20?  Here we were... a statistic.  I had questioned and fussed over every last vaccination my child did or did not get, but there I was... the mother of a child who was going to deal with issues of zero immunity and my child could NOT be vaccinated until her 2-3 year treatment had been finished for a year.   My reality now... my child is living in a small city with a confirmed measles case and cannot get her second vaccination shot as a cancer patient. My child got her first measles vaccination (with much hesitation from mom), but that does not guarantee her immunity and she cannot get her second shot.  Realization that cancer impedes your access to vaccines when you suddenly need them. That is scary my friends.  And believe me... noone thinks this is going to happen to them.  So now here I am.  A paradox.  I am a crunchy mom who was very wary of vaccines, that is now scared to have my children around children that are not vaccinated.  How the tables can turn.  Welcome to our unfair world of gray.....

When my daughter came to the age that she needed vaccines there was a lot of hysteria going around in the realm of vaccines being dangerous. My husband is a pharmacist and has his doctorate in pharmaceutical science.  We both wanted to make an educated and informed decision on whether or not Nieva was going to have vaccines administered.  Since my husband works in a field where vaccines are administered regularly, and I know him to be conservative on anything that can cause toxicity, I decided to trust what he decided was best. We analyzed and discussed each immunization.  

This is where the gray comes in.  Turns out this wasn't easy.  Our research brought us to the decision and to the knowledge that no matter what we do there is some risk involved. For the vast majority, people will respond as they should to the vaccines and will not have any side effects or problems from taking them. Because they took the vaccines, it is less likely they will have life-threatening conditions later in their life. For this reason, I completely understand the majority of America's stance on this issue. It does however stand to reason that a lot of people still have claimed serious problems from taking the vaccines.  Down to even specific lot numbers of vaccines. It is not a perfect system, and it is so hard to know who will be the next statistic.  

We decided, for example, to not do the chickenpox vaccine. The reason being that it is not typically a deadly or dangerous virus.  Not getting chicken pox as a child can also actually result in a harsher sickness as an adult. It is interesting to say now though, we are dealing with a child who is at higher risk of complications from the chicken pox than a normal child.  Cancer treatment often brings their immunity down to zero for periods of time.  But even when immunity is "normal," the risk for it to decline is worse than normal children,.  Due to this, risk of complications or death is greatly increased.  Fact... most children that pass away while in treatment for cancer do not die from the cancer itself.  They will die from a secondary medical issue, or from a side effect of their treatment. Any kind of contracted illness that a normal child may handle with ease, an immune compromised child could have serious complications with. 

I am now realizing our decision to not treat our child with the chickenpox vaccine was something that could hypothetically cost her her life. In our instance, if she would have contracted it or maybe if she still does before treatment ends, her counts could drop to nothing and the littlest thing could cause hospitalization.  That being said, I as a mom worry... who will she get chickenpox from?  Children that have not been vaccinated could be the children that cause serious complications or death in our own child. 

The gray continues on though.  I realize it is possible we could have decided to do all of our vaccines at once instead of spreading out the ones we chose to give her, and she could have had a serious complication from the vaccines. We don't know.  As with everything in life there are risks and benefits to weigh. 

We play this game called life and there is no way to know. People belittle parents that know they saw the light leave their child's eyes after getting a vaccination.  We do not have the right to tell that parent they are wrong or there is no way that is possible.  We are not that child's parent.  We were not there.  So I cannot cast blame on that parent for not vaccinating future children.  

Every issue conceivable in this world is gray to some extent. There are always multiple perspectives, and it is important as individuals that we weigh those perspectives accordingly, despite our own background and biases. So please when you argue against vaccinating your children, remember the children with cancer.  I could have never guessed that I would be the mother this would happen to.  We don't live in a perfect world. Our world is broken and complicated. I do not judge the mothers who did not vaccinate, or still choose not to vaccinate. I am a mom and I was there.  But when it comes to vaccines... this is our food for thought.  This is my story of gray.

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