Making the Decision to Get a COVID-19 Booster Shot as a Patient With Cancer

A man who has spent five years dealing with cancer shares his thoughts on the COVID-19 booster shot.

Last week, I went ahead and got my booster shot. It wasn’t an easy decision — the new technology, not knowing the long term effects … And after five years of fighting cancer and obsessing over my health, I’m already super controlling about what I put in my body — my diet and even the home and self-care products I use have all been overhauled.

One of the driving factors that led to my decision was that my wife and I are scheduled to attend a wedding in Mexico in January. The last thing I needed was to find myself scrambling for help outside of the country. And even though I was vaccinated, who knows?

However, a few weeks before the wedding, I also had scans scheduled: PET and CT scans as well as about five X-rays for my surgeon on the side. The radiation always makes me nervous, and I grew concerned that receiving a booster shot so close to the scans might inflict a lot of who knows what on my body. Doctors may tell you otherwise, but I guess I’ve developed a cynical attitude over the years.

Ultimately, I decided to space everything out as much as possible, scheduling the booster for early December with the scans in January, and pushing the X-rays to April. I didn’t feel GREAT about this, but it seemed like the best scenario. And I think that’s part of the deal with life after cancer: coming to terms with the fact that you can’t always control everything and accepting uncertainty.

I experienced no symptoms after the first two Pfizer vaccinations — I work closely with a functional medicine doctor to optimize my vitamin levels and strengthen my immune system; I also drink a ton of water, which I believe helped. Unfortunately, two days after the booster shot, my hip arthritis flared up. I’ve had to break out the crutches and ibuprofen again, and call on my wife for endless requests … Not ideal.

But I have no regrets. A few days since the flareup, I’m hoping to be on the mend … and while I’m definitely a little jumpy about whatever effects the booster might have registered on my overall immune system, I believe that I made the best decision I could with the information available at the time.

One lesson I’ve learned along the quest for wellness is that the stress from worrying and overthinking can be just as harmful as anything else. And so, part of me has just been glad to have arrived at a decision so I can move forward. Like any other cancer fighter, I’m doing the best I can … one day at a time.

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