Tag Archives: Virus

A 2nd Is Always Followed By A 3rd

3 Oct
New Court from the Backs of the River Cam. Photos courtesy of St. John's College, Cambridge Official Website: www.joh.cam.ac.uk

New Court from the Backs of the River Cam.

” A 2nd is always followed by a 3rd”.

This was a popular mantra at St John’s College in Cambridge. The College I was lucky to call my home for the three years of my undergrad degree.

This notion was mostly applied to drinking games – a 2nd shot had to be followed by a 3rd; and sport wins – a 2nd double league and cup win by the college rugby team “The Red Boys”, of course had to be  (and was during my three years at St John’s) followed by a third double win completing the hat trick.

The Bridge of Sighs over the River Cam at St. John's College Cambridge. My final year room overlooked this beautiful sight.

The Bridge of Sighs over the River Cam at St. John’s College Cambridge. My final year room overlooked this beautiful sight.

I remember a friend of Mr B’s bumping into us as we went out of the college gate for a celebratory dinner date on our 2nd anniversary. He jokingly said, ‘you know a 2nd is always followed by a 3rd’ meaning we would be together for a third year; which, now approaching a decade together, we of course achieved with flying colours.

Luckily the sentiment was not applied to degree results i.e. a downhill slide from a 2nd class result one year to a failed 3rd the next was not encouraged and in the main avoided!

St. John's Collge's Great Gate.

St. John’s Collge’s Great Gate, the front entrance to College.

Anyway I’m waffling, caught up in happy college years memories.

In the spirit of a “2nd is always followed by a 3rd” this is my third (and I hope final) post about the flu jab. If you haven’t read my first two (they’re gripping reads do check them out!) here and here.

I am very happy to announce SUCCESS! On Tuesday afternoon I had my flu vaccination. Yippee! Hallelujah! This put an end to 48 hours of wondering, worrying and faffing about trying to get it done.

After the failed attempt on Monday, I spoke with my GP. He is wonderful and gave me the advice I needed to hear (despite him being on leave at the moment). He assured me fludrocortisone (the tiny half pill I take each day to stop my blood pressure plummeting on standing up) was not a contraindication for the flu vaccine. The pharmacist on Monday morning had unnecessarily freaked out. You see there is concern about giving the flu vaccination to anyone with a lowered immune response. Steroids cause you to become ‘immunosuppressed’ and extra precautions have to be taken for those people on regular heavy steroid doses. Fludrocortisone is a mild steroid. But it does not elicit a lowered immune response.

With this pacification and reassurance from my GP, I went off to a different pharmacy on Tuesday, made no mention of the fludrocortisone, or the fact I have ME/CFS for that matter (I was the happy healthy high flying lawyer that I always intended to be by the time I was 30) and got the flu jab done and dusted in 5 minutes flat. Easy Peasy. Well kind of.

The actual appointment and injection were fine. Getting to and from the pharmacy was less fine. And the after effects through Tuesday evening were anything but fine.

Mr B couldn’t get out of work to come home and take me to my second appointment in two days so we did the next best thing. I made my appointment at a pharmacy just round the corner from Mr B’s office so he was able to meet me there, go with me to the appointment, put me in a cab home and then go back to work.  So yes I got a cab home which was fine though my body was hurting so much by this point each jolt and bump in the road felt like my body was being shaken to death. Put it this way, I was very happy to get home and collapse on our sofa.

So yes I got a cab home. But me being the optimistic stupid person that I am, I decided I would be fine to go to the appointment on public transport. Hmmmm. Yes. My first time on public transport in London in, I don’t know how long, a year at least. For my second outing in two days (something I never do and steadfastly avoid at all costs) and when my body is flaring and I’ve plummeted way below my baseline abilities, I decided that the short walk to the end of our road to get on the DLR (tram) to ride the 8 minutes to Canary Wharf where Mr B would meet me was doable. And I guess it was doable. I did it. Though boy did it hurt. Walking to the end of our road seemed doable because it takes all of about 5 minutes, which is much shorter than the 20 minute paced walk that I’m up to at the moment. But I hadn’t factored in having to carry my handbag (and Mum yes I had taken out all the junk that I didn’t need so it was as light as possible!) or the fact that my body hurt like hell as an after effect of my week away last week and flu jab outing numero uno the day before.

Canary Wharf, tall buildings! Photo credit: Morgue File User alltooeasy

Canary Wharf, tall buildings! Photo credit: Morgue File User alltooeasy

Suffice it to say by the time I made it to the DLR stop my arms and shoulders were burning and aching so so bad. I had stripped off my jacket and little cardigan and was walking along in just my strappy top. I was sweating buckets (lovely image I know, but perspiring like a lady just doesn’t cut it) despite there being a real Autumnal chill to the air, it being October 1st and I was walking along the pavements of grey old London and not some tropical beach. My skin was cold to touch and clammy. And yet I was so hot. But on the plus side, thanks to my compression stockings my legs and ankles didn’t feel too bad – yay!

I was very happy to collapse into a seat on the DLR and to see Mr B’s smiling supportive face when I reached the other end. He took my bag – he is used to looking like a crazy man with a lady’s handbag by this point! I kept saying ‘look at all the tall buildings’ and ‘look at all the people’! I don’t get out too much….

In the pharmacy I put my cardigan back on and pulled my hair up and off my sweaty neck. I needed to look ‘healthy’ after all!

A few questions, quick prick of the needle in my arm and we were on our way again. Mr B put me in a cab with the instructions of ‘get yourself on the sofa and if you feel ill, call me.’ Other than the jolts racking my poor body the journey home was much more ‘doable’. And getting home I collapsed on the sofa with rice cakes and peanut butter and green tea. It was about this point when the dull headache that had been above my eye brow since getting on the DLR exploded into a full on throbbing, pounding horror. Queue me going to bed in the dark for an hour with a meditation track for company. But the headphones hurt my head so I just laid there. Eventually succombing to co-codamol when it became apparent that tiger balm and resting in a darkened room were not going to get close to solving the head drama.

Sadly nor did the co-codamol. I spent much of the evening lying flat face down (the least pain inducing position I could find) on the sofa with a cushion over my head and eventually dragged my sorry little self off to bed.

Today, Wednesday, sat writing this, I don’t feel too bad. The arm that had the injection feels a bit dead, very heavy and achy if you know what I mean.  And my whole body hurts. But that is to be expected. I went out two days in a row. And we all know with ME/CFS that just encourages the beast to flare! I’m going to take it really easy for a few days and hopefully that’ll let my body heal without any viral flu jab side effects.

So this post has become an essay. Apologies for that. But the saying goes ‘ a 2nd is followed by a 3rd’. The saying is not ‘ a 3rd is followed by a 4th’. And I don’t know about you, but three posts about flu jabs is quite enough!

All photos in this post courtesy of St. John’s College, Cambridge Official Website: http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk unless otherwise stated.

To Jab or Not To Jab….That is The Question

30 Sep
Autumn Colours. Photo credit: Morgue File User Kconnors.

Autumn Colours. Photo credit: Morgue File User Kconnors.

It’s that time of year when the leaves start to turn; there’s a freshness to the air; the sun hangs low in the sky; the orange of pumpkins is popping up every which way….it is Autumn.

This may be hard to believe given the blazing sun and warm (well low 20s, that’s practically tropical for an Indian Summer in England) temperatures we enjoyed last week; but it truly is Autumn.

It is at this point in the year that my thoughts turn to preventative medicine. Mainly preventing and avoiding the winter flu.

Indian Summer sunshine. Photo by Jess B.

Indian Summer sunshine. Photo by Jess B.

The flu and I have a rather chequered history. Both before and after my diagnosis of ME/CFS the flu has been a rather large, ugly and painful thorn in my side.

Let’s be clear here I’m referring to the keep you in bed for a week and more, head pounding, aching and shaking, shivering and sweating, full on flu. I’m not talking about sniffles or even a bad cold and I’m most definitely not talking about man flu…

Back in 2009, when ME/CFS was not part of my vocabulary never mind my daily life, I had two nasty bouts of flu within six months. The first was gastric flu. After a week off, once the gorgeous gastric symptoms had subsided, I decided to return to work. Yes well that was a massive mistake and a story for another post. Suffice it to say I was incredibly lucky that my sister had travelled on my commute with me that morning as I near collapsed at the station and had to be taken home. Six months later saw me become the butt of oink oink piggy jokes at work as I managed to contract swine flu. Queue 3 weeks of hellish flu viral symptoms. Both times post-viral fatigue lingered for weeks as I struggled to return to normal life.

How I feel with the flu! photo credit Morgue Filer User: Pennywise

How I feel with the flu! photo credit Morgue Filer User: Pennywise

Roll on December 2010. Everyone had a bad cold at work. It was a week before Christmas when I caught the bug. But in true Jess style, mine wasn’t ‘just’ a bad cold, mine was full on flu. The works. That was the beginning of the end of normal life for me. Although the viral symptoms passed within about 6 weeks I was left with profound fatigue, severe muscle and joint pain, and an inability to do more than sit upright for 5 minutes. Yes the flu had enabled ME/CFS to well and truly get its claws into me. I am essentially still getting over it. I have not been well since.

April of this year saw me travel to America to visit my sister. A few days after arriving in Philly I came down with, yep you’ve guessed it, the flu. It took me until mid June to feel anywhere close to how I’d been feeling before the April bout of Mr flu.

So yes, the flu seems to like me. Mr B on the other hand has never had the flu properly. He jokes that his immune system is good for both of us. Lucky for him.

Throw into the pot several bad colds, including a recent one in August which took me until earlier this month to really feel I’d cleared completely and you begin to understand why the winter flu season fills me with a little dread.

The last three winters I have spent the months at my Mum and Dad’s up in Lincolnshire. I was there because I was physically too ill to be living with Mr B in our flat in London. I needed my Mum and Dad to look after me. The upshot of these prolonged periods ‘up north’ was that, to a large extent, I was protected from nasty flu bugs doing the rounds. Clean fresh country air and not having contact with more than 5 people a week max meant I survived these winters unscathed by the flu.

Each winter I’ve debated the merits of getting the flu vaccination with my GP and my neurologist. Any vaccination carries a minor risk of contracting the (hoped to be protected against) illness. In chronic illnesses where the immune system is a little (okay a lot) defunct this risk is naturally higher. So for the past few winters my isolation in Lincolnshire has satisfied my doctors as sufficient protection.

Injection time. Photo source: Morgue File User Imelenchon

Injection time. Photo source: Morgue File User Imelenchon

However this year I am in London. I am well enough to be here provided I (massively) limit myself in what I do and take things really steady. I want to be here. Three winters away from my life here is enough. Now I’m that bit stronger it’s time to make ME/CFS work in my life with Mr B here in London. So far, touch wood, it seems to going fairly well. But I am more at risk of catching the flu. Even though I don’t go out very much except for a short walk each day. We live in an apartment complex with 714 flats, that’s a lot of potentially infectious people! Mr B travels on public transport each day and works in a large air-conned office block. Lots of potential for infection there. If he comes home with a bit of a virus or cold, even if we institute the separate bed policy (i.e. he gets relegated to the spare room), I seem primed to catch the little beast (flu or cold not Mr B!). Living in an open plan loft apartment probably doesn’t help on  this front. And ME/CFS + bit of a cold = horror enough. Add in that my body never seems to do anything by halves. Bit of a cold in Mr B becomes full on spluttering, crying, screaming, raging flu in my poorly ME/CFS body.

So this year I am having the flu vaccination. In fact I am having it today. Eeeeek. I am on strict orders from my specialist to play the invalid for a fortnight after the vaccination to let my body recover so if it is trying to fight any outbreak of flu from the vaccination it has the best chance possible by me not pushing my body, but instead resting on the sofa lots and lots. I’m going to have to fight my natural instinct to get up and do stuff if (praying hard on this) I feel okay.

So please send all your positive, flu fighting vibes and thoughts my way pretty please.

Mr flu vaccination, you are here to protect me not to bring me down, don’t you dare give me the flu. Just do your magic and protect me. I will be eternally grateful if you do.

How do you prevent catching Winter Flu? Do you get vaccinated? How have you found it? 

Posts coming soon: how my specialist appointment went on Friday 27th Sept, holiday pics from our mini break to Sussex last week, personality 101: negative thinker, catrostrophiser, how I’ve mellowed: yes I used to be worse! So many posts so little time. But keep your eyes peeled, these posts will be coming to a computer or tablet screen near you soon (subject to the pesky flu keeping its distance).

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