Category Archives: My life

trying to get a flu shot

Last year was the first year in at least a decade that I didn’t get a flu shot.  As it turns out, the flu shot was completely ineffective last year:

In a study of more than 3,600 Americans in seven states, the C.D.C. said in a report that the vaccine was only around 16 percent effective, a rate that it said was “not statistically significant.”

In any case, I’ve come to realize how big of an impact having flu shots available at work had.  It was so easy to stroll downstairs and get the shot.  They already had my insurance information (since my insurance was through work) and it would take about five minutes.

I don’t know what it’s like the rest of the country, but getting any kind of medical care around here has become impossible.  Last year, I gave up on a flu shot after waiting an hour.  J went in today to try and get a shot, and, after waiting 10 minutes to speak to someone and then getting sent to another line – just to ask a simple question! – he was told it was a 90 minute wait for a shot.  He was able to get an appointment for this coming Friday; hopefully they’ll honor it and he won’t have to wait long.

Meanwhile, I made “well child” appointments for my girls, at which I was planning to get flu shots for them, but I couldn’t get them in until mid-January!  My pediatrician no longer does standalone appointments for flu shots.  I used to just run the girls in for a shot sometime in late fall, but that’s not an option any more.  L, who seems to have inherited all of my anxious nature and then some, is freaking out at the thought of getting the shot at a pharmacy instead of the pediatrician.

Is this a Seattle thing or an everywhere thing?  How do you get your kids flu shots?  At your pediatrician or the pharmacy?  Our local pediatrician basically has a monopoly on the Eastside.  We’d have to drive a significant distance for more options, and I’m not sure it’d be any better elsewhere.  This is a post-Covid thing.  Thank goodness we had all of S’s medical stuff in the beforetimes.

post

I survived the colonoscopy.  I looked up the recommendations here.  It’s considered high benefit to get screened every 10 years from 50 to 75.  Getting screened at 45 provides moderate benefit.  I would do it at 45 (or sooner) if you have risk factors: family history, male, black or Native American, smoker, drink a lot, or obese.  I have a family history of multiple relatives getting diagnosed in their 40s, so for me, getting screened at 40 was a no-brainer, and unfortunately, my doctor also recommends I get tested every five years instead of ten.

The prep was unpleasant but not as bad as I feared.  I’m so glad it’s over and done with.  The nurses and doctors were extremely kind and friendly and generally made the experience less stressful.

screening for cancer

S has been sick since Sunday night and doesn’t appear to be getting better.  I don’t think she’s in any danger, but it is awful to see her miserable.  Between Frozen and Ibuprofen, I think the former is more helpful in making her feel better.  Now L and B both are feeling ill as well.  L has her first gymnastics competition on Saturday morning.  First of all, she’s trained very hard for it – about 8 hours per week since the summer.  Second, it’s a qualifier for future competitions.  All in all, I hope she’s well enough to do it.  I was supposed to go down and see my sister and her just-turned-one-year-old.  My sister is also pregnant.  My throat is a little scratchy, and I don’t want to bring this sickness into their household, so I’ve canceled the trip.  I was also supposed to go to LA for work next week, and if I’m sick, and I think I am, I’ll have to cancel that as well.

Lastly, I have a colonoscopy scheduled for Friday.  I put that off from January, when my initial appointment was canceled due to Covid.  (I find it ironic that in SW Virginia, where there were basically no Covid restrictions, my Dad was able to have a completely elective surgery on schedule in January, no issues, whereas here with Covid restrictions out the wazoo, my elective procedure was canceled.  The governor in fact canceled ALL elective surgeries by executive order.  But I digress.)  In any case, I finally grudgingly rescheduled it and am dreading it so much.  But with my family history, it needs to be done.

Have you had a mammogram?  I have not.  I would say I have normal risk – no close relatives have died of it or had advanced cancer, and I don’t smoke, etc.  Here is where the recommendations stand:

  1. The US Preventive Services Task Force – basically the official US recommendation – states you should start at age 50 until 74.  USPST says you should have mammograms every 2 years.
  2. The American Cancer Society says to start at age 45 and have mammograms every year until you’re 54, whereupon you should have them every 2 years until life expectancy is less than 10 years
  3. ACOG (American College of Gynecologists) says you should go every one to two years starting at age 40, or no later than age 50 until age 75.  Upon reading the second link in more detail, ACOG is somewhat ambivalent about its recommendation to start before 50.

I read about this in detail in Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of Maladies.  At the end of the day, everyone has to make their own decision based on their own family background and preferences.  Reading Mukherjee’s book, which very quantitatively outlined the pros (reduced risk of death) and cons (increased risk of unnecessary treatment and surgery), convinced me that for me, the right choice is to wait.  I believe that from a mental health standpoint, an early cancer diagnosis would be devastating, and if that early diagnosis didn’t save my life, the lost years due to anxiety would be worse than the small decrease in risk of death.

What are the guidelines like in other countries?  For most women (without major risk factors):

  1. UK: Get a mammogram every *three* years starting ages 50 – 71
  2. Canada: Get a mammogram every two or three years ages 50-74
  3. Ireland: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50-69
  4. Australia: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50-74
  5. New Zealand: Get a mammogram every two years ages 45-69
  6. France: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50-74
  7. Sweden: Get a mammogram every two years ages *40*-74
  8. Norway: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50 – 69
  9. Germany: Get a mammogram every two years ages 50 – 69
  10. Spain: Get a mammogram every *three* years ages 50 – 69

It seems like all countries are in line with their recommendations: begin getting mammograms at age 50 and get them every two years.  The US cancer society and ACOG are very out of family.  After looking this up, I think for my personal situation, I feel very comfortable waiting until age 50.

The CDC lists risk factors here.  Interestingly, being overweight or obese is NOT a risk factor until after menopause.  However, having one’s first pregnancy after age 30 is.  Funny how I barely know anyone who got intentionally pregnant before 30.  Not breastfeeding is also a risk.  Lastly, drinking alcohol, which I do nearly daily, is a risk.

As for colon cancer, the US Preventative Services Task Force recommends all adults get screened beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75.  It also recommends all adults get *offered* screening at age 45 – you get to make up your own mind.  Personally, I wouldn’t do it unless I had risk factors or family history.  Jonathan has had several, and it’s a pretty rough procedure.

On my Dad’s side, my grandmother died of colon cancer in her 60s.  On my Mom’s side, my uncle died of colon cancer in his 50s (onset in his 40s).  My grandfather nearly died of colon cancer in his 40s, and his quality of life was permanently affected.  My aunt had colon cancer – surgery, chemo, etc.  My other uncle had colon cancer – surgery, chemo, etc.  Only my grandmother and my mother managed to avoid it.  I guess I feel I should get the colonoscopy.  I went to see a gastroenterologist many years ago, and she told me I could wait until 40, but here we are.

My father-in-law also died of colon cancer.  He did colonoscopies, and they did not find the cancer.  Why not?  I don’t know.  Why didn’t colonoscopies stop my uncles and aunt from getting advanced cancers that required surgery and chemo and ultimately killed my uncle?  I don’t know.  Apparently most colon cancers grow slowly, and these are the type that colonoscopies save you from.  But some people have a genetic predisposition to fast-growing cancers.