With the vaccine behind me, I feel hopeful for the future for the first time in over a year.
Having an autoimmune disease is tough physically, mentally, and emotionally. Having an autoimmune disease during a pandemic? That is a completely new experience that I wasn’t prepared for.
I have ulcerative colitis (UC), a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and have been fighting a flare-up off and on throughout all of 2020. I like to say that I was quarantining before quarantining was cool.
I finally felt a glimmer of hope mixed with a twinge of uncertainty when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that a COVID-19 vaccine was finally available.
Was it going to work? Was it going to make my disease worse? So many questions were living rent-free in my brain.
I did so much research about the effects of the vaccine on people with IBD and initially found very little. I want to share my experience in the hope that it will help you make an educated decision on COVID-19 vaccination for yourself.
I’m not going to lie: I was hesitant about getting the vaccine at first. Like many people, I truly didn’t know if I even wanted or should get the vaccine.
For a while, I was in the camp of “absolutely not.” My body had started heading into remission and was sensitive beyond belief. The last thing I needed was a foreign substance in my body.
However, I continued seeing more positive research coming out about trial participants with autoimmune diseases, as well as medical leaders encouraging people with IBD to get the vaccine.
Additionally, I did not want to suffer the effects of COVID-19 on top of my existing symptoms.
Ultimately, I chose to get vaccinated.
I did not make this decision lightly. People with an autoimmune disease, myself included, are at greater risk of having severe complications from COVID-19 and I did not want to risk it. On top of that, the chronic stress and fear of getting COVID-19 that I have felt for over a year now have wreaked havoc on my gut and my overall well-being.
On the other hand, the side effects of the vaccine on autoimmune patients are very minimal and provide me with peace of mind in knowing that I am protected.
I weighed all the pros and cons and decided that the reward outweighed the risk.
I was a ball of nerves driving up to the vaccination site on my appointment day, not knowing what to expect. However, the overall experience was a positive one.
I waited in line for no more than 10 minutes, and the injection was completely painless. I then waited in the car for 15 minutes in case of an allergic reaction and drove home.
In the hours after the first dose, I actually felt better than I have felt since the start of my flare-up. Coincidentally, my symptoms were less severe, and I had more energy than normal. (I am not sure yet if the vaccine caused the improvement of my symptoms, but I look forward to reading studies on the vaccine and IBD to see if this is related.)
I heard from friends that the second dose was far worse than the first, so I braced myself. My first dose went exceedingly well, but I feared this would be the moment I would feel the negative effects. I even prepped all my food for the next few days in case I didn’t feel well enough to cook.
The overall experience again was very positive, and the actual injection was not painful. Later that evening, I felt run down and a little tired, so I drank a lot of water and went to bed early.
Fearing the worst, I woke up in the morning and did a quick mental scan of my body. But I felt… normal.
I cautiously waited the rest of the day for the symptoms to set in and they never did. I feel extremely lucky to not have experienced more intense symptoms, especially when I already had symptoms from my UC flare-up.
With the vaccine behind me, I feel hopeful for the future for the first time in over a year. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and that I can rest easy knowing that I am protected from this awful virus.
My vaccinated future feels bright. You will find me at a bar laughing with friends, playing beach volleyball, and singing my heart out at a country concert. These are all things that seemed so basic and normal in 2019, and yet these are the moments that I will cherish in 2021.
Every person is unique and, therefore, will have their own individual experience with the vaccine.
However, I hope my story and experience will help you to weigh your options regarding your health and the vaccine.
Article originally appeared on June 25, 2021 on Bezzy’s sister site, Healthline. Last medically reviewed on June 26, 2021.
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