It must be that time of the year. I made a well check-up with my new primary care physician. My old one retired unfortunately. With the clean stench of alcohol swabs and a hint of hand sanitizer, I sat on the exam table catching him up on the last year of my life and the whirlwind that it’s been. Hell, I even became a little emotional talking about it. I breezed through stats on my CA125, my blood counts, dates as if I had memorized a history book, and what my next steps were all the way through the end of the year. This is me, banker by day, blogger by night, with a major in all things cancer because my life depends on it.
We joked about my new clinical study diet because I’ll likely have the best blood work he’s ever seen. He gave me orders to take to my next port flush so he could check on the normal things. Then he asked if I was ready for my flu shot this year. I joked and said that wasn’t a pleasant way to meet someone on the first visit at 7am. I was game though. Flu shots were mandatory for myself, my husband, my kids, and anyone else that was going to spend a great deal of time around us after being diagnosed. It will likely be one of those things that will be routine every year.
The thought of a vaccine made me think of another vaccine, but one that is a whole lot more controversial. I have been asked a lot recently on my thoughts surrounding the HPV vaccine. It’s that time of year where doctors are talking to parents about vaccines and what is up next. For my girls when they are old enough that answer will be a resounding YES. I have done my research and it is a vaccine that I believe in. My family has seen too much cancer and if I can limit the chance of more cancer in my family how could my answer not be yes?! It is a very personal decision, one that should be researched on REPUTABLE sites such as MD Anderson, and then prayed about.
The HPV vaccine targets the HPV types that most commonly cause cervical cancer and cause some cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, and oropharynx. The vaccine is highly effective in preventing the targeted HPV types, as well as the most common health problems caused by them. It does not protect against all cervical cancers but it does protect against a very large portion.
When I think about how smallpox has been eradicated from existence I wonder if we could ever do the same thing with a cancer. Can we eradicate a cancer? It took decades for the World Health Organization to stop a disease that once claimed the lives of 35% of its victims. Are we in the beginning decades of being able to see a cancer be eradicated in our lifetime? That answer would likely be a no, since people can’t seem to get out of their own way. We feed into the social media news, share terrible sources with our friends, and declare truth with no substantial facts to back it up. I think we would have had a better chance if the vaccine had debuted before 1980 like the smallpox vaccine did.
I do feel like we have this chance to eradicate a cancer but we keep ourselves from it. Perhaps I am wrong, I will never claim to hold all of the answers. But what if I am right? What if we do have this chance? To live in a world with one less cancer out there. I hope that I live long enough to see that.
What the HPV vaccine should never do is take the place of your annual pap smears and pelvic exams. The annual visit for both women and men should take place. Call me your friendly, nagging, relentless reminder. Put those legs in the stirrups ladies and drop those pants men, get things checked out annually. Schedule it, keep the appointment, and then show up. Have informed, honest conversations with your doctor. No one likes to talk about their bowel movements, frequency of their urination, or bloating but it’s necessary.
Parents, talk with your children’s doctor, research from reputable sites, and then make the most informed decision for your child. The last thing this world needs is more cancer.
For me and my house, the HPV vaccine is a yes when the time comes. May I never have to see one of my kids endure chemo or cancer as I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone someone I love with my whole heart. Until that time, flu shots for everyone this year in our household!