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Your COVID vaccination stories

'I was very emotional and cried, I felt “I matter”'

Jacqui Marsden, 73, is a patient at Springbank Surgery based in Green Hammerton and Tockwith. In January 2020, "out of the blue" she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, "incurable and inoperable". It's a prvilege for NHS North Yorkshire CCG to be able to share Jacqui's COVID vaccination story.

I started chemo treatment in February 2020 and continue to be on chemotherapy. This may impact on the success of my vaccination for COVID-19 but discussions with my consultant resulted in me proceeding with the vaccination and my chemo being cancelled for the day after my vaccine, allowing my immune system to have two weeks at its highest level to process the vaccine before it is compromised by my next treatment.

I have personally made the decision that I will pay for an antibody test after the recommended three weeks to establish the level of antibodies achieved and maybe again before and after the 12 weeks of the second dose. The information is important to me to feel as safe as possible in my overall fight for a quality life. It may be useful information for wider monitoring purposes.

Now the process ...

I received a text message on 21 January from my GP surgery stating that I was on their priority list for a COVID vaccine. It advised the location as Hall 2, The Pavillions, Harrogate and if I wished to proceed to press the link. I was asked to confirm my date of birth to check identity, I was offered two dates - 26 January 2021 with a few times and 27 January 2021 with one time. I chose the first available at 15.40 on the 26th.

My reaction to the appointment amazed me; I was very emotional and cried, I felt “I matter” and this emotion lasted in various degrees until my vaccine. You may think it was part of my natural state with my life threatening condition, but that it not the case.

I have been resolute and determined and have responded well with a positive outlook that has not had me resorting to an ongoing  emotional response, beyond of course processing the initial diagnosis and preparing my plan of action. This was different ... it affected other people in my life.

My cancer does not stop me being part of my daughter’s and grandchildren’s lives, COVID-19 does. I have already missed much of the last year with them, missed being part of their learning and life experiences and the love and hugs. The vaccination may mean that there is hope, a light at the end of the dark tunnel and once again I can be an active part of my family’s lives.

The location of the vaccine was perfect. Only 20mins drive. It appeared well set out and overall I felt safe.

The system of the text message was very impressive in its simplicity but totally efficient and effective. I took only a minute to book my appointment. On the day before I received a reminder text. Excellent I would say.

The journey to the appointment was straightforward. I arrived at the site 15/20 mins before my appointment and was asked at the point of entry to the car park the time of my appointment and sent to park.  The area had plenty of cars, clearly it was busy.

Although I was early I was disciplined by my regular visits to Harrogate Hospital Robert Ogden MacMillan centre that for Covid safety reasons  I should not enter until 5 minutes before my appointment time.

It was apparent that not everyone took the same approach as the queue to enter the hall had most people before me with appointments some 20+ mins after mine. We were admitted in the order of the queue I.e. folks with later appointments in front of me.. no doubt why they seemed very busy inside the hall.

Once inside no further questions were asked about appointment times and we were fed through to the registration desks and then referred to waiting areas. The seating was at suitable distance and I felt safe. The hall was busy but appeared to be running smoothly. After a while I was taken to my booth. A slight hold-up due a mistake being made at the registration point. A digit missed from my NHS number ... quickly sorted by the administration person. The nurse appeared and was friendly. I advised about my condition and my discussions with my Consultant. I double checked that it was not a live vaccine as this issue had featured on a radio programme some weeks earlier. I was reassured. The vaccination was not uncomfortable but yet again was an emotional experience.

I received the AstraZeneca vaccine (the subject of the radio debate) and I must confess with the various other media scare stories I am mildly concerned that it is the best option for me.

My immune system at its best has two weeks to maximise the effects of the vaccine before my next chemotherapy which will result in a dip in my immune system ‘s capability. The unknown is the impact on the processing of my COVID vaccine hence my decision to fund an antibody test. I need to know. My usual approach to positively dealing with all matters is based on fact not emotion, hence the importance of dealing with the emotional side openly and not bottling such feelings so they become a negative influence.

I came out of the Hall at The Pavilion Harrogate at 16.05, 25 minutes from my appointment time.

What will be ...

Now I am at the stage where “what will be will be”; there is not much I can do ... beyond of course not taking anything for granted and monitoring my own progress with the antibody test. That way I continue to play my part, maybe will get answers to the big question “how well has this vaccine worked for me a 73 year old cancer patient on chemo?”. Time will tell!

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