I knew I wanted my annual flu shot. But I couldn’t decide on whether I really wanted to get another COVID vaccination.
To help make my decision I messaged my dermatologist the day before. I waited for the email notification that she had responded to my request for her medical advice. As of the time I left for CVS I had yet to hear back from her, but felt that she would say go ahead since we talked about getting boosted earlier in the year.
Making the Decision to Get the COVID Bivalent Booster
I didn’t get my second booster earlier this year even though I was eligible and encouraged to. I had the passing thought I might be immune to COVID already and didn’t need it.
I’ve had multiple known exposures to people who tested positive for COVID and never got it myself (unless I had an asymptomatic case). Most recently Lori had a bout that lasted a few weeks. I didn’t sleep in the living room until a couple of days after she started feeling unwell. Not getting COVD from Lori made me feel invincible.
Having psoriasis does not suppress my immune system either. But taking a biologic (monoclonal antibody) for psoriasis that modulates my immune system edges me into a potential higher risk group for more severe COVID symptoms. Asthma is a risk factor that I had to consider as well. Turning 50 years old makes me a candidate for a host of vaccines, including the bivalent COVID-19 booster.
Fearing Side Effects of the Vaccine
The first three Moderna jabs (initial two rounds and first booster) made me feel ill for two to three days each time. The side effects ranged from severe headache, stomach upset, sorest arm I can ever remember, sour joints throughout my body, brain fog, and low-grade fever.
April 7, 2021. In line at the Woodland Community and Senior Center to receive the first Moderna vaccine dose.
The moment the needle plunged into my left arm I began to feel anxious and lightheaded. My doctors encouraged me to get the first COVID-19 vaccine available to me. That day came on April 7th.
I felt reluctant to get vaccinated for fear that my skin conditions psoriasis and eczema might flare. But getting COVID-19 sounded much worse, so I relented. Once the needle came out of my arm I knew I could not go back.
I wrote on my Everyday Health blog that I don’t like needles. I can tolerate them now, but I generally feel a bit dizzy after a needle prick. This one felt much worse than others, however. It must have shown on my face. A nurse roaming the area where those recently jabbed waited fifteen minutes stopped to check on me. “I feel a bit dizzy and woozy,” I told her. She offered a Gatorade, which I reluctantly accepted.
On March 19, 2020 California Governor Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Here is a screenshot from my phone:
Recently both the county and state extended the lockdown to May 1st. With the president and governors talking about opening up the economy again, there is hope this lockdown will end soon.
Until then, Lori and I plan to post a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.
This is week 5 of the lockdown.
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Resting and Sabbath
My sabbatical from church ends in about a month. Something I desperately looked forward to was a break from the grind of church ministry. After fifteen years of pastoral ministry without a longer break, together with the challenges and crises the family faced, I desperately wanted some time to rest.
Before I started my sabbatical an acquaintance asked me about my plans. I briefly mentioned travel, writing, and sleeping in whenever I wanted to. He told me those activities would no doubt be life giving. He also stressed the importance of mentally gaining distance and perspective from my daily work.
As I hit third base and turn toward home (excuse the baseball analogy), I can see the past three months have not turned out anything like I expected. I did travel a bit in February, but had to cancel the rest of my trips. I’ve blogged more, but haven’t come around to working on my book or study guide.
As I hit third base and turn toward home (excuse the baseball analogy), I can see the past three months have not turned out anything like I expected.
Sleeping in has been restorative physically, but it has been the distance from work that has renewed me in ways I didn’t anticipate. I have time to think, meditate, and process life. Lori and I can spend (relatively) stress-free afternoons together.
The mental, emotional, and spiritual renewal from this break is exactly what I needed. Although the coronavirus crisis ruined my plans (and of course it is much bigger than me and what I wanted to do), I’m glad the time turned out the way it has.
Finally, on this Sunday, I’m praying for those on the front lines of the Covid-19 response and those personally impacted by the illness. May God be merciful and bring healing to this devastation.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Coronavirus and Psoriasis (Howard)
UPDATE: I mentioned on Monday that I messaged my dermatologist, Dr. Carroll, about taking Skyrizi before Tuesday. In her reply she surmised why my psoriasis flared recently: skin damage from phototherapy burn and possibly needing Skyrizi more frequently.
Since she said I could inject the medication anytime, I decided to go ahead last night. One dose comes in two syringes, so I injected one on the left and one on the right of my belly button (at least two inches out).
I experienced the normal lightheadedness and fatigue just after the injection. Still some after effects today, but definitely nothing to horrible.
With the lockdown I’ve had more time to write for my column on Everyday Health, The Itch to Beat Psoriasis. In particular, I’ve published three articles about psoriasis and the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ll finish today’s entry with links to each of them.
I have been longing for Howard and I to cook together for many years. His work as a minister is very demanding—both early morning and evening meetings in a given week that would require him to be away from home.
When would come home from work, I would want him to either take some personal time or just spend time with the children. I would figure out the dinner menu. Some days were full for me as a minister’s wife so I would skip cooking dinner completely—get some takeout from a restaurant or fast food.
It was “kid food” anyways, I reasoned, so the kids and I would all feast on fried chicken, hamburgers and fries, chicken nuggets, etc. Especially if Howard attended a small group church meeting, there were often potlucks where he could eat dinner and sample church members’ home cooking.
It was a win-win. Except I felt like something was missing. Long gone were the days when I was at my grandmother’s house helping her fix a homemade meal and then talk with her over washing the dishes afterwards—she would wash, I would dry.
On Thursday, March 18, Yolo County, CA instituted a shelter-in-place order to begin the next day until April 7th. Here’s a tweet where I marked the event.
On that same day the Governor Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Here is a screenshot from my phone:
Recently both the county and state extended the lockdown to May 1st, and it could be even longer. I plan to post a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.
Friday, April 10, 2020
Happy Good Friday. Here’s a tweet with a link to a message I shared in 2017 at Davis Chinese Christian Church:
Dr. Francis Collins Prayers from Science and Faith in Pandemic Times
Dr. Francis Collins, the current NIH Director, gave an interview on a webcast Monday. In Science and Faith in Pandemic Times, Collins provided timely information on the coronavirus pandemic. About half way in he begins to address matters of faith.
Near the end, he shared what he is praying for. Lori and I have used his thoughts for our own prayer times, which I share here.
Healthcare providers who are putting themselves in harms way and many quarantined from their families.
Families who have lost jobs and are in severe economic distress.
Researchers working night and day to come up with a treatment and vaccine to save lives.
Church, that this would be a time where church fellowship can provide spiritual nurture.
Myself, that I would understand something about myself and learn from it. Joshua 1:9 to be strong and courageous, and not to grow weary.
How are you praying during the pandemic? Is it difficult to pray in the face of so much tragedy?
Recently, I recalled a creative exercise I did with a small group last summer. I was looking for a way to incorporate an artistic element into reading an excerpt from the Bible.
Although I’m not the best at drawing or painting, I modified the exercise for myself so that I could enjoy it and remember what part of the reading impacted me. I repeated the exercise during this pandemic—it’s the same reading from the Bible: Psalms 1. Using leftover scrapbook pages, I created the background and banner that I wanted.
In the future, I feel depicting Spring in full bloom will remind me when the coronavirus outbreak happened. I have confidence that I will look back on this unusual time in my life and remember how my faith in God sustained me like a tree planted by streams of water.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Treating My Lungs While Not Worsening My Skin (Howard)
One of my biggest concerns during the lockdown is needing to go to the medical clinic or hospital. I want to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus if at all possible. That even means having groceries from Costco delivered to our house where we disinfect before putting them away in the kitchen.
It especially means avoiding medical facilities.
Two weeks ago my breathing became quite labored. As the tree pollen counts elevated, my asthma flared. I needed the rescue inhaler two to three times a day. The steroid inhaler couldn’t control my asthma any longer. With Covid-19 attacking the lungs, I desperately wanted my breathing to improve just in case.
I then remembered asking my primary care doctor for a stronger asthma inhaler last June. Fortunately, I stored the filled prescription in my drawer for the combination steroid powder inhaler. It took about five days after starting treatment before I could breathe easily without the rescue inhaler.
In the back of my mind I wondered if the inhaler photosensitizes my skin. I still use ultraviolet light treatments at home to mainly control my atopic dermatitis. I didn’t want to create a new problem when solving another.
My skin slightly burned from the first phototherapy treatment after starting the new inhaler. I backed down the dose about a third for the next treatment. Again my skin burned. And again the next time. I concluded that the asthma medication photosensitizes my skin.
I’m taking a break from phototherapy for a few days to let my skin recover. I don’t want to stop my asthma medication since it’s working so well. I’ll try to step down my dose even more to see if I can still control the rashes on my skin on half or less of the dose I used before.
I’ve missed my dermatology check-up appointment already due to the pandemic. Good thing my doctors are quick to reply to messages. Hopefully, I can control my asthma and eczema without the need to see them in person.