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.
A big happy Valentine’s Day to my wife of over 25 years, Lori. I’m grateful for not just the quarter century together, but more importantly all the ways we’ve grown personally and relationally since those early days of college.
It was love at first talk. When Lori and I met in our last year at college, we connected immediately. Sure, there was a physical attraction — and we joined the same Christian group at the University of California in Davis. But the ability to talk openly about living with chronic health conditions bonded us from day one.
We still care for each other through the health ups and downs with listening ears and helping hands. I wouldn’t have wanted to share my life with anyone else.
For this our 28th Valentine’s Day together I would like to share a short letter to my best friend:
I can’t believe I finished my third week of taking Skyrizi (Risankizumab). In the coming week I take my second dose. This dose is a loading dose administered at week four. The dosing moves into every twelve weeks thereafter.
The biggest questions I have when I take a new medication are if it will work, when it will start working, and will I have side effects. See below for my updated impressions on these three questions.
Will Skyrizi Work to Clear My Psoriasis?
This is a crystal ball question to be determined in the coming weeks. But if you make me give an answer of what I predict I’ll tend to take the pessimistic view. When a drug claims that X out of 10 people who took it during clinical trials reached PASI 75 or 90, or even cleared, I’m skeptical I would be one of them.
I’m usually the X out of ten that did not reach any notable level of psoriasis clearance. I know, I know. Past results do not predict future outcomes. Too many variables must play out before making any conclusions. My body changes over time. New medications have different mechanisms of action in my body than others. But I’ve faced disappointment after weeks and months of waiting on a new drug enough times to not get my hopes up.
In clinical trials, 3 out of 4 people achieved 90% clearer skin at four months, after just two doses
Of those, nearly 9 out of 10 sustained 90% clearer skin through one year
Also, 8 out of 10 people achieved clear or almost clear skin at four months, after just two doses.
Number 1 and 3 sound like the same results told in two different ways. Number 2 says that those who did respond sustained it after a year. Okay, awesome numbers to be sure. I just hope I’m not the 1 out of 4 or 10 who doesn’t get a great response.