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Masks and Veggies: COVID, Vaccines, and Cancer Prevention

We now have a couple COVID vaccines shown to be safe and effective. Soon, there will be a half-dozen or more approved vaccines to choose from. In less than a year. An amazing feat.

For folks living with various forms of cancer, we don’t have clear guidance on who should be vaccinated against COVID, or when.

There are plenty of known unknowns, including if, once inoculated, vaccinated individuals can still contract and transmit the infection.

To me, masks and distancing are analogous to veggies, exercise, and stress reduction in the context of cancer—the former proven preventative measures to help avoid COVID, the latter recognized preventable lifestyle-driven activities.

The evidence that diet, exercise, and stress reduction correlates with lower incidences of malignant disease is undeniable. The published literature supporting mask-wearing, distancing, and hand-washing to reduce the spread of COVID is also irrefutable.

When people refuse to eat their veggies or incorporate sensible lifestyle measures then, over time, their health is compromised in numerous ways. They put only themselves at risk. Many exercise that freedom of choice.

Moral consciousness and respect for human life is a universally held practice… for most. Alas, many folks are not interested in wearing masks, and/or distancing. When personal freedom ‘rights’ are in conflict with necessary mandates and penalties, and when those that dismiss mask-wearing and distancing expose themselves and all others in their path, they put others at risk.

With or without proven vaccines for COVID and effective treatment for cancer care, prevention via PPE  and other lifestyle approaches (veggies, exercise) remain the most logical approach to ‘not getting sick’. While lifestyle is no guarantee against cancer, prevention over treatment is the obvious and rational route to the healthiest population ever.

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Decision Making

Just because vaccines are available, early adopters—and especially those living with cancer—should fully weigh the decision-making process. Speak with your oncologist/hematologist to gain a better understanding of the pros and cons of being vaccinated as it relates to your specific situation.

Review the most current published medical literature to stay informed on what we truly know about COVID vaccines and those hosting cancer.  Start here.

We Are Each an n of 1

By definition, I am classified as immuno-suppressed.  My marrow has been cleared of leukemia for over nine years. I have no spleen. I have one kidney. Anyone living with a malignancy, undergoing active treatment or recovering from treatment is considered to have a compromised immune system.

Those hosting leukemia correlate with much worse outcomes from COVID.  And mRNA vaccines may require more study before treating those hosting solid tumors. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s approved vaccines are both mRNA-derived.

I am not lining up to get a COVID vaccine as soon as it becomes available for my particular ‘category’ and situation. I am more comfortable waiting a bit longer to see how the guidelines take shape for inoculating those living with cancer, and survivors. How about you?

So for now, for me, it’s more distancing and donning of masks (and shields, as necessary). Yes, it’s wearing on me big time; it really does suck. I cannot wait to hug my 90-year-old mom again, and I’m eager to greet my oldest son at my house… he’s living with a COVID nurse. The actions I’m taking fully align with COVID prevention.

I’m still adhering to a diet rich with veggies, exercise, hydration, and stress reduction activities. This part is no problem; I’ve been living this way for almost 30 years. It fully aligns with cancer prevention and becoming an inhospitable host when living with cancer.

Establishing or modifying your own protocol, specific to your unique situation and journey, is critical.

Summing Up

The point here is to tread carefully as you consider getting the vaccine, and continue being vigilant with masks, distancing, and handwashing—and all the things you have to do to become your most resilient self.

Super-charging your immune function helps create an environment through which viruses can be avoided and cancer can be best managed. As previously mentioned, it all comes back to being a horrible host to cancer.

Put simply, wear your mask and eat your veggies… and let’s see what the science eventually says regarding various COVID-19 vaccines for those living with cancer or actively undergoing treatment. We can be ‘all in this together’ in respect to our fellow humans, while owning our individual decisions.