Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Fear of Needles: No

Sick of Shots: Yes

Skeptical about Public Health Officials’ Guidance:  Definitely

After receiving four injections in my arm in 2021, I wasn’t too excited to get a fifth shot in my shoulder this past week.

I experienced a good bit of trepidation as I entered my doctor’s office in Phoenix, Arizona.  The plan was to get a corticosteroid injected into my shoulder capsule  (bursa) to help with the pain and immobility I have been suffering with since the beginning of 2022.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Like millions of people around the world, I received three doses of the mRNA vaccine in 2021.  My frozen shoulder started shortly after 12/28/21, when the Wal-Green’s pharmacist administered a flu shot and a COVID booster shot in the same arm.   While I don’t know if these shots were the direct cause of my shoulder issue, the location and the timing are awfully coincidental.   At this point, I am in no hurry to get another mRNA vaccine in any arm until there are longer-term, controlled, randomized studies conducted.

So now, after seven months of physical therapy, yoga, massage, chiropractic adjustments, healthy eating and oral medication, I am giving corticosteroids injections into my shoulder a shot. 

Healing from frozen shoulder is a long and frustrating mind game and I hope that this latest treatment helps me get past the plateau I have hit. 

Frozen Shoulder, Autoimmune Diseases and the COVID-19 Vaccine

In December of 2020 I wrote an article titled “Risk and Reward: Why I Will Take the COVID-19 Vaccine”.  I even published it in the Health and Science chapter of my book Strong Words and Simple Truths.

I took my first Moderna mRNA vaccine in March of 2021 and had my booster administered at the end of December 2021.

I had done a large amount of reading and research on the safety and efficacy of the new mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 in late 2020 and made what I thought was the best decision for my family and me at the time.   Knowing what I know now in June 2022, I don’t think I would make the same decisions.  For one thing, I definitely would NOT get the flu shot and the booster shot in the same arm on the same day.  I’m not sure that the vaccines were cause of my current medical condition but it may have been the trigger.  Allow me to explain what has happened to me in the last five months.

In April 2022, four months after getting my booster shot, I was diagnosed with Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis).  I had never heard of this painful condition before and have since learned that people with thyroid autoimmune disease have a higher risk for getting it.  Autoimmune disease happens when the body’s natural defense system can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells.   Frozen Shoulder is an inflammatory disease that takes many months to recover from.

My symptoms include severely limited movement of my left arm and shoulder and sharp, stabbing pains in my upper arm (due to nerve impingement).    These issues started a few weeks after the double injections in the same arm and progressively worsened over three months.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Over the last two months, I have taken extremely deliberate actions to try to lessen my pain and heal the underlying issue that is causing this illness.   

Here is what I have done or am doing:

  1. Got an MRI of my upper arm.  Consulted with Orthopedic Doctor who diagnosed the Adhesive Capsulitis. He prescribed an NSAID that I take daily.
  2. Visited Chiropractor, Peter Nemanic, who has helped release some of the main trigger points in my upper back and shoulder muscles.
  3. Received numerous therapeutic massages on back, arms and neck.
  4. Completed a 21-day purification and cleansing dietary program  (Standard Process products).
  5. Seeing Physical Therapist, Christine Anderson, who is helping to release the nerve impingement in my back and improve my range of motion.
  6. Working with Naturopathic Doctor, Todd Winton, who put me on a treatment protocol to decrease my inflammation and stabilize my immune system.
  7. Seeing Yoga Therapist, Nancy Martch, to increase body awareness and mindful movement in order to create more ease in the body and more efficient postural and movement patterns—all with the intention of alleviating pain and creating better health.
  8. Participating in Stretch Fit training classes at Mountainside Fitness gym.  This is for lower body flexibility.
  9. Daily stretching exercises for my arm and shoulder.  These are supported, passive movements since the shoulder joint is still restricted.
  10. Drinking more water and significantly limiting alcohol intake.
  11. Daily supplements:  Vitamin D3, Zinc, Fish Oil and Vitamin B Complex.
  12. Walking and/or easy jogging 4-5 times a week.
  13.  Keeping detailed logs and journals of my symptoms and treatment progress.
  14. Eating a healthier diet with less sugar, dairy and grains.

It is my hope that I can regain full range of motion of my left arm in the coming weeks and that my body’s immune system will reset and stabilize since taking the Moderna COVID-19 booster shot.

I strongly believe that it is important that we each understand our own risk factors and medical conditions that may impact our immune systems’ response to vaccines.   Our unique health profiles and risks should be well understood prior to taking any new medications.

With so many Americans having autoimmune diseases (an estimated 25 million), I feel it is critical to research and consider the risks versus rewards during our new age of COVID-19.

NOTE:  I am not a medical doctor and you should consult your own physician for medical advice on these issues.

Photo by Steve Smull

Risk and Reward: Why I will take the COVID-19 vaccine

Each day we make hundreds of choices and decisions regarding our health and safety.

If there’s one thing I learned in the year 2020 it is that every human being has a different risk tolerance.  Everyone on this planet has a unique set of personal scales and internal measurements when it comes to assessing the risk of any given action versus the benefit or reward of it.  Each person has their own fears, neurotic tendencies and defense mechanisms.  Every individual is as distinct as a snowflake when it comes to Risk Management. 

Welcome to Risk Management where in the real world there is little conformity among billions of inquiring minds!

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Looking back, I realize that my first lesson in risk management  (risk vs. reward) occurred when I was 10 years old. While riding my shiny new Huffy ten-speed bicycle, I took a turn too quickly and hit a patch of sand.  This resulted in my crashing to the asphalt and receiving my first, full arm road rash.  I suddenly understood that risky actions can sometimes lead to unpleasant consequences.  I soon realized that I had to improve my bike handling skills and look out for hazards in the road in order to be safe and prevent bodily injury.   

The risk of crashing aside, my passion and love of bike riding has continued throughout my adult life as I pursued numerous criterium, cyclocross, track, road and mountain bike races.  All of these events had a high of level of risk for injury but my desire to have the thrilling reward outweighed my concerns.  I was willing to take my chances knowing that I had prepared, trained and did what I could to mitigate bodily harm.  I always wore a high quality helmet to protect my head but that didn’t help when I faceplanted onto a rock in the mountains of southern California. The helmet didn’t do much when I crashed in the final turn of a road races and got run over by the rider behind me. If you race bikes enough, you will crash but that is the risk that many people take for the reward of the experience. 

The importance of the rewards and/or benefits of an activity also varies greatly among people.  No one has the exact same set of values.

I, like many cyclists, have modified my bike riding patterns to account for the increased risk of getting hit by a vehicle on the road.  To save my skin and bones, I primarily ride on dirt paths on my mountain bike, far away from distracted drivers.  At least the rocks and cacti are stationary and don’t come up behind me at 80 mph!  

At this point you may be asking, what does Brenda’s story about biking riding have to do with the decision to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

Why am I comfortable with the decision to take a newly developed vaccine that only has Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA?

It’s simple.  It’s Risk Management.

Based on my experience and background in Biochemistry studies in college, jobs in clinical research/pharmaceutical companies and recent investigation and inquiry on the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, I am making the best-informed decision for myself.

In a nutshell, below are the main reasons why I plan to take the new vaccine once available to me:

  1. I want to be able to travel and visit my family without worrying about contracting and spreading the virus.
  2. Messenger RNA has been studied and worked on for many decades and holds the potential to revolutionize vaccination.
  3. The delivery mechanism of the mRNA using a Lipid Nano Particle (LNP) is way cool.
  4. The immune response that is being enhanced is targeted for the specific spike protein on the “business end” of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus.
  5. The COVID-19 virus is unpredictable and contracting the disease can result in unknown and longer-term effects that are not fully understood at this point.
  6. The effects of revving up my immune system to defend against this novel virus is controlled and short lived. I’ll take 24 hours of unpleasant discomfort over 5-10 days of uncertain outcomes.
  7. The FDA clinical research phases that were accelerated were primarily bureaucratic waste/red tape and the extended times it normally takes to enroll people into the clinical trial (phases 1 and 2).
  8. The Pfizer and Moderna phase 3 trials were controlled, randomized and double-blinded studies with over 41.000 and 30,000 participants respectively.  

So whether it’s the decision to ride a bicycle on the road, go to the holiday party, wear a mask or take the newly developed COVID-19 vaccine, we all need to weigh the risks and the benefits of our choices.

A Holiday Party with Toastmaster friends, Colorado 2015

How much risk you are willing to take is a very personal calculation based on your unique circumstances, fears and desires.  Only you can make the determination regarding what is most important to you.

I encourage you to actively research and study on as many neutral, science-based sites and publications as you can find in order to fully understand the biology, the history and the implications of taking the new vaccine.  

Listen to a wide range of medical, clinical research and industry professionals to get all sides of the story before you run the information through your personal Risk Management filter.  

And lastly, follow your gut.  I have found that the little voice inside your head that instinctively tells you what is safe and good is usually right.