The first time I got the flu shot over 10 years ago, I got horribly sick. It was the worst sick I could remember being, excluding my hospital days due to kidney issues. I was homebound for a week inhaling Vicks vapor rub, getting high on humidifiers, popping in menthol cough drops, and lazily and sleepily dragging myself in loose pajamas and my Hello Kitty robe.
I had refused the flu shot for as long as I could, until my work made it mandatory to get it. Their threat: “If you do not get your flu shot then you have to wear a mask the whole time that the flu season is active.” Then, my transplant center made it mandatory that I get the flu shot. Their logic: “You are immunosuppressed. Get it to protect yourself and prevent that nasty flu coming at you.”
I begrudgingly and edgily got the flu shot. To my surprise, after that very first boxing match with the flu shot that had me knocked out with the actual flu, I had not gotten the flu since. I would feel a little funny after the initial stab in the muscle from the flu shot, but, overall, I started to appreciate the fact that my workplace offered the flu shot for free. Prevention is a cure. Protection is the way to go. You can, indeed, stop the worst before it can even possibly get a chance to start. You can, indeed, be proactive rather than reactive.
Then, about three weeks ago, I got the flu. Mind you, I had gotten the flu shot sometime in winter 2019. I was so sick three weeks ago that I spiked a 102 fever and managed to and was actually mandated to go the closest emergency room. I was so sick where the medical staff could not get my fevers under control that it was advised that I stay in the hospital overnight. As much as I basked in the free flat screen TV that provided endless channels and the gourmet meals at the hospital (that isn’t sarcasm…the food was actually good, but I just about had no appetite and you know there is a problem with Mary Wu when she does not have an appetite), I felt horrible going from hot to cold, cold to hot, and then, the topper, my IV broke in the middle of the night. This resorted to at least 7 pricks in my vein-less skin due to dehydration. This resulted in a final IV stabbed right in my index finger. And, yes, that really did hurt. Ow.
The cure for the flu? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Rest at home. Plenty of fluids. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep. All I could do was wait to get better. All I could do was wait and see. All I could do was nothing. The art of doing nothing.
For me, I flunk astronomically at ‘doing nothing,’ which, we must realize, is an oxymoron. But, is ‘doing nothing’ really an oxymoron? That week that I was quarantined at home, I mentally and physically struggled with doing nothing. The minutes went by. The moments slipped through my fingers. I felt like I was wasting my time. I was getting cabin fever. It frustrated me that I had tried to stop the flu by getting the flu shot and now I was battling with doing nothing to get better from the flu. In my mind and I think just among all of us, our immediate response is to react. Do something. Answer the question. Solution to the problem. Prevention is the cure. As long as we prevent and do something then we are being proactive to take care of ourselves. But, is prevention really a cure? Is proactive really taking care of ourselves? Could prevention and proactive possibly be a bit anxiety-inducing and control freakish?
A couple day after I was diagnosed with the flu, I went to my transplant center. I was pretty much hacking up a lung and felt so drained and tired that I could have fallen asleep sitting up trying to talk to my transplant doctor. I asked my transplant doctor this: “What’s the point of the flu shot? I got the flu shot to prevent the flu, but I ended up getting it.”
He sounded like a textbook when he explained: “Well, it is supposed to protect you 80%, but it can’t protect you at 100%. Nothing can really protect you at 100%.”
This is when another realization hit me: Prevention is NOT a cure. Prevention can be a catalyst for anxiety. We can try and do all these ‘proactive’ things to maintain our health and our lives and to maybe even stop bad before it can start and be worst than ever, but if something is going to happen then it is going to happen. It can be good. It can be bad. Most of all, it is life. This is life. There are never any guarantees in life. There are also times that there are never concrete solutions, answers, and abilities to really ‘fix’ or stop anything that is meant to happen. There is never 100%.
In general, humans immediate response is to react and to try to ‘fix’ or provide a solution to a problem. I must confess that I have spent the mass majority of my life believing that proactive is better than reactive, but now I wonder if proactive is a ‘control thing’ when there really is no control over things that happen in our lives. Our only ‘control’ is how we react to it and, maybe just sometimes, the best reaction is nothing. The ‘wait and see’ factor. Is doing nothing actually doing something? Is NOT reacting a solution or answer to a problem? Is prevention a kind of ongoing solution or is it just anxiety-inducing? Can we really ‘fix’ something by doing nothing?