A Cancer Survivor's Revaccination

You never think it’s going to be you. I know I didn’t.

I was 31, in the best shape of my life, and I’d just run my fastest time in a half-marathon. Nothing, literally nothing, could have been farther from my imagination than finding out, just six short weeks later, I had one of the rarest and most aggressive forms of cervical cancer. I was given less than a five percent chance of survival. When it was discovered I was in Stage IVB of the disease. There is no Stage V.

Determined to fight, I went forward with a cutting edge treatment protocol that included a radical hysterectomy, multiple rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, and two back-to-back bone marrow transplants. Thankfully, I beat the cancer and the odds! But these life-saving procedures had destroyed my immune system, so I was put on strict house isolation for almost a year to protect me while my immune system “rebooted.” All of the vaccines I had received and the immunities I developed over the years were wiped out, so I would need all of my childhood and adult vaccinations re-administered. During this time, I would be “flying naked” with little or no defenses for diseases most people were already immunized against, so I had to avoid situations with undue risks, at all costs.This was especially ironic, because I had lost my younger sister very suddenly several years earlier to bacterial meningitis, a disease that can now be prevented through vaccination. Had the vaccine been recommended then, she would probably be alive today.

Once my revaccination process started, I would joke with my girlfriends that we could pile all their kids in my car so we could get our vaccines together since I had to get the vaccines in the regular sequences and intervals, just like the children. So over a year’s time, I followed the childhood vaccination schedule, again. It’s important for people to know that vaccines are safe, and can save lives. And despite a “restarted” immune system, and getting all my vaccinations, often four or five at a time, I experienced zero side effects. I feel good knowing that I’m protected again and that I don’t have to worry about the risks of not being vaccinated.

During my second chance at life, I’ve traveled all over the world and even got the typhoid vaccine for added protection. I’m not going to let anything slow me down this time!

Alyssa Phillips
Atlanta, GA