It's the close of Invisible Illness Week, and this here is my 300th blog post! Can you believe it? Yeah, I was pretty impressed when I noticed it. That's an awful lot of writing on dealing with invisible illness. But if you have an invisible illness, you know that I could easily write another 400 blog posts on what it's like. Because, when you get an invisible illness, it transports you to a different planet, with new rules and new realities, that other people just don't get. I didn't get it today for my brother.
My brother has vaccine illness from the anthrax shot, and on his planet, a storm was brewing. I, of course, couldn't see it. I don't live on that planet. Some of the things about our two planets are similar---I know that when I feel bad, he feels worse and will need more rest. He gets the same weather triggers I do, and we're often knocked out at the same time. But this evening, all was fine in my world, when everything was not right in his. I was able to get him some emergency supplies (chocolate), but he still got hit with an attack that left him shaking and vomiting.
I made him promise to never cut it that close again, because I hated seeing him like that. But in his defense, he said, "I've never had anyone respect my illness before." And that just broke my heart. I know what it's like to not be believed, not be respected, and being told that you're making it all up for attention. It's soul-crushing... because first you've got to convince folks, no, you really don't feel well, and that's all while you really don't feel well, so you're not your best at explaining things anyway! It's a moral kick in the gut when you're already feeling vulnerable and at the mercy of others.
Then, if it's doctors that don't believe you... well, they're the gatekeepers to most all things health! If it's not a skinned knee, a mild headache, or a cold/flu, you're screwed when it comes to fixing your problems yourself at home. And when it comes to getting a correct diagnosis... it can take 7-10 years to get a correct diagnosis when your doctors believe you. It can take agonizingly longer than that if they're antagonistic towards you. No one likes an angry nurse. An angry doctor can poison an entire institution against you.
And, of course, having someone on your side who believes you, and has seen your trouble first hand, can make all the difference in the world. Despite what the OSD says about the Anthrax Vaccine, "U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled December 22, 2003 that the Department of Defense must stop forcing soldiers and civilian employees to get the anthrax vaccine, saying the vaccine is an experimental drug not licensed by the FDA." But the DOD back-ended their way around that by having the FDA call it safe after the fact, even though Attorney Mark Zaid cited research from an FDA panel in 1985 -- which was also mentioned in the FDA statement Tuesday -- that said that "no meaningful assessment of [the vaccine's] value against inhalation anthrax is possible," Zaid said. Based on the research I was directed to by the CDC, there have only been two human studies, and one of them showed severe side effects compared to controls. Um.... There have been drugs, good drugs (Demerol, for example), pulled off the market for far less! And yet there's this whole web site by the Offices of Strategic Defense that are telling me, oh, no... it's just fine! No one gets sick from this! Really?? I found "one study shows that the incidence and severity of side-effects are significantly higher with the killed vaccine than with the alum-based placebo (overall odds ratio 0.16; 95% confidence interval 2.38-27.17)." [Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9682332] Just fine, eh? Would you like to sell me a bridge too?
My brother deserves a chance to be well. I'm gonna work my pants off to make that happen.