Great Britain

I had tears in my eyes as I had my Covid vaccine – after a year living in fear there is finally hope

THERE was never a doubt in my mind, I was always going to have it.

But after months of hoping for it and talking about it, getting my first dose of the Covid jab left me feeling overwhelmed.

Now, you might be thinking, ‘she doesn’t look over 70’, well I hope you are! And you’d be right, I’m 39.

But as a stage 4 cancer patient having active chemotherapy, I am in the clinically extremely vulnerable group, and so this week I became eligible to have the vaccine.

I got the call up on Wednesday along with lots of fellow patients and yesterday afternoon I arrived at The Royal Marsden, the hospital I go to for treatment most days, to have my first dose.

I was nervous, to be honest I was really panicking, but then again I am a nervous wreck before almost any appointment.

Four years of living with cancer and you’d think I would be used to it by now.

I have chemo pretty much every day, I am incredibly lucky to have been allowed to carry on my treatment throughout lockdown.

I’m constantly prodded with needles, having test after test, and treatment after treatment to keep me alive.

But this felt different, in lots of ways. It wasn't about being scared of the vaccine itself, or any worries around it, it was the weight of the occasion, it felt big. Because it was big.

I've been terrified to be around my kids when they're sick

For almost a year, I have been terrified to leave my home.

I have been scared to set foot inside a supermarket, anxious about seeing my parents (when it was allowed) and I’ve even been terrified to be around my two kids when they get the slightest sniffle.

Lockdown after lockdown and most of the time in between, I have stayed at home, consumed by this fear that I will catch Covid.

And not only have I stayed at home, but my friends and family along with millions of strangers have too, to help protect people like me.

So when I walked into the clinic yesterday and met the lovely nurse Peta Hicks who was to administer my jab, I felt all that emotion bubbling right under the surface. I had tears in my eyes.

Peta was great and so calming, she’s a machine. She told her her record so far is vaccinating 106 people in one day.

A real sense of hope

What really struck me as I walked into the clinic was the sense of hope that filled the air.

It was a feeling I haven’t felt for a very long time, the atmosphere was buzzing, the positive vibes were palpable.

The staff were beaming with a real sense of pride at what they are doing, and damn right.

It’s an incredible thing that they are a part of, the biggest vaccination drive in our history.

They are rallying the troops for a better time, and that glimmer of hope is only getting stronger and stronger with every jab that is administered.

Once Peta had calmed me down a bit - I am scared of needles which doesn’t help - it was over and done with in no time at all.

Like any other jab I’ve ever had, the anticipation was worse than the actual reality. I barely noticed the needle go in and out.

I waited for 15 minutes so they could check I was all ok.

And just like that it was done.

And just like that I felt a wave of emotion flood out of me. It was like a huge sense of relief.

It's the beginning of the end

I know this isn’t a green light for me to go and live my life like I did pre-Covid.

The vaccine takes a few weeks to build immunity, for a start.

And I have to go back in 12 weeks time for my second dose.

Then there is the fact that scientists don’t yet know if the vaccine will actually stop us carrying and passing on the virus.

So there are still hurdles to jump.

There will be many more weeks of restrictions, millions more people still need to get vaccinated, and still the NHS is under unprecedented pressure, and the daily death tolls keep rising.

There are still dark days to come.

But it does finally feel like the beginning of the end.

After months of living in fear, it feels like we can start to breathe again.

This is our way out of this, it’s our only option and our way back to a life that feels more normal.

One where we can hug our parents and grandparents and see our friends again.

Ask questions but don't be scared

I know people have questions, and some might be scared about having the vaccine.

If you’re among those people do what I did, and talk to your GP or doctor.

As a cancer patient my team talked with me about it, and reassured me.

It’s just like having the flu jab, it’s been through the same checks and balances, the same safety tests and approvals.

It’s incredible that in less than a year science has come up with an answer for us, a way out of this mess.

As a cancer patient on experimental drugs, I know the power of science.

I ride on the wings of science every day of my life, it’s why I am still here.

And once again, it’s come through - not just for me, not just for cancer patients but for all of us.

My mum and dad are in their 60s and they’ll be getting it when their turn comes.

A year ago we were full of fear, facing this deadly coronavirus that we’d never heard of before - watching it tear across the world.

Now, even in the depths of another lockdown, we have hope.

It’s a really big deal, and I can’t wait for you to feel that same wave of emotion, and that renewed sense of hope.

We can do this, together.

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