In late August, the 44-Year old on leave, Nurse Andrea Kjelgaard, got her third Moderna Vaccine. She released an as-told-to essay based on her experience and what she felt about receiving the Moderna Vaccine.
The essay is published on INSIDER with the editor’s note that Kjelgaard and the author are friends.
Her journey with cancer began in 2007. During a kidney stone scan a year and a half ago, the doctors discovered a nodule in the lower right lobe of her lungs. The doctors didn’t know what it was, so they decided to do another scan. When Kjelgaard returned, a nodule had grown from the size of a pea to the size of a half-dollar. She had a biopsy, and that’s when she found out that she had epithelioid hemangioendothelioma or EHE.
The doctors surgically removed the nodules, and she was cancer-free for the next seven years. She got married, had two children, and worked as a nurse in a small surgery center near her home in Castle Rock, Colorado. She was living the best of both her personal and professionals lives when cancer returned in 2014, and it was a huge shock for her.
Doctors removed the tumor once more. Only a few months later, she discovered a lump in her breast during a self-exam. She was cancer-free after a double mastectomy, several rounds of chemotherapy, and intense radiation. However, the radiation left her left lung scarred and not fully functional.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
She already had fluid in her lungs, and the fear of contracting the virus was crippling. Her husband is an anesthesiologist and sending him to work every day felt like Kjelgaard was sending him to war. She was afraid he’d get sick and worried that he’d pass it to her.
She was desperate to get away from the virus, so she packed her third and fifth-grader children and drove to her parent’s house in Ohio. They had the place to themselves because her parents weren’t there.
They continued to attend remote school while isolating themselves from the rest of the world. They returned when the case count was lower, and she was confident that her husband had enough PPE to protect himself and not bring the virus home.
The EHE reappeared just as she was beginning to relax and believe they could manage life with masks and a small social circle. Biopsies, doctor visits, and scans revealed that cancer had spread to other parts of her body and could not be removed with a scalpel. She began intensive chemotherapy just as the rest of the world rang in the year 2021.
“Going through chemo without visitors was terrifying — even my husband had to wait in the car while I went inside. I’d never felt so alone. My world shrunk to the size of my house — mainly my bedroom. Friends wanted to bring food, walk my dogs, and clean my house, but I couldn’t risk it. It’s like I could see COVID crawling on everyone and everything.” said Kjelgaard
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Getting the Vaccine
She inquired about the vaccine with her doctor in January. She was concerned that it would make her extremely ill. She was a shell of her former self, unable to eat or drink much of anything. She needed confirmation that the shot was safe for cancer patients.
The Doctor said, without hesitation, that Kjelgaard should get it as soon as possible. She received her first shot in early March. Other than a sore arm and a headache a few days later, She had no side effects. With the second shot, She had the same experience.
She suddenly felt like she had an extra layer of protection around her that she didn’t have before. Her doctor advised her to go when she read about booster shots for immunocompromised patients in the news.
On August 31, she entered CVS, informed the pharmacy staff that she was a cancer patient, and received her third shot within minutes. The following day, she felt more tired, but she still didn’t have a fever or chills.
“I understand when people are hesitant or scared of how they might react to the vaccine or the booster. But the security I feel having protection from COVID means I can enjoy company again, even as I continue chemo medication. I have hope for my future. If cancer (and isolation) has taught me anything, it’s that time with loved ones is precious. ” she said
“I’ve been a nurse all my career, and I believe in science. I say to anyone who is immunocompromised, as confidently as my doctor said to me: Get the vaccine and the booster. It’s worth it.”
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