"It is never too late to give up your prejudices." -Henry David Thoreau
How open are you to changing your mind? What kind of evidence or experience would move you to take a completely different view on a long held idea or a completely different way of being after acting one way for long time? I've written about this topic before. You can read about how I was wrong here. It took alot for me to change my mind about my diet, but when I decided to try a different approach it changed my life.
When I reevaluated my approach to food, it touched off many other reevaluations in my life. I changed some long held convictions. One of them was vaccination. It's a huge, hot debate in our world. Many people have deeply emotional stances both for and against vaccinations. Some prefer not to know too much about either side of the issue, just so they can stay out of the line of fire.
I used to believe that vaccination was absolutely the right thing to do in almost every circumstance. My daughter received all the normal vaccines at all the regularly scheduled intervals from infancy to elementary school. When our family moved to West Africa, each of us got all the required vaccines. Hepatitis A and B, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, and Meningitis. We got 'em all. A rabies vaccine was even recommended for those working with animals or likely to have potential interaction with animals, like kids. So, yep, we even vaccinated our daughter against possible rabies exposure. The last thing I wanted was for my sweet girl to innocently try to play with a stray dog and be exposed to such a terrible virus.
And when I arrived in West Africa and realized what can happen to a society when preventive vaccination programs aren't undertaken, I was thankful that we'd had the luxury of receiving vaccines. The only time I refused vaccination was for the flu. I had always felt reservations about it. It seemed that more people got sick, really sick, after the vaccine than actually acquired protection from the virus.
So when the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, came on the market I was certain I would definitely have my daughter vaccinated when the time came. I could readily see the potentially life-saving good of all the other vaccines, we'd never had a harmful reaction in our family, and there was only one vaccine I felt had a negative effect, the flu vaccine, and it was easily avoidable. It seemed like the HPV vaccine was a logical decision and everything I heard about it supported that decision. I told people proudly, "Of course I'll have my daughter vaccinated for HPV. It's everywhere and I want to protect her from cervical cancer. Why wouldn't I do it?"
Shortly after we arrived in West Africa, my autoimmunity kicked into high gear. In hindsight, I see the multiple, serious vaccines I took before leaving as having a direct impact on my immune system. I believe it was one of the factors in the sudden increase in the severity of my symptoms. The vaccines are required for travel to developing countries and even realizing what I do now, I would not trade-in that experience in order to avoid vaccination. I still think some basic vaccines, when carefully manufactured, ethically administered, and judiciously given, are good for most people and overall positive for a society. However, making the connection between vaccination and my autoimmunity prompted me to reevaluate my "definitely" stance on vaccines as a whole.
The more I changed about my life in order to manage my AIs, the more I learned about how everything I put in and on my body was effecting my health, the more I understood about the genetic map I had passed on to my daughter, the more uncertain I was about my former certainty on having her vaccinated against HPV. Her system may also be predisposed toward autoimmunity, I was worried that too many or the wrong kinds of vaccines could put her in the same shape I was in. Then a year ago, when she was 11, her pediatrician brought it up during her yearly physical. What she told me shocked me. She'd had a patient with a very severe reaction to Gardasil in her clinic. It was the first time she'd seen anything that serious in her career. She told me it was up to us to decide, but that she was no longer offering the vaccine in her practice.
I went straight home and began researching. What I found was frightening. I did not feel that the risks outweighed the benefits on this one. It wasn't the same as protecting her from Typhoid, it wasn't like preventing crippling Polio from striking her little body. We changed our minds. We paid attention to our experience and gut feeling, we talked to an expert, and we carefully poured over the research. Altering our stance on giving our daughter the HPV vaccine was clearly the right way to go.
This is one example of many in my life today on how important it is to have flexible views. If you are battling for your health or the health of your family, it is essential to be open to new ways of doing things and willing to take in new information as you navigate health care decisions. Changing your stance on formally strong ideas, especially if it has the potential to positively impact your health, is not weak. It's smart. It's never too late to reevaluate and change your mind.
Readers, have you had any major direction changes on your autoimmune path? Any firm stances that you did a 180 degree turn on after realizing a new approach was required? Tell me about them!
If you want to know more about Gardasil and read an evaluation that helped me in making my decision on this vaccine, you can click here.