It all started on a quiet Sunday morning while I was sipping on my breakfast, a cup of freshly brewed coffee. A sudden sharp jolt went screeching through my side like I was being jabbed with a hot poker. After the pain subsided I lifted up my shirt to look at my side to see what in the world that was. What followed took a few minutes to learn and a whole summer to recover from. I learned first hand that shingles is a lot more common than you think!
As I lifted my shirt saw what looked like a foot heel had kicked me, hard, in the side of my abdomen. Did I hard a heart attack? Was I being eaten by some kind of bacteria? My mind raced about what to do next. I had to find out what in the world this red, bumpy rash was doing on my body. Instantly I knew that I had to ask my Facebook group local moms what I was dealing with here.
This Facebook group is a collection of moms from all over the south side of Pittsburgh. Every day moms talk about their families, their husbands (who seem to head for the bathroom as soon as trouble appears), and they also share pictures of the rashes their kids get for a quick diagnosis.
I wasn’t a kid but I bet if I showed them a picture of this rash they would know what it was.
The Dr. Mom’s quickly gave me their diagnosis. I had shingles. I had heard of that but wasn’t exactly sure what that meant.
WHAT EXACTLY IS SHINGLES?a) grossb) painfulc) scabby, itchy, and burnyd) an infection caused by the varicella-zoster or herpes zoster viruse) all of the above!!
WHAT IS SHINGLES
I googled “what is shingles” and was quickly grossed out. Was this small rash going to get huge, and pussy, and much, much worse? When I was a kid I had full blown chicken pox along with my 5 siblings.
Yeah, all at the same time. My poor mother.
Everything I read said that the sooner I got the shingles medication the better off I would be in the long run. As soon as Scott answered the phone I started crying, “I think I have shingles and I need to get to the urgent care now. Can you come home from work and go with me, please?”
Even he had to ask, “What is shingles?!”
I explained to him that it’s the old people’s version of chicken pox. He did rush home, as much as is possible taking public transportation. The next hour was trying to get me dressed and on the bus. That was so difficult. I felt very faint, very nauseous, and my head was pounding.
Once there, the nurse of the urgent care said she would get me right in. She kept her word! It only took 5 minutes for the doctor to get to me.
The doctor walked in, took one look, and said, “Yep, Shingles!” I am pretty sure I heard a “Duh!” at the end.
WHAT CAUSES SHINGLES
He asked me if I had any early warning signs of shingles, mainly, above ordinary stress.
Stress? What stress? I mean, my husband and I did move our family across the country only to have him lose his job to a power struggle in the company. Then we had to declare bankruptcy and lost our car and our credit rating. Then he had a bad bout of kidney stones, got a job, slipped on a ton of ice breaking his leg in several places, couldn’t do the job anymore because of that, and had to take an 53% cut in pay to get a job.
But, ya know, just a walk in the park. Pfffttt!
The man just stood there staring at me trying to figure out if I was being serious or sarcastic. I was both. Trust me, I was both. I also was in pain. He told me the likelihood of me getting shingles at my age was high due to my age, stress levels, and because I once had chicken pox. Basically, any one can get it at any time.
The nurse at the Urgent Care: How would you like to pay for this?
My husband: My good looks!
Scott Masek: You asked.
Me: Yeah. He’s mine, all mine.
The shingles medication he prescribed was Valtrex. He told me to take it filled immediately and take it as soon as I got it. I could also take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the pain.
Scott asked if shingles are contagious. The doctor told me to stay away from pregnant women and people with a full blown auto-immune disease. He wanted to know if the boys ever had chicken pox or shingles. They were both immunized and have never had it.
I asked about getting the shingles vaccine. He said the shingles vaccine side effects outweighed the benefits. Now that I have had it once there was a chance I can get it again. That wasn’t something the vaccine could prevent, in his opinion.
The boys were all over me when I got home. They wanted to get me pillows, a glass of water, propped my feet up, and were at my beck and call. They both asked at the same time when I told them why I was sick, “What is shingles, Mom?”
I told them about having chicken pox when I was a kid and how this is like a leftover of that disease. They both will never have to know what that’s like.
After posting my sickness and diagnosis on my Facebook all of my friends have their favorite shingles cure to offer. The only problem is that I felt like I had just been whacked with a 2×4 and my body had been mass evacuating everything I had eaten the last 48 hours. I didn’t really care and could hardly think straight. In fact, I was still a wee bit loopy three weeks later.
The worst was at night when I got tired or too hot.
From the bottom of my heart I want to thank all my friends who tried to heal me. That meant the world to me.
RECOVERY AND THE LESSONS LEARNED
After getting home I went straight to bed. The rest of the month is kind of fuzzy. There was a few days of vomiting, eating crackers and then eventually being able to drink ginger ale. After two weeks of that the only food my stomach would handle was bananas, rice pudding, and toast. I spent my time reading and watching Netflix.
I did get more blisters on the front and the back of my side. Thankfully they never got pus in them. There is the barest faint of the rash now. I am so glad I never got shingles on my face.
Before I left the office the doctor shouted out to me to stop drinking coffee and eat a real breakfast from now on. I may have snorted and rolled my eyes.
Know what, though? A month of being sick has a way of making you rethink your life choices. I now have oatmeal and yogurt with my morning coffee. I am teaching myself Tai Chi. Maybe getting sick wasn’t such a bad thing.