Then I got shingles…
A little about this fascinating malady. Contrary to popular belief, you can get shingles if you’ve already had chickenpox. In fact, you can only get shingles if you’ve already had chickenpox. What happens is the virus that your body subdued long ago, when you were 5, decides to reactivate itself, through no fault of your own. Because this virus is already attached to the appropriate antibodies, it has to morph a bit to make its presence known the second time around. So, instead of a general, itchy breakout, all over yourself (like chickenpox), shingles manifests as insane nerve agitation (neuralgia), starting with itching and progressing to severe pain, along a major nerve root on a limb or the trunk of your body.
Then, a rash usually breaks out. The really fun things about shingles are as follows:
- Major painkillers (like Percocets, Lortabs, etc…) can only control the pain, not eradicate it
- Neuralgia begins 3-5 days before a rash even thinks about appearing
- Rash phase lasts approximately 3-4 weeks
- A striking number of shingles outbreaks cause a secondary condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), after the rash is done and gone. Basically, the nerve root is damaged beyond repair, and continues to freak out for months or years after the virus has gone back into remission.
Good news is as follows:
- If you catch shingles early (very early), the combination of painkillers, steroids, and anti-viral drugs are highly effective in stemming the flow of ridiculousness.
- If you have a knowledgeable mother, who makes it her business to educate herself about non-traditional treatments for common diseases, you might find out that an aggressive cycle of a totally random drug, cimetidine (Tagamet), can reduce or prevent the rash-phase of shingles, and the accompanying nerve pain/damage. (Working so far, Mom. Thank you!)
- If you have a husband who worked his butt off for several years in a certain ER, and just happen to be closest to that ER when symptoms of shingles begin to manifest, you will end up getting the star treatment by the entire staff, who go above and beyond to make sure you are taken good care of and pain free. All this will happen despite the staff not having seen said husband in almost a year, and despite the staff never having met said husband’s wife. That’s what happens when you marry a good guy. Take note, young ‘uns.
I’m done. More later, when I’ve got some energy. Big news in the next few days! When terrible things happen, good things follow! Right?! Right?!