I’m blowing the lid off this shingles thing. No longer will it be shameful to say you are cursed with this affliction.
Very shortly after developing my back pain, a small rash appeared on my back, in the area of the back pain. F and I initially thought it was my skin reacting to the freezing cold ice packs I had been applying several times a day. But tonight, the rash was feeling very irritated.
“F, look at my rash.”
He looks, thinks, looks some more.
“Oh! You had chicken pox as a kid, right?”
“Does your pain wrap around toward your side?”
He snap his fingers and announces, “You have shingles!”
“I HAVE WHAT?”
“SHINGLES? I HAVE SHINGLES?!?!?!” I was freaking out. I’m not sure why I was freaking out because I didn’t know much about shingles except that I associated shingles with old people in assisted living facilities. And it sounded like a horrible STD, like crabs.
My brain started short-circuiting.
“I’m not gonna die right? I’m not gonna die from shingles? TELL ME I’M NOT GONNA DIE!!!!!”
Calm husband says, “Well, eventually you’re going to die. We’re all going to die. But, no. You will not die from shingles.”
“OK, but shingles?!?!?! It sounds so gross. HOW THE HELL DID I GET SHINGLES?”
Once I got a hold of myself, I started hearing what F was telling me. Adults who have chicken pox as kids sometimes get shingles, also known as herpes zoster, as adults. According to WebMD: Shingles occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox starts up again in your body. After you get better from chickenpox, the virus “sleeps” (is dormant) in your nerve roots. In some people, it stays dormant forever. In others, the virus “wakes up” when disease, stress, or aging weakens the immune system. It is not clear why this happens. But after the virus becomes active again, it can only cause shingles, not chickenpox.
Apparently, throbbing, stabbing back pain is normal to experience prior to the appearance of the rash. It just so happens that my case of shingles coincided with my day of moving furniture, which led to the conclusion that I must have pulled a back muscle. Instead, I have an active virus in my nerve roots causing pain that wraps around my lower back and left side, all accompanied by an itchy, burning, quite disgusting looking rash. It doesn’t sound pretty, I know. But it’s not as horrific as it sounds. And the good news is…I CAN RUN! So look out fellow runners, if you have never had chicken pox, run run run as fast as you can…