Dang, this is one painful “mother.” the reason I’m writing this essay is to convey my experience. There’s a lot of stuff out there on shingles but I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Surely there’s a blog somewhere but I couldn’t locat it.
Without overwhelming you with terms, let me say that shingles is related to the chicken pox virus (in the herpes family)–that’s comforting. The body, according to my first doc, thinks it is doing you a favor. Well, I could have stood less help. What I’ve discovered and is pretty much agreed upon is that if you had chicken pox as a child, you stand a good chance of getting the shingles.
At first, we thought it was poison oak. Why? Well, I hang out with these bunch of guys, 8 or so, mostly vets who have opinions about everthing–God, man and the universe. One of them has a dog. I petted the dog, the dog has been in poison oak, the owner had some poison oak. OK. Poison Oak. Here’s the point on this. Hauling ass to the doc quickly is a key. It appears that early detection and treatment makes for a good chance of a lighter case. And, I heard several fellow sufferers of shingles say that it is often misdiagnosed even by the professionals. So, involvement with your own health is no small thing. Well, I would say that about your health in general, stay involved. An aside but relevant. Have you seen that commercial where the guy is renting a car or some inane activity. He asked a million questions. The next scene, he is in his hospital gown. We don’t know why he’s there but for surgery or something related. The doc says to him, “any questons?” His answer, NO! Amazing and very effective and we need to be asking questions.
My shingles started off slowly. A little iching, a few blisters, not much pain, a little irritation. I loaded up on over the counter stuff: ibuprofin, calamine lotion, etc. Suddenly, the pain hit like a ton of bricks. My daughter who is a physician says “Dad, think you have shingles.” Dang. I go to the doc at VA. I had a few injuries from Vietnam and was hurt in a bad parachute accident in 82 and so go to VA for health care which isn’t much, once a year for a physical. But, VA where they are associated with a top medical school, in this case, UCSF (University of CA at San Francisco) which is one of the top ranked medical schools and have the best care facilities in the country, especially cancer, can’t be beaten. In fact, this is another aside, can’t figure why the Prez doesn’t use VA as a model for national health care system as a public option.
Back to shingles. Hurts like the dickins, the one sided malady. Where they attack the body is where you have to deal with pain. In my case, the left arm. If it is left side, all pain is there, sometimes because the pain is so unrelenting, it is hard to know where it is coming from–whether back, arm, fingers, always the left side. Basically from my shoulder down through my fingers and almost every night, the left shoulder took a hit. Relentless pain.
In many ways, they, whoever they may be, say I was lucky to have had the shingles where they were. I think so, maybe. Many have a band around their waist, worst cases are the eyes which can cause blindness. I’ve heard of getting it in the scalp. There really seems to be no rhyme or reason.
And, almost every single person you run across has a story to tell about somebody they know who has shingles.
How to describe the pain? Let’s try indescribable. It is sharp, often feels like someone with a sharp knief cutting or a sword in the back. And, the big difference in nerve pain which is shingles and skeletal pain, at least to me–with skeletal, you can move around, get yourself in a position to ease the pain. With nerve pain, there is no doing it. It simply hurts and is constant.
How does a person get Shingles or why. I’ve heard them all. Stress mostly. What the hell is that? I’ve wracked my brain. The chicken pox scenario sounds plausible. Plus, something that sounds reasonable to me was explained by this physical therapist. She said something like, “shingles needs a little crack in your immune system to sneak in.” as a really healthy feisty older guy, I wracked my brain, “What could it be?” the absutely only thing I could come up with and most of the professionals have poof poofed this idea. I often give blood. The last couple of times I’ve given blood, it has been this new procedure, they take your blood out, extract what they want and put it back in. I think it takes something like 48 hours to get back to where you were. I think that during that forty eight hours, the virus found an opening. Makes sense to me, maybe not to anybody else.
The overwhelming thing I’m learning about shingles is all the stuff I’ve thought before just because the blisters are gone doesn’t mean pain is gone. I’m in my 4th month of Shingles. What a bummer.
Theories abound. And, although the docs know what the virus is, they are less sure how one gets it. The shingles slips in on a weaken immune system. Maybe? The shingles have been after me possibly for a long time. I rember odd sort of breakouts with no real explanation. Here’s a good one. A couple of years ago, my ring finger started hurting and burning. It happened with no warning. Reluctantly I took my rings off. Hurting and burning stopped. At various times, i tried again, the same thing happened. Shingles? Maybe?
At the pain clinic at VA, the doc said, “We know lots about shingles but we struggle on how to manage it once a person gets it.” One of my first docs gave me haa pintan at the tim I was on excrusiating pain, pain meds were making me sick I’m taking a low dose of gaba pintin which I’dedicine really for epilepsy. However, now at this late stage, it seems to work.
Giving up on Western medicine. No, not really but after awhile, if you are in relentless pain, you’ll try anything. So, let’s give the acupuncturist a try. Getting to this particular one seems to be a little on the serendipitous side to say the least. I’m sitting at this coffee shop and this guy says to me, “you have shingles, right?” I immediately wonder how he knows. He heard some of my buds talk about it. Afterall, I am talking about it to most everybody I run across. Definitely made lots of money for the pharmaceutical industry. Get the shot. Who would want this pain if you could avoid it. Anyway, the guy tells me that his wife had shingles and goes to this acupuncurist and in a few days, she is pain free. Wow. I get his name and get an appointment.
A really nice guy. Thin, also teaches tai chie. Guy can’t be too bad. Afterall, this is California. We chat for a bit and here comes the needles. I’ve never been scared of needles but I was surprised to feel nothing although people had told me I wouldn’t. Was pretty impressed as he looked at my tongue and said I probably had digestive problems. It took me a bit to get what he meant, but fairly soon I got the drift. In fact, everytime I think of this I am reminded of two things. One was this book I read called City of Thieves. One of the main characters kept reminding us of the number of days since he had been successful sitting on the throne. He finally got up to ten days and was so proud when successful, he wanted people to see. I get it. The other incident had to do with jiri g thos ontereetet ehenI
I seemed to be getting a little better but then a time or two the pain came back with a fury. I’m serious: I think these nerves are like living entities, they have a mind of their own. They are fighting and scrapping to coninue to do their thing. They are not giving up without a fight.
Here it is 5 months down the road and I’m relatively pain free. Thank you Lord, HoooooAhhhhhhh
GET THE SHOT