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The Shing-ing.

Brian and I had a lovely date for my birthday at The Red Fern, where I had tofu for the first time since cutting it out due to my estrogen dominance. We sat outside to enjoy the last nice day of the season. When I put my arm on the table, I felt pain. I lifted my sleeve and asked him if there's anything on my upper arm on the back of my elbow. He saw nothing. The burning sensation didn't falter, but grew, and after the date ended, I came home, took off the hoodie I hadn't work in a while (I figured I'd switch out the leather, as we dined at a vegan restaurant), and looked up the symptoms of burning skin. Among the myriad of terrifying causes, one was shingles, but I didn't think anything of it, as I had no rash.

And then I saw it. On my lower shoulder, right above where a cartoon character would get a "mom" tattoo, several bumps that looked just like bedbug bites... except the pattern, though similar, seemed a bit off. I had 9 bumps in clusters of 3, closely set, in a row across my arm. Now, I know bedbugs like to snack in 3's. But they don't tend to be this close, nor do the clusters tend to be so close to each other. Since it was Brian's fault the last time I dealt with bedbugs (outside work), I made my assumptions, but since they didn't itch, and the hoodie hadn't been worn or washed in a very long time (mom suspected dust mites), I also allowed denial to keep that doubt in there. I sprayed my new couch anyway.

Over the next few days, the skin around the bumps started to itch. The arm burned still, and the burning sensation spread over a lot more area. Then the bumps multiplied and turned to little blisters, and smaller clusters appeared on my armpit, my chest, and my spine (fuck you, spine dot - right where I can't reach, and you would be the only one that itches like a motherfucker). I knew for sure it was shingles. What. The. Fuck.

The first to appear was the first to scab over with minimal itching. In retrospect, the back one could have been the first in general. It itched insanely for a week prior to this, and I kept asking Ch. if he could see anything there, but there was nothing. The armpit itched early on, too. I thought was an impending cyst formed because of a shitty underwire, which I usually have dealings with on the other arm, but have had cysts on the left, too. It was embarrassing to constantly be itching my armpit, but I couldn't see any signs of a cyst.

The pain isn't as severe as the internet says it is ("worst pain I've ever felt," it says). It's a mild case, though, at least so far. I described it originally like getting a tattoo of a sunburn on a sunburn. The armpit felt like getting bee stings on a fresh tattoo of a sunburn. That hurt worse than the others, because it's in the armpit. Creases everywhere, and on a joint that gets a lot of use. The back hurts like a standard sunburn, and the chest just itches.

Internet and humans alike all demanded I see a doctor, so it seemed like as good a time as any to finally find one. I haven't seen a doctor in a good 15 years outside emergencies. I was nervous, but knew it's the responsible thing to do. I called around, got a doctor, and made a first appointment for January 18th. Then asked if I could be seen any earlier for a situation I'm in. They suggested calling at 8am Monday morning, which worked for me, since I was about to be on my way to Toronto (where it hurt forever, and I didn't get to see my friends because of it). But hey, I got a doctor.

On Monday (yesterday), I got a squeeze-in appointment with another doctor who made me wait a half hour. He came in while the nurse was taking my vitals, but she was just finishing up, and he disappeared for a long time. When I'd nearly given up hope, the door opened. Another nurse walked in with a needle (A NEEDLE!!!), asked me to verify my birthday, then asked if I'd ever had a bad reaction to the flu vaccine. I said I've never had it, and don't intend to have it (I'm not an anti-vaxxer, but I won't get a flu shot). She seemed baffled and asked if the doctor offered it to me first. I said I haven't even seen a doctor. She went to fetch him right away. Obviously, she had the wrong room, which made me nervous.

The doctor finally came in, and his demeanor made me feel very uncomfortable (for experience-with-old-male-doctors reasons, not for totally valid reasons). He took one look at the shingles on my arm and said "we'll get back to that," and asked me if there's anything else I'm concerned about or want to talk/ask about. Ummmm.... what. This isn't a physical. You're not my full-time doctor. This appointment isn't some scheduled visit. It's one step removed from urgent care. I'm clearly here for only one reason. He asked twice more throughout the session. Each time, I pointed at my arm and said "just this." I don't know what he was fishing for, but it didn't help my nerves and discomfort.

I left with a few suggestions. I chose the over-the-counter option of capsaicin cream, which turned into quite an experience. If you don't know, capsaicin is what makes hot peppers hot. The cream was cool upon application, which surprised me. I thought, oh, it must just not be good stuff. I felt it get intensely hot about 15 minutes later. It actually felt nice, like I was standing in front of a heater. It really helped stop the pain, and stop the itch, and I was so happy something was working. I reapplied the stuff a couple times throughout the night.

That would be my 3am downfall. I woke up in searing hot pain, unable to touch anything to the skin because the heat needed to touch air, nothing else. I tried finding a position that would sate the fire, but at 3:30, I gave up and got out of bed. I looked at my skin in the mirror and it was ALL RED. My chest, my arm, my back, just beat red. I felt scared, but I stayed calm. Being up with the cool night air made it feel better, so I thought I'd try going back to bed again. Nope. Got up, decided to get an ice packet. After using it to sufficiently cool the front and arm, I set it on the mattress and got on my back, snugging it right on my spine. On my back, I could lay out my arm in a way that airs out the armpit and leaves the rest in the open air, too. Felt better in the morning, and in fact, all the blisters were flat, instead of raised bumps (though, they were still blisters, alas).

Apparently, no one knows why shingles occurs, but they suspect it has something to do with stress or a lowered immune system. I don't feel unhealthy, but I did take a 2-week bender off my diet and downed a LOT of candy and junk food and carbs. I'm thinking maybe my body got stressed out by the sudden change in diet (for the worse).

I'm so over this. And it can last anywhere between 2-6 weeks or longer??? I'm worried because I'm feeling burning on my leg now. Hoping it's nothing (I've experienced burning sensations a lot over the course of my adult life, so I don't usually think anything of it, but now I'll be constantly stressed).

I handled one shower. Can I handle more? We'll see....


Nov. 16th, 2017 06:02 pm (UTC)
OMG! I hope you feel better. Shingles is terrible. You really need to REST more than anything. Rest and watch or read things that make you laugh.
Nov. 20th, 2017 03:33 pm (UTC)
It was surely a strange experience. I couldn't stay still (except when I got home from Toronto - then I was out like a light), but at least walking around town doing some low-key stuff was relaxing and kept my mind off the pain. I got my rest during the week.
Worst part, in half-retrospect is that it's taking forever for them to heal up, post-scabbing.


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