Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Setback of Sorts

I wasn't sure I wanted to write about this, but in quiet moments (stuck in traffic, bored in meetings) I seem to have been writing this post for a couple of days now. So here goes.

I've been feeling really run-down and sluggish for a couple of weeks. I wasn't sure what was happening -- was it just the change of seasons? Was I coming down with something? Was I just not sleeping well on the new mattress? I started getting that weird "flu" feeling -- you know, the one where your skin hurts? I was cold a lot, but didn't seem to be running a fever. I chalked it up to a cold house and a cold office.

Then we went to see our friend Jen's son Lee play in his "senior appreciation" football game.... a dry but very cold night. By the time we got home, I felt weirdly tingly along my back, and noticed two "bites" on my lower back. I thought perhaps I had been bitten by something at the game, since we were sitting outside for a couple of hours.

The next morning I had several other "bites" all in a line on my leg. We began to wonder if I had somehow trapped a spider or a mosquito or something in my PJs and it had just stung and stung and stung. The bites were a little itchy, but also incredibly painful. And they sort-of burned. Like that feeling when you burn yourself with an iron, but lingering.

Sunday morning I noticed more "bites", this time on my tummy. Things were weirder and weirder. We stripped the bed, washed all the PJs and linens, and fretted a little. But from then on no more "bites", so we just let it go.

In the meantime, however, the bites still hurt... not a sharp pain, but a strong ache along with occasional bits of "burn" feeling. And I was feeling weaker and weaker. With the race coming up, I was fretting more and more. I wondered if I had caught the flu, despite my recent flu shot. (I know that the flu vaccine slightly increases your short-term risk while dramatically decreasing your long-term risk of developing the flu... but I know there still is a risk...)

Friday afternoon -- a week after first noticing the "bites" -- I called my doctor and made an appointment for the next morning. I had to see a different doc -- mine wasn't working on Saturday -- and while talking about how tired I was, and chatting about iron and so on, I mentioned the "bites". That morning I had noticed that the bites on my leg were in a line -- not all in a row, but they created a definite line pattern. I told the doctor how weird I thought it was, and he said, "Hmm. Show me."

So I showed him my "bites" and he said. "Wow. You're a textbook example of shingles."

Shingles?

Now, one of my favorite things to say in response to questions about whether we plan on having children is that I didn't like kids when I was a kid myself. I've always thought of myself as a curmudgeon -- an "early bloomer". But all I knew about shingles was from reading the big signs at the Walgreens: "If you're 60 or over, you should get the shingles vaccine." How could I get shingles?

I stood there, stunned, and finally managed to ask, "Umm, how did I *get* shingles?" The doc said, "Well, you had chicken pox as a child, I assume?"

When I nodded, he said, "Well, then you've had the virus dormant in you since then. No one really knows what activates it."

Ah.

He told me how the virus follows nerve pathways, and when reactivated it travels up the nerve roots to the area of skin supplied by those specific nerve roots. That's why you get those "lines" or "belts" of a rash. He also assured me that I'm not contagious -- a big relief. (Oh, I suppose I should note that if someone who had never had chicken pox touched the rash itself they might develop chicken pox. So keep your children away from my thigh if you're worried.) Glad that I don't have to quarantine myself.

In other good news, I have had a very very light case -- I've only got the rash in three small patches. And while it hurts and burns, it's not some huge gakky thing. Thank heavens. Or perhaps I just haven't had the "blister and pus" period yet. Fingers crossed.

But in bad news, I went in for treatment too late to "nip it in the bud", apparently. If caught in the first 48 hours it's possible to lessen the attack with a dose of vaccine. But who would have thought I would get SHINGLES at 41??? So I'm left with ibuprofen for pain and Caladryl lotion for itch. Sigh.

I do still feel some relief knowing WHY I've been feeling so run-down... even if I still feel run down. But, weirdly, I also feel embarrassed about having shingles. Not sure why.

The doc told me to take it easy for a couple of weeks... a bit challenging when the race is next weekend. People have asked if I was going to have to drop out of the race. But I'm no Ryan Hall or Chrissie Wellington. Those sorts of folks can only really be at the top of their game a couple of times per year. But since I don't make my living from the racing, I can "throw away" the effort on just getting myself through it. I'm also not someone who doesn't want to be out there if I can't be my absolute best. I just want to be out there to experience it.

Even though I dread the trip to the "start village" (on the Staten Island Ferry at 5:30 for a 10:20 start? Umm, okay....), I'm excited to stand in the corrals at the largest marathon in the world. I hope that I'll feed off the energy of my fellow runners. I expect that I'll finish -- even if my "taper" has been a bit severe, and if I'm not 100%. We'll just gut our way through it.

Wish us luck!

2 comments:

Mayo said...

Here's a site with good, comprehensive information about shingles, including causes, symptoms, treatment and those for whom the vaccine works http://www.best-mens-skin-care.com/shingles.html

Charley said...

Sorry to hear about this, Sunny. Don't be embarrassed, and don't beat yourself up about not seeing the doc sooner -- who would have guessed it was shingles? Praying for a speedy recovery and a great experience in NYC.