I am not one of the strong people — I give women, who badassedly endure the pains of childbirth, a bad name when I have a cold. I whine, mope, complain, and otherwise suffer loudly. My husband goes the other way — I know he’s not feeling well when he gets quiet and retreats. My children roll their eyes and tell me, lovingly, “Mom, you’re such a drama queen.” Me? A drama queen? What on God’s. Green. Earth. Makes them say that?!
It’s also probably fair to point out that, at the best of times, I have a bit of hypochondria. Is it a headache or a brain tumor? What was that twitch in my back? Not a slipped disc is it? In other words, yeah, I tend to mentally overact to minor aches and pains. And these last few month of worldwide pandemic are not the best of times for those with a touch of hypochondria.
The fear of COVID-19 made it that much tougher when my right side began to ache like the flu late last week. It felt as if the right side of my body had a fever — although I didn’t have a raised temperature, my lungs did not ache. I had no problem breathing, and my nose wasn’t running, but why did I feel like I was getting the flu on just one side of my body? A few days after the achy onset, I noticed a very slight rash on the right side of my stomach. Was this the COVID rash? Check my feet. The next day it was worse. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday.
I called my dermatologist’s office Monday morning, and made an appointment with one of my doctor for Tuesday. Meanwhile, of course I tried to self-diagnose. Did I have the dreaded COVID-19? Black plague? Black mold? What fresh hell was this?
In the meantime, a dive into the Interwebs and an armchair diagnosis from a good friend who was familiar with the symptoms made me think that I had shingles. I didn’t have fever. It wasn’t pins and needles (yet). But most other things fit. It looked like I was developing something called “shingles belt,” a lovely descriptor for a wide swath of angry red rash. Each and every one of them is super contagious. They weren’t bad yet, but they’re supposed to blister with fluid, pop, and then scab over and fall off.
Notice how none of the words in the above paragraph are anywhere in the realm of sexy.
That night I slept for crap. I developed a slight fever, taking turns being either super cold (my teeth chattered when I moved even slightly from my warm burrow of a blanket), or sweltering hot. When I woke up, I was ravenously hungry, the T-shirt I slept in was moist in spots and I was exhausted. Like the prior morning, I was exhausted, and had to rest after taking a quick shower.
The visit to the doctor did indeed assure me that I had shingles. With medication from the doctor the spread of the blistering rash is arrested, and putting calamine lotion on it is supposed to help dry up and shrink the rash faster.
Yes, I had chickenpox as a child. This means that the virus never went away. This virus lays dormant in one’s spinal cord until I either became super stressed or my immune system weakened a bit with age. Or both. What I found interesting is that I could infect people with shingles who either had chickenpox when they were young or had a vaccine for it, but if a person never had chickenpox, I would give them chickenpox and not shingles. Oooh, science!
The chickenpox vaccine is incredibly recent. It was first mass introduced in 1995, with a follow up vaccination created in 2005. But chickenpox is not rare — until the vaccine became available, almost every adult in the United States had been infected. My husband and his siblings all had chickenpox. By the way, if you’ve never had shingles, please know that one out of three people who have had chickenpox develops shingles.
We all live in the world of incredible stress right now — so I am not special. But I am sick, because recently I started developing headaches and a slight fever that goes away with over the counter meds. This give me permission (in my own mind) to move from my chair to the couch, and back again, as I groan. But the good that came out of this was me going to bed at 10 o’clock last night, and sleeping through the night — something I haven’t done in a very, very long time (months).
Oy vey! To be grateful to only have a minor virus that painful, annoying and gross. Yay!