The good news is, I’ve recovered from Shingles. The bad news is, I had Shingles. Shingles sounds kind of gross right? I had no idea what it was until last Monday, when my doctor took one look and said, “Oh, that’s textbook Shingles. Do you mind if I take a picture?” I laughed, but then he didn’t laugh, and then he was holding a camera. Sure, I’ll be some random rash in a textbook.
Shingles always sounded like one of those gross things like leprosy, or scabies that COULD NEVER HAPPEN TO ME. Scabies of course being the worst of them. Try saying “Scabies” without shuddering, it’s impossible. It’s a combination of scabs and rabies, or crabs and scales and babies – scaly babies with claws for hands. “Get away from me Scaby!”
So anyway, Shingles sounds kind of like shit and tingles, or slime that mingles, or shabby Madeleine L’engle? The reality is that Shingles is just Chicken Pox reincarnate. Apparently, if you’ve had Chicken Pox, it’s just dormant inside you somewhere, waiting to reappear in the form of Shingles. I don’t remember anyone warning me about this when I was five.
It looks like a small band of poison ivy that wraps around one side of your ribs, but it also causes some internal nerve pain, which is the main reason I couldn’t figure out what I had. You would think with the internet, it should have been an easy diagnosis – rash + stomach pain and back pain = Shingles. Nope, I didn’t figure it out. A few Mondays ago, driving back from Chicago, I felt a the pain in my lower back, and I thought “muscle spasm.” When I felt a simultaneous itch on my side, I figured it was because I had recently started drinking five hour energy drinks. I should explain. After getting hooked on five hour energy, I decided to Google “health side effects of five hour energy.” Here I learned that itchy skin was the main side effect (Apparently by “itchy skin” they mean “Shingles”).
A few more days go by, and I’m feeling more stomach pain, and extreme fatigue (which led me to drink more 5-hour energies). I’m thinking there must be something wrong with either my Gall Bladder or my Appendix, and the increased itchy skin and rash was clearly related to my increased consumption of 5-hour energies. The next day I’m in Atlanta, and the pain is pretty bad, and I think, “Uh oh, Appendicitis.” I also think, “Okay, no more five hour energy drinks.” However, according to Web MD I either have a stomach ulcer, Mono, or I’m pregnant. For some reason I didn’t add “rash” to the symptom checker, and by “for some reason” I mean, “because I’m stupid and figured it was just a typical 5-hour energy rash”.
I finally get to a doctor who explains what I have, takes a picture, and says that I could experience pain for a while. For some reason, I said, “Pain don’t hurt.”
He looked confused.
I said, “You know, the Patrick Swayze Movie Road House, about bouncers, where he’s the cooler? Pain don’t hurt?”
This is when I learned an important lesson: never quote the movie, “Road House,” to your physician.
That’s another weird thing about not knowing what you have – the anxiety of not knowing is much worse than the actual illness. When he said, “Shingles,” and “Pain” I thought, “Well, thank goodness!” even though Shingles isn’t necessarily a great thing to have. I was just relieved to know. If he had said I had terminal cancer and one month to live, I think I would have been like, “Great! At least I finally know what I have. Now I can go on with my life! Well, for a month anyway.”
But I’ve had a quick recovery, which means I can no longer use Shingles as an excuse. That’s the biggest perk of having an odd sickness.
“Sorry, can’t do that gig anymore, I have Shingles.”
“Yikes! Is that life-threatening? I hope you get better!”
“You need a ride to the airport? Well, I would give you a ride… if I didn’t have SHINGLES.”
“Is that contagious?! I’ll call a cab.”
“What’s that, you’re mad because I ate all your ice cream? Well, clearly that’s not something I would have done if I didn’t have SHINGLES!”
“Wow, have all the ice cream you want! What’s Shingles? Wait, who are you, and why are you in my house?!”
In closing, the lesson here is a) pain don’t hurt and b) never say “pain don’t hurt” out loud.
Also, someone please notify the people at 5-hour energy to add “Shingles” to their list of possible side-effects.