The morning of July 29, 2019, I woke up at 4am with an itch on my upper right ribs. Half asleep, I scratched it and felt a shooting, stabbing pain like no rash or bug bite I have ever had before. In a bit of shock (metaphorically), I went to the bathroom to look at what it was in the mirror. I had a patch on my upper right front ribs, about the size of half a gardenburger, red, with angry-looking small bumps. Oh no. Was it shingles? I was not sure so I texted some nurse/doctor friends and described it (no I did not send them a picture) and they all agreed it sounded just like shingles. Per their recommendation, I got myself to urgent care that day and got the antiviral medicine, valacyclovir, which did a great job keeping the spread at a minimum.
What are shingles? How did I get it? Per Mayo Clinic,
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso.
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.
While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.
I was a child in the 1970s and had chickenpox twice. There was no vaccine back then. I knew the virus was lying dormant in me, waiting to give me shingles. And, I had tried to get the shingles vaccine last year when my new insurance started covering it but it had not been available. It was out of stock all over the country. I got put on a waitlist. When it finally was available I was too busy helping my dad with issues related to my mom’s death to bother getting vaccinated. My goal was to get it in August of this year, after a month of staying out of state with dad. I could have gotten it when I turned 50 (I am 53) but my other insurance plan did not cover the vaccine and I could not have afforded it out of pocket. I was a divorced university student at the time. No shill money comes my way!
But I got shingles infection instead.
I have heard horror stories about how shingles can be the worst pain you have ever felt. Luckily, antiviral medicine helped keep the rash from spreading. I used Lidocaine patches at night on the part of my back that was most painful (not the part with the rash but closer to the spine), to help me sleep. For day, the compounding pharmacy made me a cream with gabapentin and some other stuff in it. I chose not to take the pill form of gabapentin as my pain was not that bad and I was concerned about it making me groggy. The pain was very uncomfortable and sharp and, since I am off work for the summer, I took to social media to whine. And also to remind people to get vaccinated when they can. Don’t wait!
Lucky me, anti-vaxxers found my posts. But, do you see anything wrong here? They didn’t read it correctly. Also, they are wishing me harm. Rather unkind!
First up is Washington’s own Jaclyn, making fun of me. She has me blocked on social media so someone in her camp shared this with her. This is from Jaclyn’s Facebook page but the screenshot of my comment was taken from my Twitter feed.
Next up, the comments on Jaclyn’s page. Look how they wish me harm. Such lovely people. And no, dear, I had chickenpox naturally. That’s how you get shingles.
No, I did not have the vaccine Meredith. Learn to read better!
No, Jillian, I did not get the vaccine. Why are you all misreading the post? Very odd.
Sorry, Jillian, but the only way to spread shingles would be to let people scratch my rash. Why on earth would I do that? It’s pretty easy to contain. Unlike chickenpox, shingles is not a respiratory infection. Shingles can spread to others via the fluid in the rash and cause a person to get chickenpox but, again, why would I let someone touch a rash on my ribs?
And another one who cannot read correctly. At this point, it is kinda funny. They really think they are educated but they all misread my post? Snort.
And, another one who has trouble reading.
Update: Infamous antivaxer, Suzanne Humphries, has now weighed in and wished me harm. Wow. What horrible people! Never, ever have I wished harm on anyone. How do these people sleep at night?
I am sharing these screenshots to make a point. Well, two points:
- Get your vaccines on time
- Antivaxers seem to have reading comprehension problems. This might explain why they misunderstand science.
There is good news to end my story. Almost three weeks later, the rash is but a shadow of itself and the nerve pain is very infrequent. No, this was not a deadly issue but it sure was an inconvenience. I am getting the vaccine in six months, for sure, which is the soonest I can get it after having shingles infection NATURALLY.
Happy fact verifying!