18 July 2012

Shingles + Stuff

Hello. It's been a heck of a July so far. As soon as we returned home from Cape May things got a wee bit crazy around here. Mostly good crazy. My one niece and two nephews came to stay (which we very much enjoyed), I developed shingles, Buby and Bleu went to art camp in the mornings, and as soon as I felt better we added back in the usual picnics, pool parties and play dates. It is summer vacation, after all.

I wish that I could say my illness slowed us waaaay down, but it didn't. I learned a long time ago there is no pause button when you have little ones running around. We did, however, keep a distance from our friends for several days. (Note: You cannot give someone shingles, but it's a rule to steer clear of pregnant women and babes who haven't yet had the chicken pox vaccine. Two of my closest girlfriends are in their final weeks of pregnancy, and I know several parents who skip the C.P. vaccine for their children.)

Many of you have emailed asking what?/ where?/ how? ... so here it is. I didn't know I had shingles right away. The first sign of anything was on Monday, July 2 when I was up late vomiting with an awful migraine. (But I get migraines and was also stressed about a few family members going through unimaginably hard times.) Tuesday morning I started to be bothered by bubbly blisters on my left forehead/hairline/scalp. You would hardly notice them unless you were really looking. They appeared like poison ivy but were super painful (hot burning sensation right under the skin). Within a day the entire left side of my head was swollen, bumpy, itchy. Most of it was hidden under my hair, fortunately, but even the skin without any blisters was hurting and raised. Especially the upper left part of my forehead, my left temple, my left eyebrow bone, my left cheek bone and my left jaw.

I couldn't wash or brush or touch my hair without crying. It was ON FIRE. Then I noticed what felt like a huge cyst in my left cheek and a bunch of smaller cysts on the left side of my neck. (Of course these were swollen lymph nodes but I didn't know.). After a few days I still assumed I was having a reaction to a poisonous plant maybe paired with a salivary gland infection, but that didn't explain the shooting nerve pains that would come and go every few minutes for several hours at a time... hitting the left side of my head in two spots. It was like a severe stabbing pain that took my breath away. (Now I do believe I have a very high threshold for pain having suffered from migraines since I was 17... AND... having birthed three 8+lb babies the old fashioned way.)

But I was busy at home entertaining SIX kids. Secretly the pain was killing me. On Monday, July 9 My Sweets caught the early early train and I darted over to Urgent Care for answers. The doc diagnosed me with shingles and said I was already past my three-day contagious window. She put me on 1 gram of antiviral every 8 hours for 8 days. The creams that other people suggested to me for pain/itch relief were either steroids, not appropriate for the scalp or face, or a chili-pepper based form of Capsaisin that could not be applied near open blisters or mucus membranes. I decided Motrin was enough for the pain, which had improved greatly by the week mark. On Thursday I stopped at the health food store and picked up a bottle of organic Tamanu Oil from the South Pacific. I sprayed it on my forehead and scalp and it brought instant relief. I wished I'd thought of it sooner.

In the last two weeks I've heard many shingles horror stories, but I am a super lucky that my episode was relatively short lived and the meds worked well at clearing up any blisters (just in time for bridesmaid duties next week!). AND NO MORE NERVE PAIN. I took the last pill this morning, and all that remains is discomfort/sensitivity at the initial site.

My words of wisdom: If you get "poison ivy" plus a million other painful symptoms, it's probably NOT poison ivy. Ha. And if you get shingles don't forget to look at homeopathic remedies, too. I was so happy to find this oil, even if it does stink like maple syrup.

Enough about shingles. The rest of July promises to be full of friends, family, road trips, reunions, special brunches and dinners, and that WEDDING I'm so excited about. Hurray for Billy + Liz! I cannot wait for the festivities to begin. Next: I will upload the last two weeks of photos into two posts, so this lil' scrapbook of mine is up to speed. If you know my dad, wish him a HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODAY!

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