Shingle Bells

April 2, 2011 · 14 comments

One of us has been sick with shingles. ON HER FACE. AND IN HER NOSE.

Shingle bells, shingle bells, shingles ALL the way…

We”ll spare you the finer details—unless you have a of couple hours, a strong stomach, and want to chat—but the experience has left us with a list of three Lessons Learned that we’d like to share.

1. Don’t get shingles on your face.

It hurts like stink all the way to the back of your eyeballs.  In fact, for a day or two at the beginning, we thought the swelling and pain was due to a recent root canal gone seriously bad. As it turned out, that probably would have been better.

Once awakened, the dormant chickenpox virus that lingers in all previous inflictees morphs into a bad-tempered, sun-seeking viper with blood red eyes, an evil temper, and epic halitosis. It snakes through the nerves, needle-like tongue flicking hungrily as it searches for a path out, undulating until it finds a way up through the skin surface where it can finally ooze its way into the warmth of day, emerging as taut, shiny little blisters. The nerves along the path become inflamed and incredibly sensitive, making this flicking business extremely uncomfortable. On top of all that, you have a virus in the classic sense of “You are now officially going to feel like ten pounds of nasty in a five-pound bag for a solid week or so.”

Regardless of a reasonable explanation for why it’s called “shingles,” it should, at minimum, be called “stingles,” and even that’s too cutesy. There must be government funding available for a campaign to change the name to “bubonic blisters,” right?

We hope this short description has adequately motivated you for #2 Lesson below.

2. Do get a shingles vaccine.

Once again, there’s proof that we’re early adopters in this household, as shingles usually strikes people aged 60 or older. (Apparently, exceptions can be made to this rule.) Fortunately, the risk of reactivating the virus can be reduced by a shot of Zostavax.

Note to y’all in the relevant age category, or have friends or relatives who qualify: GET. THE. VACCINE.

Since a decent case of shingles helps develop an immunity to it, Kathy probably won’t get the vaccine now. It’s an ironic upside to an otherwise lackluster experience, unless you also count losing eight pounds in eight days an “upside.” Yes, the eight pounds was sort of a perk, but not one that comes anywhere close to compensating for the cost of entry.

3. Shingles is unleashed by stress. Therefore, we have come to a firm resolve that we must do more.

While the online experts aren’t willing to bet their snazzy white lab coats on it, the consensus seems to be that a compromised immune system and/or stress are the culprits that open the door to the sleeping viper.  And as life-style wake-up calls go, the medic seems to think it’s been a pretty gentle knock at the door.

One option is to just hit the snooze button and wait for loved ones to wear red in her memory. An alternate path, and one we have decided is the better way to go, is to resolve to do more.

More exercise.

More yogurt and fresh fish.

More stretching and gratitude and sunshine.

More playing music and singing.

More driving in the right-hand lane, and more silent blessing of the aggressive pre-shingles candidates in the far left lane who seem intent on turning each other into organ donors.

More yoga (Okay… some yoga. Baby steps.)

And more baby steps in this general direction.

Sometimes, more actually is more.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

MARLA SMITH May 10, 2011 at 3:47 pm

OMG, no shingles are not funny. my daughter Cindy is just recovering as well, with them around her eyes, very scary, and actually this is her 2nd bout as she had them in high school, but not on the face…..this was such a terrible thing, so am glad you are both getting better. I need to converse with her again about the vaccine, because the Dr. didn’t think it a good idea….I wonder why??????? take care, enjoy your posts.


rickandkathy April 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Thanks, all, for your kind words and wishes for a speedy recovery.

The “spots” are almost completely gone now, and we’re trusting that skin knows how to replace it’s own divets. I’m feeling much better and have actually learned to embrace plain yogurt with fresh fruit. Haven’t quite worked in the yoga yet, but it’s on the list.


Carole DiLodovico April 12, 2011 at 5:24 am

Kathy, so sorry for you! Do you remember when you came to visit Stu and I had the shingles and couldn’t meet with you! Looking into the mirror, I’m sure you can see why I wasn’t at my best. My shingles were accompanied by a fever (103) as well. Mine were along scalp and down forehead and around eye! Extremely dangerous around the eyes! My hair actually hurt when I touched it! Get better soon and like you, (due to shingles as well as recent speeding ticket LOL) I am staying more in the right hand lane.


Gail April 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Kathy, thank you for the dubious honor of letting me see your sad, speckled nose. I’m sorry you have been in so much pain, but glad to hear you are on the mend. Love the cartoon – nice to see that you have your two guys taking care of you (does a cold, wet nose, make a dry, stinging one feel better? :-} )


Debra April 4, 2011 at 9:51 am

Oh gosh! Had shingles years ago… on my shoulder, up into my hair line. NOT FUN! Went to emergency as I didn’t know what it was 30 years ago! Darryl got it on his side middle area…excurciating pain! Never heard that you can get it on the face…YIKES! I bet you look sooo beautiful!


Charlie April 3, 2011 at 6:43 pm

OMG – I am making an appt tomorrow for the vaccination! Miss you both!!!


Jane/Mom April 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I love Rick’s cartoon & the, I assume, Kathy, observations are hilarious. Everyone knows shingles isn’t a tiny bit funny, so its lovely to hear you poking fun at yourself. Hope you turn down the stress factors even more. Easier said than done, I know when you always deal with your responsibilities.



rickandkathy April 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm

We love our Janie Mum.


Susan H. April 3, 2011 at 9:21 am

Tom had this condition several years ago. It set him back for a long time. He had it on his forehead and in his eye…. Not beside or near, but IN his eye. To this day he has scarring on his cornea and a slight but bothersome cloudiness in his vision. Yes, it is a very nasty condition indeed. Glad to hear you’ve gotten over the worst of it. I’m going to eat some yogurt now….


rickandkathy April 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Susan, thanks for the corroborating data. So sorry to hear that Tom has already suffered through this, but on the upside… When the rest of our entire cohort is bespeckled and moaning for the Angel ‘O Mercy to be visited upon them, Tom and I will be at the bar drinking outstanding margaritas in somber solidarity with the currently inflicted.


Karla Dillon April 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Thanks for the explanation of this horrible sounding malady. I am not 60 yet, but almost!! and will definitely get the vaccine. Also, I love your resolution list of things to prevent. I am going to try doing better at those things as well. Kathy, I hope you are way better.


Sandi Fentiman April 2, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Yoga and yogurt (sorry, not trying to be funny there) 🙂 definitely wouldn’t. And I know from experience, that stress can do a lot of bad things to your body; like with the psoriasis problem.


Lisa April 2, 2011 at 7:02 pm

🙁 So sorry, Kathy!


scott christensen April 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

sorry Kathy!!! damn must be an experience!!


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