So, the morning of Christmas Eve I woke up and discerned a few raised bumps along the middle of my spine. Hmmm I thought. Did some kind of bug infest us last night?
Later in the day, the bumps started to feel…weird. Not itching, not hurting, just…weird. I thought back 22 years and decided I wanted to hit the doctor.
For you see, 22 years ago, I was driving back from my parents’ house one summer and felt a oddly-itching bump on my back. I thought it was just a strange insect bite, given how much time we spent sitting outside on summer evenings. A couple of days later it started to hurt, so I went to the doctor, who looked at my back, laughed, and said, “You have shingles.”
Laughed, I tell you! All because I was 30 and getting this old people’s disease. Hilarious.
That time, that easily amused doctor said I should be glad because we could start treatment early. The couple of weeks that followed were certainly uncomfortable, but they weren’t nearly as bad as I’ve heard some experience it.
So when those bumps started feeling odd on late afternoon Christmas Eve, I told my daughter and visiting older son that after Mass I was going to the doctor and why. No urgent care centers were open, so I had to do something I’ve never done before in my life: hit the ER.
I hardly ever go to the doctor, plus I’m pretty dedicated to not misusing or abusing medical resources, but really, what was my option? Wait until today? I wasn’t going to do that, given my past experience. The good thing was that at 8 pm Christmas Eve, this particular ER was almost empty – the patient before me had a broken ankle and there was no one waiting when I left less than an hour later.
The diagnosis? Well, he didn’t laugh - since I’m now in the more appropriate age range for the disease. He also said it was probably shingles, but the he wasn’t super sure since it wasn’t hurting, the bumps weren’t blistering yet and it hadn’t spread. Which was, of course, why I was there – to catch it before all that spread. So (should I say this?) he said, “Eh, it won’t hurt for you to take the medication. Might as well, just in case.”
Next challenge? To find a pharmacy.
Much to my shock, Wal-Mart (the closest) was closed at 9:10 pm on Christmas Eve. I wasn’t displeased – for the sake of their employees – but I confess I was surprised. I’d have given them til midnight, myself. Walgreen’s was open, but the pharmacy was closed, but the sign told me of a 24-hour store not too far away. I called just to make sure and the guy who answered sighed, “Yeah, we never close.”
So it didn’t turn out too badly. I left the house at 8. By 10, I’d been to the ER and a gotten a prescription filled and was back for Christmas Eve stories. I’m always interested to experience new things, and watching an Emergency Room in – admittedly slow motion, sort of relaxed – action was educational. I was so grateful for all of those who were working. Everyone was fairly cheerful, if not exactly bursting with excitement, and, as I said, I was grateful for all of them.
So, is it Shingles, after all? Yup. It’s achy and itchy today, and while the blisters are still just on the spine, the slight aching is extending around to the front. But I do think – and hope – this early treatment will mitigate it. Lesson? Well, I’ll let you know when the course of this has ended but really it’s just - shingles happens, it could happen to you, and pay attention when your body does weird stuff!