What Does a Case of Shingles Look Like?

Well, there are a lot of details I have lost.  Like the date exact (March, I think) when this all happened.  You know the boring telephone tag games with your Doctor’s office scheduling staff to make appointments.

I was in the pool sweating in my aquacise classes when I began noting an errant though, insistent, light itch on my left buttock.  A couple of hours later, post hot tub, I asked a friend if she saw anything on that side.  She did and thought it looked like a spider bite.  Ok, I thought, I will just put some anti-itch spray or gel on it.

By the time I finished my shower and got home there was another itchy little bump right next to the first and another patch of four to the side.  “OH SHIT,” I bet this is a Herpes outbreak.  And I know who gave it to me.  It was someone from my past who “sheds” the virus.  Yes, I know who HE got it from.  Nothing I can do about either of them.  Back on track, I decide to call my Doc when another little grouping showed up in another place.  I spoke with her nurse assistant to see if I could get into the pool tomorrow.  I told her I had done some research and found mostly anecdotal information quoting one real opinion in Great Britain.  But, I could not find ANY reliable information I felt I could trust.  I ask her what she knows.  She really was not sure.  So, she said she would do some research and get back to me.  The Doc was really busy.

I am watching TV and noticing another patch of little red bumps further down my flank.  I notice each new patch because, I feel the itch.  This is patch number three.  After about an hour the nurse assistant calls back and relays the same information I had already found.  Nothing new.  I asked her to ask the Doc directly what she though.

A few minutes later the nurse assistant calls me back, a little sheepishly, to tell me the Doc said Public Policy in swimming pools always EXCLUDES anyone with any kind of open wound.  Well, good enough.  That certainly describes me.  I felt like an IDIOT because, I actually KNEW this. We had a good giggle and hung up.

By the next morning there were more red patches scattered all down the back of my left thigh, stopping just above my knee.  Guess what I do?

I call the Doc to speak to her nurse assistant who talks with Doc who is now concerned and wants me to come in right away.  Well, since I am not going to the pool for my regular aquacise class I have all that time and more to run, (yeah, I lied.  I did drive.) across town.

I get to my Doc’s office, do the regular check in, and have a seat.  I was sure I would have to wait HOURS to see her.  I settled in for the wait.  Surprisingly, I waited about 45 minutes.  YAY.

I am directed into my private room with posters of bisected men and women with long black lines running between distinct body parts writing outside the lines (not good in crayoning but, good here.) to a label “Healthy Liver” or “Diseased Liver” and so on.  Not to mention a few others.  I take off my pants, put on the oh so fashionable “gown”.   Which, I must say is the LAST “GOWN” I would ever wear to a fancy event like a Charade, or Ball, or Cotillion or anywhere for that matter.

I ruffle through the many “Do You Want To Quit Smoking” pamphlets, those that give you encouragement to help a “problem gambler” and so on.  Several of the pamphlets start with these same words, “Do You Want To … How To…”

I am nosy.  I look in the cabinets and drawers.  I even looked at my face in the mirror and promptly heard the door being knocked upon.  Doc swoops in asking me, “What seems to be the problem?”  So, I show her.  She looks closely and carefully at the ever growing little patches and now a couple of golf ball diameter groupings of little red bumps.  I say, “I have a case of HERPES.” She says, “This is not Herpes.”  Me, “I cannot think of anything it could be.”  Right, like I get to make the ultimate diagnosis.  Luckily, the Doc had an idea, “Shingles.”  Me, “Don’t Shingles hurt? Because, these only itch a little.”  Doc, “They are not exhibiting the well known pain symptoms.  But, they LOOK like and it SOUNDS like you are describing the onset of Shingles.  Which, can be quite painful.  I will write you a prescription for the pain and an anti-biotic you start TODAY.”

I look at the prescription and said, “Wait a sec.  Why are you prescribing OxyCodone?”  That is a REALLY powerful pain killer that is highly ADDICTIVE.  And besides its only an irritating itch.  And I still have both OxyCodone and OxyContin at home that I was afraid of using because of the addictive probabilities.”  Doc reiterates, “You are not using out of date meds. Most people suffer extreme pain from Shingles.  I would rather be prepared and not have you go through any more pain.”  Meaning “Like you endured through chemoradiation.”  Which, is, of course, why I still have the Oxy twins in my cabinet.  Gotta give it to her.  I don’t want more pain like that either, if it can be avoided.

On my way home I am bummed.  I am not going to get into the pool for WEEKS.  I might experience horrible pain, and maybe have more scars.  If that happens I am gonna have to use the OxyCodone.  “SHIT!  SIGH!  SHIT! OK, get a grip on your attitude and emotions.  You have to do what the Doc says.”  There is a looped conversation mostly like this continuing to chase one another around my internally and perpetually cluttered house, the entire way back across town, to the pharmacy, where I have to wait about 20 minutes, then, go home.  ‘Cept now I am really anxious, frustrated, and scared.  So, WHERE ARE MY DAMN CHEESEBURGERS AND FRENCH FRIES ALREADY?!?!


I get my drugs and just down the street I drive thru McDonald’s for my food.  I and everything I just purchasd go into the house to be greeted by my very sweet and happy dog.  I just wish I felt like she did.

So, more red bumpy patches show up.  They are no bigger than a quarter and none ever grew into another.  While I filled the OxyCodone prescription, even three days later, I never had an inkling of a thought of needing it.  I was NEVER in pain.

I kept telling people I had Shingles and they kept responding, “Oh my god.  Are you in much pain?   I heard it can be pretty painful. Is there anything I can do for you? (Poor, old, me)”  Thank you commercials for anti-Shingles shots.  They were all shocked when I said it was only a little itchy.  “Only a little itchy?!?”  I know.  Everybody is sure I was not being honest.  But, let me be honest here,  I am the quintessential “spill my guts” kind of person.  Most of the time you don’t even have ask “How are you doing?” for me to let it all out.  Tears and all.  Which, finally made me think that I should ask the Doc for the Shingles vaccination.

The third day of my Shingles I went back into the Doc for scheduled follow-up.  Even SHE was in SHOCK that I had no pain.  She sent me away scratching her head in confusion.  I had asked her to just go ahead and give me the Shingles shot. She refused.  “Why?  It isn’t like I don’t already HAVE it!!”  Doc, “You are too young.  The research shows that it largely seems to work on people 60 years-old and older and even then, only about 60% (or something like that)  of the time.”  “Yeah, yeah.  I am too young.  By only TWO years!”  “Nope.  Not till you are 60.”  


Two more days later I go back in for a follow up.  Doc looks at me.  I am STILL NOT in pain.  She looks at the rash and asks herself out loud, “Maybe this is in not Shingles.  It looks like it and it is not poison Oak or Ivy.  I cannot think of anything else it could be.  But, it is SO strange that you are not in pain.  Not that I want you to be in pain.  It’s just that I have never encountered your situation before.”

Shrug. Ok.

There was no pain.  Only an irritating itch I was fighting not to scratch.  Though, entirely able to live with.  Throughout this entire two week episode I would tell friends and family that I was having “THE BEST CASE OF SHINGLES EVER!”
Please, God do not punish me for saying that.


About mishl53

Pro-Choice, Pro-Women, Pro-Social Programs, Pro-Fiscal Responsibility, Pro-Common Sense Return to Government and USA Society.
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