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The tornado outbreaks a couple of Fridays back left a lot of us with a bad case of nerves — but mine was a little different.
As I headed home to pack for a dash to my boyfriend’s house in Hamilton County, I began to feel an annoying itch on my neck.
I looked in the mirror and could see blotchy red spots rising. I made a mental note not to scratch, threw my bags in the car and did my best to dodge storms as I headed south.
At Derek’s place, I checked the blotches again — they were raised and circular. Ringworm, I thought, dejectedly. Ringworm is a fungal infection, not an actual worm, but still I felt embarrassed about it.
Derek and I looked at pictures, read up on the fungus. The next morning, we went to the pharmacy to get what I needed.
The pharmacist pointed me to a shelf of creams and ointments — all labeled for jock itch. It seems that fungal condition, along with athlete’s foot, is basically in the same family as ringworm.
I took solace that anyone seeing me buy the cream would assume it was for Derek.
I began applying the medicine a couple of times of day, but by Monday, however, it had only gotten worse. I also noted that the rash was all on one side of my body, and knew that could mean shingles.
I called my doctor’s office, they worked me in, and sure enough, confirmed the shingles diagnosis.
“Have you been under a lot of stress?” the nurse-practioner asked cheerfully.
“Have I,” I growled back.
Shingles is a re-emergence of the chicken pox virus in the nervous system of someone whose immune system is compromised — usually by illness or by extreme stress.
It can be intensely painful, and for some unlucky people, the pain of inflamed nerves never goes away.
I was lucky to get in during the first three days of the appearance of the rash and was put on an anti-viral prescription medication to help lessen the outbreak.
Meanwhile, my rash had turned to blisters and was spreading across my chest and up behind my ears and into my hairline.
As of today, I have finished my treatment and the blisters, which soon turned to scabs, are now just a memory. I still have some red spots that may linger, I am told, for quite a while.
I know my situation could have been worse. One of my uncles had shingles so bad that it left a long-lasting pain that made him wish he were dead long before cancer finally killed him.
I’m taking steps to never face this again. I’ll be getting the vaccine, and I am making an effort to manage my stress by getting more rest, exercise and balance in my life.