My friend texted me the other day: “Congrats on getting herpes!”
So yeah. Yeppers.
Apparently I have herpes.
Not herpes herpes. As in down there.
I have herpes zoster. Otherwise known as shingles.
Yes, you probably know it as thing thing old people get.
And I’m 40, which is “young” to get this.
Who’s an overachiever? This girl!
Even better: I get to be on Valtrex. You know — the herpes medication. Because apparently it’s used to treat two things: Genital herpes and shingles.
A deliciously nasty and funny blogger that I read calls Paris Hilton “Wonky McValtrex.” You know, because Paris has one wonky eye and is apparently a trashy ho — or appears to be one.
(No judgment from me, Paris! Party on with yo pantyless self!)
But when I found out I was going on Valtrex, all I could think about was Paris Hilton and Wonky McValtrex. And then I have to admit, a little part of me felt like … Dude! I have arrived.
I am the outbreak monkey
So the timing of this was somewhat, oh, what’s the word? Craptastic.
Because I’m supposed to go to a major blogging conference next week that I’m super excited about and which I am paying for with my very own money (thank God for tax returns!).
And I keep reading articles about this conference that include words like “survival guide” and “18-hour day.”
Awesome. Especially considering that I was told to keep my ass home and rest up.
And did I mention that I’ve been somewhat contagious for the past week? Yeah. Apparently, you can’t get shingles from me, but since it’s caused by the chicken pox virus, you can get chicken pox from me if you haven’t already had it or gotten the chicken pox vaccine.
My aunt, who had a nasty case of shingles years ago, said that she was told to stay away from pregnant people and cancer patients while she was contagious.
So in the interest of not promoting anyone’s early death or unfortunate birth defects, I’ve been living in my house like an elderly shut-in all week.
And mostly, that’s been fine because I’ve been too tired to do much of anything anyway.
The doc assured me that after about a week (which is today!) I’ll no longer be the virus monkey from Outbreak. (Oh wait. My doc didn’t call me that. One of my friends did. If I hadn’t felt so shitty at the time, I’m sure I would’ve laughed at it. Jason Hall: You are a funny bitch.)
For the love of God, why me???
So here’s the main question: What the fucking fuck?
Why have I been struck down with this? What have I done? WHY ME????!!!
Apparently stress can bring this on.
And it turns out, a bunch of people in my very own age group told me that they had it too.
As for me, well, these past two and a half years have been so, so challenging. I have given myself a lot of pep talks.
“Who can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the motherfucking pan? I can, bitch!”
“Who has amazing single momma power? I do, dammit!”
“Who can take lemons and make them into tasty daiquiris? This girl can!”
WebMD can bite me
So all of this started a week and a half ago when my neck began to hurt. I thought I had slept funny and didn’t worry too much about it. Then later in the day I had some stabbing pains near the back of my hairline. I had a ponytail in and I thought that maybe one hair was just pulled way too tight. I kept fiddling around back there trying to figure out which one it was but finally gave up.
Then I went to the movies with my friend Maria. By the time the credits were rolling I had a hard time turning my head in her direction. While rubbing the back of my neck, I felt something that seemed like a welt. I asked her to look at it and she said it looked like a scratch that had a line of little bumps in it.
Freakin’ weird. But also, I tend to wear a lot of hair clips so I assumed the teeth of one of them had just dug into my skin.
I blew it off. But the pain didn’t get any better. In fact, by Saturday morning, the pain in my neck felt hot. But I still didn’t think much of it. Why would I?
But by Sunday, it was clear something was up. I could feel little swollen balls in the side of my neck (kind of like rubbery marbles). And the “scratch” on my neck was no longer a scratch, but a rash.
I got online of course. The little marble-thingies had me worried but I quickly found out that tumors are usually hard and not moveable. They were probably swollen lymph nodes.
What about the rash?
WebMD had a few thoughts on that: West Nile Virus, mono, Lyme Disease.
But none of those quite fit my symptoms to a tee.
My mother, the medical ninja
My mom must have been a doctor in a former life. She has CRAZY medical knowledge and instincts. She’s practically never wrong about her diagnoseses.
I called her and laid it all out — carefully, so as not to worry her. “Mom, I have some weird weird things going on and I’m not worried about it so I don’t want you to worry about it. I promise I’ll go to the doctor tomorrow.” And then I listed my symptoms.
“That sounds like shingles,” she said (and then certainly sliced something in half with her ninja sword.)
“What? How could I have shingles?” I asked.
No way, ninjamomma!
I talked to my friend who’d had shingles a few years prior. She concurred. But I didn’t really feel bad. My neck hurt but I didn’t feel sick.
I called the Irishman and told him. “You’re being a hypochondriac,” he said.
And then I jumped down that leprechaun’s throat. “Did you not feel the lumps in my neck?” I asked. “I just told you that I feel fine. Hypochondriacs say the opposite of that!”
And then he backed away slowly.
Since I had to quarantine myself and I didn’t feel like sitting in the house, I went for a bike ride.
A 12-mile bike ride.
I feel fine, I kept telling myself. A sick person couldn’t ride all the damn way from Valley Forge to the Budweiser factory and back, now could they?
Take that, damn shingles.
So that is that, bitches
But anyway, yeah, it was shingles.
My doc said we caught it early. She put me on steroids and my beloved Valtrex and told me that we should be able to stem it from getting too bad. She told me to rest up.
“I feel fine!” I told her — and everyone who would listen.
Then I went home and started to feel like crap.
All of a sudden, the pain in my neck was knocking me out and I had no energy.
I don’t know if it was the drugs or the shingles, but I spent the rest of the week feeling dizzy and completely scattered. I felt like I sounded like a dope every time I opened my mouth. I tried to blog and ended up writing things like, “This is a subhead.”
My mom and my sis pitched in to help with the kids a few days. My mom bought a ton of groceries and cooked her head off (not literally). I slept a lot. I wept a lot. I don’t really know why. (Perhaps because I’m a giant wussy? Yeah, maybe that’s why.)
Outta my way, herpes!
I’m off the steroid now. I have one day to go on the Valtrex. I’m finally feeling more like myself.
Then, because I barely worked last week, I have to WORK MY ASS OFF for the next four days so I can leave for this conference on Wednesday night.
Wait? What caused this again? Oh yeah.
But whatever. Everything always gets done somehow, doesn’t it?
A few more days of keeping it quiet at home and then I’m outta here. I might not be able to take Blogher by storm as I had hoped, but I’m happy to be able to go.
Thanks to everyone who kept me company (in a virtual sense!) during my quarantine.
And now, I close this post knowing that forever and ever, you will be able to google my name along with “herpes” and get an actual result. (And my bucket list just got lighter by one …)