A few days ago, I got a mosquito bite. Or so I thought. It itched, naturally, and since I have a high degree of reaction to mosquito bites, it swelled and got worse. The swelling and itching increased, along with not just one, but a nasty bunch of bumps, so many that I thought perhaps it was a spider bite or something. (Actually I found myself wondering if somehow I'd been bitten by a centipede. Which seemed unlikely, but there were a lot of bumps.) These things happen, so I dragged out the anti-itch cream and put it to use. To very little effect, but that's what you do for insect bites, right? I was hoping for even a placebo effect. Which I did not get.
Last night after performing, I was in so much discomfort it was hard to sleep. It felt like when you've been bedridden for a while and you're in a lot of pain from not moving around enough. Which was odd, because I had not been bedridden, and had no reason for such a sensation. So I tossed and turned and paced and tossed and turned some more. No position was comfortable; the entire back right side of my rib cage ached something fierce.
Now, I'm no stranger to pain. We go way back, pain and me. It's not a consensual relationship, but it is a strong one. I was in four auto accidents 20 years ago, and have not had one pain-free day since. Which I mention not for sympathy, but just as a point of reference: I am accustomed to fairly high levels of pain. However, this morning I was awakened after a just a few hours of sleep because someone was trying to remove my rib cage using fiery-hot pokers forged in the pits of hell. Which is unusual, even for me.
I am not one to pop on in to see the doctor, in fact, I have a bit of a history of waiting far too long to seek medical assistance. But this pain level was so bad that it was actually frightening - the kind of pain where you think you'll throw up - so I hied myself off to the walk-in clinic, as my doc had no appointments today.
Turns out not a mosquito bite, not a spider bite. It's a rip-snorting case of shingles. Which I had heard tell of, but never experienced. My mother, who could have taught the original Stoics a thing or two about stoicism, once had shingles. (This was a woman who, after taking a bad spill on a bicycle and putting a tooth and a half through her lower lip, put the teeth in her pocket and bicycled the remaining five or so miles home. Did I mention stoic?) So when she had shingles, and described them as "extremely painful," it made an impression.
Oh. My. Stars. Boy howdy. The medical info sheet they send you home with, the ones that tend towards simple, understated language? I had to laugh when I read the description that shingles are evidenced by "a rash and pain. The pain can be very severe." You could call it severe, I suppose. I mean, if you consider being eviscerated by rabid ferrets to be severely painful. Maybe you don't. I'm going with a yes on this one, however.
Shingles are caused by the previously dormant chicken pox virus, which typically goes to live quietly and unassumingly in your spinal column fluid or nerve cells, only to come for a visit years later. Common causes are exhaustion, stress, trauma, or illness that suppresses the immune system. None of those seemed to apply here, but then I mentioned the thumb surgery I had two weeks ago. Bingo! It turns out that general anesthesia can sometimes trigger immune system issues, up to and including bringing on autoimmune diseases. And inviting the chicken pox virus back out to play.
The doc mentioned that she'd moved here from Southern California, where some people have plastic surgery as a hobby, and how she always felt that the cautionary info presented to folks on the risks of general anesthesia were too mild, because autoimmune diseases are no small matter. Now, I needed the surgery, because I have grown fond of and accustomed to opposable thumbs and their many benefits, so it wasn't really an optional thing in my case. But this seems rather a steep price to pay, I must say.
So home I trundled, with a sack full of meds, including medication for the, as the doctor described it, "make you crazy, peel your head off" kind of pain. She was right, the info sheets were right, but most importantly? As so often turned out to be the case, my mother was indeed correct. In her honor, I am now stomping around utilizing her favorite swear words and phrases about this turn of events.
Your wisdom, words, and sailor language live on, Mom. I won't repeat them here, but I think everyone can fill in the blanks with their own.