The itch came first followed by intense pain that had me pacing the floor at night. A quick online search confirmed what I was beginning to suspect; I had shingles! I was almost relieved last Sunday afternoon when the telltale rash finally appeared. Without it, there was nothing to show a doctor; no way to get a definite diagnosis and the medication I needed.
Within minutes of Wendy, one of our helpful office gals, typing the word shingles into her trusty translator on Monday morning, she and I were in a taxi and on our way to the Second Hospital of the Dalian Medical University. One glance at my rash was all the doctor needed to confirm my self diagnosis. He prescribed an anti viral medication as well as a vile smelling lotion to help with the itch and an antibiotic cream to use at night to prevent infection from setting in.
Shingles, or herpes zoster as it’s more formally known, is a reactivation of the virus that originally causes chicken pox. It had been lying dormant in my body for more than five decades waiting to spring into action again! Fortunately, unlike chicken pox, shingles usually affects only one area of the body, in my case a band extending around the left side of my torso at shoulder blade level.
I don’t actually remember having chicken pox. I was very young at the time but I do recall my mother talking about having three children sick with it at once; my older brother, my sister and I. My younger brother missed the first round of all the childhood diseases to hit our home and instead, made a habit of coming down with them when we were on holiday! I remember him having whooping cough in Dawson City, Yukon and mumps at our grandmother’s house. I believe that it was chicken pox that he had while we were camping on Galiano, one of BC’s beautiful gulf islands. I guess I must be following his example by coming down with shingles in China of all places!
Fortunately, I seem to have had a fairly mild case and I think I’m the mend. The blisters have burst and the rash is beginning to heal. The pain, now worst in the morning, eases off after awhile and is easily managed with Ibuprofen.
Though uncomfortable at times, I’ve been able to continue doing everything I needed to do. The blog’s silence this week has had more to do with the fact that I’ve been busy giving and marking final exams than with the fact that I’ve been suffering from shingles. My university classes came to an end this week and for the remainder of the month I’ll have only my students who are preparing to study abroad; just seven hours of teaching a week! No more classes at 8 o’clock on Saturday mornings and no more climbing the stairs to the sixth storey classroom! Even with shingles, life is good!