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I’ve Got What?

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It started so innocently. My husband, Alex, and I took my daughter-in-law Kate and her friend Gretchen to Union Square in San Francisco to pick up their packets. They were both running in a women’s marathon a couple of weeks ago. I had a slight headache and felt a little out of sorts all evening. We took the two young women to dinner in San Francisco. 

Before dinner, we sat on the patio waiting for our table while we had a cocktail. Both Kate and Gretchen were somewhat alarmed when mosquitoes started swarming around my head. I waved them off, and after two Bombay martinis, I was no longer worried about mosquitoes. In fact, even my headache went away.

The next morning was a different story. I felt like I had been hit on the head with a sledgehammer! I had two big ugly bites on my eyelid, and one that seemed to be into my eyelashes. My right eye was also very swollen and the bites were very painful. Damn! I got out the calamine lotion and tried to dab the spots without getting the stuff in my eyes. By now, I had the complete cyclops look rocking. Since we were going to see the women again after their run, I tried to get cleaned up and put on some makeup, including some cover stick for the bites. It really didn’t accomplish much. My face was looking like a horror mask.

Of course, my husband (being well-trained) said, “No, Baby, you look fine.” Lying, but what’s the point of having a husband if he won’t lie to you about such things. I spent a lot of the day holding an ice pack on my eye and trying to get the swelling to subside a little. (It didn’t help.) By this time, I was really feeling pretty bad. I couldn’t even attempt to cover this mess up! It went from ugly to “Oh my God” hideous in a very short time span. My head was pounding, my stomach felt queasy, and I felt flu-like. Of course, because I am stupid and somewhat vain, I put these symptoms down to depression over looking like a Halloween scary movie star (and I don’t mean the cute co-ed who takes her clothes off in the film before she gets her head ripped off).

By Thursday, I was feeling rotten enough to call my doctor’s office. I didn’t want an appointment. I really just wanted someone to tell me what I had and what I could do for it. (Going to the doctor is always a last resort for me.) My doctor’s assistant said, “Could it be a sty?” Well, that’s probably it. And big bites on top of the sty! Yeah, that’s probably what it is! I told her I didn’t want to come in, because doctor’s offices are germy and I’d prefer not to catch something else on top of this little problem I was having.

By Saturday (when of course it’s too late to call the doctor because the office is closed), I began to have excruciating pain around my eye, up my face, into my hair, and on one side of my head. Even my right ear hurt. Damn! What is this stuff? I’ve heard of West Nile disease caught from mosquito bites but have no real idea what it is or what the symptoms are. I was sick enough it even occurred to me to go to the ER. (I, of course, decided that would be silly.) I figured I could wait until Monday for whatever was going on. Meanwhile, I’m smearing some sty ointment (over-the-counter) on my eyelashes, and calamine lotion on my upper lid. Appearance wise, well, you don’t even want to know. I was also popping pain medication and it wasn’t even touching the pain. Something told me that this wasn’t good.

I called Monday morning after another sleepless night and got an appointment to see my doctor. I don’t mind going to the doctor when there is nothing wrong. I loathe going to the doctor when I am really sick. First off, I think he’s going to tell me I have something horrid and incurable. Secondly, and even more important, I don’t like anyone looking at me when I’m yucky and the yucky stuff is what they need to see. Gross!

By the time I saw my doctor at 3 p.m. on Monday, I was shaking sick. My eye was almost swollen shut. I had sores on my eye, but also on my head under my hair. (No, I could not comb or brush the wild mop into submission because it hurt to even think about touching it.) After a full half minute of examining me, my doctor said “I’m afraid you have shingles.” Oh shit, oh dear! I had heard of shingles, but only had a hazy idea of what it was. Venereal disease? Something like Herpes? What? As the doctor began calmly explaining what I had, I felt mountains of relief lifting off me. I didn’t have to divorce my husband from bringing me home something nasty. I was going to live after all. I would not be maimed (hopefully) for life.

Shingles is like chicken pox. It’s very uncomfortable but not life threatening. The doctor was concerned because of the blisters’ proximity to my eye, so I did need to see an eye doctor to make sure there was no cornea involvement. I did that yesterday and my eyes are fine. And I was given medication for it, including a strong pain medication. It will go away and just as important, I will not look like a cyclops forever, but I may not need a mask for Halloween. It’s nice to see the bright side!


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