Just over a year ago, I had successful surgery to remove a lemon-size brain tumor. But, after all the steps forward I have taken, lately I've been taking a few steps back. Just when I thought all was well, I began feeling funny. There was nothing I could call and describe to my doctor -- I just knew that I didn't feel quite right.
However, it didn't take long for me to discover the problem. One night I felt something burning on my stomach. When I felt the spot where it was burning, I felt some bumps that I quickly examined. I knew immediately -- and the Internet confirmed my diagnosis. I had shingles.
I guess I was the perfect storm for the disease. Being over the age of 60, having a little stress in my life, being immune-compromised, having cancer, taking chemo -- these are all risk factors for the disease.
I stayed home from work the day after I discovered the problem to find out what to do next. Was I contagious? Could I go to work? Was there medicine for this? And, most importantly, could I still go on the vacation I had scheduled for the next week?
The answers were promising. I found out that I couldn't infect others so long as they did not come in direct contact with the ever-growing rash around my middle, and, yes, there was medicine for me to take. Work was no problem, but I was restricted from going to the main hospital and I couldn't be around the pediatric patients in the Children's Cancer Hospital. The best news was that I was cleared to continue with my vacation plans.
The burning, stinging, itchy rash came along with me on a long train ride from Houston to Seattle. I enjoyed the views with only minor discomfort, and managed a long, but wonderful, weekend in Seattle with my son and his new bride, my daughter and her husband and their new baby, and my major support system, husband Clif.
My plan was that this would be over by the time I got back to Houston, but now I'm on to plan B. I'm beginning the second month of this misery. Actually, the shingles are gone; it's just the pain that lingers.
At the last visit to my oncologist, we spent more time discussing shingles than we did talking about my brain (luckily, it's doing just fine). My pain meds have been upped and I'm working on putting all of this behind me.
However, you should heed my warning, there's a vaccine you can get for shingles. You have to be a certain age to get it, but when you can take it, do.
It may be that more than a year has passed, but right now I would say that dealing with this discomfort makes recovering from brain surgery look pretty easy.