I'll detail it here just in case any of you ever have to deal with this... it seems quite random and it's not very common especially for younger people... yet somehow I ended up with it? I'll start from the beginning.
I've felt 'off' for a few weeks. Not crazy bad and not like I needed to lay in bed or anything but just like something wasn't quite right. It was enough that I went to my doctor and requested a full blood panel to be drawn- testing everything we could think of hormones and adrenals, etc. To my surprise, everything came back pretty normal and mostly within range, which just made me think I was just imagining not feeling well (Hello am I just completely crazy?? Don't answer that...) ... I will note here that both red and white cell counts were low... hematocrit 35- (evidence I'm not doping! Ha! But this could explain why I don't feel like superwoman when training). White cell count at 4.1- (evidence of a weakened immune system). All other tests came back with normal results.
So then last week I had that shooting nerve pain down the back of my left leg that seemingly came out of nowhere. I thought maybe it was piriformis related but even that seemed odd to me b/c I have not been pushing any limits in training lately. I mean, I know when I'm flirting with overuse injury territory and my recent training would not put me in that category. Yet that nerve pain was real and unrelenting and very bothersome.
Interestingly, when I went to see Magic Man for acupuncture on Friday (two days post start of nerve pain), he noticed a little blistery rash spot right on the acupuncture point he wanted to use for my piriformis. Hmmm. Conicidence? Must be. I easily explained that away as I'd been swimming in the ocean that morning and it's totally commonly to get stung by something that causes a minor itchy rash to pop up and then it goes away within a day or two. No big deal.
When that night I noticed another rash spot appear on that same butt cheek, it was more concerning. I texted Nalani to ask if she'd had any rash/stings from our ocean swim that morning... she said she had... but hers wasn't blistering and hers wasn't spreading so maybe mine was something different?? The whole next day I was searching for an answer to my weird rash and I finally came up with one... must be a side effect from the anti-biotics I was taking (another long story as I gashed the top of my foot a few weeks ago and it had gotten infected so I was on a 7 day course of anti-biotics). I pretty much blamed everything on the anti-biotics... They must have been the reason I was feeling less than 100% and since the package insert listed rash as a possible side effect I assumed that was it.
So then when I woke up Sunday morning and the rash had spread further even though I was done with the course of anti-biotics, well, I was having a hard time ignoring it anymore. The rash was itchy and all the new red blistery spots were lining up in a band but only on that left side. By Sunday night I had like 9 of those spots so I consulted Dr Google and found my answer.
Shingles usually begins with a burning sensation, a mild itching or tingling or a shooting pain in a specific area of skin. The affected area usually is located only on one side of the chest, abdomen or face or on a portion of an arm or leg. The skin may be extremely sensitive, so that you may not be able to stand clothing touching or rubbing the area.
After a few days, the skin becomes red and mildly swollen, and a rash appears. Blisters may cluster in patches or form a continuous line that roughly follows the path of the infected nerve. The blisters may be painful or itchy, and some may be as large as the palm of your hand. Blisters continue to appear over two to seven days and eventually break, form crusts and then heal.
Shingles also can cause fatigue, a low-grade fever and mild muscle aches.
Ah ha! I went to tell Scott that I thought I had shingles and he sort of looked at me like I was crazy and in all honesty I felt sort of crazy even saying that outloud. Great. Now I'm just one of those crazy people who reads too much on the internet and diagnoses herself with random rare diseases. But the pictures of the blisters looked exactly like mine and all the symptoms added up and made sense... Pic below is not actually of me (aren't you glad??) but this is a lot like what mine look like. The spots run right along the nerve line but just on one side- classic shingles.
Interestingly, when you call your doctor and tell the receptionist that you think you might have shingles, she will have an opening to get you in within the hour, even on a Monday morning!! Amazing how that works. I might add here that being instructed to enter the building through the super secret side door instead of through the front lobby goes a long way toward making you feel like a leper.
Doc took one look at my rash and confirmed shingles. Shingles, really, is just a sort of rare reoccurrence of chicken pox that can come back later in life if/when your immune system is compromised. When I told my mom, she reminded me that I had a really bad case of chicken pox when I was 4.
Anyway, turns out, shingles just gets more and more painful as the days pass by. I've felt like absolute garbage, mostly in bed, for the last 3 days. A lot like severe flu symptoms, really. Achy all over and then that rash hurts like a bitch too (an unrelenting bitch!). So while I've been in bed, I haven't actually been sleeping b/c it all hurts too badly to sleep. Doc gave me Rx for anti-viral meds, viodin for pain, and ambien so I could sleep. You know its bad when it's 2AM and you're up surfing the web desperately looking for an at home remedy for shingles blisters pain because the pain is so bad that the vicodin/ambien combo you took didn't even allow you to sleep. Seriously. I made the mistake of giving in to the urge to SCRATCH last night and oooooh.... aaaaaahhhh... just made it worse. Somebody handcuff me?? I've put coconut oil on them and that has been somewhat soothing but the best thing I've tried was apple cider vinegar. That has actually worked to relieve some of the pain and itching and dries up the blisters a little. Fwiw, paste made from baking soda and water stings like a mofo. Not recommended.
Not sure how much longer I'll be in bed with this? My urge to exercise is a big fat zero. All I really want is some relief from the pain and a little bit of energy. Too much to ask?
Don't take your health for granted. Maybe that's the lesson here.