Spoiler alert: I have shingles.

!!!!!!

So, in the last week of February, I moved house. It was a very easy move, since I had purged what seemed like half my house during a very intense KonMari period, and I had excellent movers to assist. I can honestly say I barely lifted a finger. Still, any move is stressful to some degree, and I guess this one was too.

By the beginning of March, the first Saturday and Sunday to be specific, I started getting intense pain in my right leg. It was a pulsating and radiating pain, and it was really sore. I figured that I had pinched a nerve during the move, and since I have a weak lower back, I thought the pain must be somehow affiliated with that. But, when I discussed pinched nerves with others who had actually had them in the past I began to have my doubts about whether this was the real cause of my pain.

By Sunday night I was using a walking stick because the pain in my leg was causing my leg to “give out” and buckle under me. Monday kind of came and went in a blur, but I noticed a rash on my inner thigh which I figured was a heat rash (it was very different from the rash I had gotten earlier, that was attributed via biopsy to the chemo drugs). On Tuesday the leg pain hadn’t gone away, and I was also (separately) wondering about that rash…it seemed to be spreading, and it was getting ugly blisters.

shingles

Inner thigh blisters – this is when I still thought it was a heat rash

I sent a photo of it to my sister, and to cut a long story short she suggested it could be shingles, I called my oncologist who told me to come in immediately (she wasn’t there but I was seen by another doctor) and shingles was confirmed!

Slightly different looking rash, still shingles though, on my leg

I received a script and strict instructions to watch my fever and progress. On Thursday morning I went back to my oncologist, and by Thursday pm I was admitted to hospital for seven days of IV treatment which ends tomorrow (thank God!). One of the reasons for the aggressive treatment was because the shingles was presenting in more than one “nerve band”, although mostly isolated to the right leg (usually it will be along a single nerve), and there was fear that it would spread to my organs. My fever also spiked at 38.8 which is dangerously high for someone on chemo.

It looked pretty bad by the time I got to hospital! Still not painful though.

So the pain in the leg was associated with the shingles (it is common for the pain to appear before the blisters do). Shingles is the chicken pox virus, which makes me contagious (for chicken pox, not for shingles). I thus have a single room in the hospital, and am in isolation. The nurses have to wear these very serious masks and cover ups every time they enter my room, even if it is to just drop off some tea. That’s kind of good news…I am left mostly alone, and can do a lot of catch up sleep, catch up thinking …and catch up of blogging, ha ha. Luckily no one in my family caught it (Craig has had chicken pox, and the kids have been vaccinated).

This is about day 3 of IV treatment? The black outline is where the rash was before I was admitted, so you can see it receding nicely (with no scars!)

I am eager to see what recovery will be like once I leave the hospital tomorrow. I can feel that my leg is stiff, and I still have pain which I am hoping will go away as soon as I can “walk it off”. However, a basic Google search associates shingles with immense pain, which quite frankly I did not really have. Yes, the leg pain was intense last Sunday, but I wasn’t writhing on the floor. (I should say that I was prescribed IV morphine which made me very loopy, and which I felt was overkill to the pain that I had, so I stopped it as soon as I could and am now on oral pain meds).

Shingles is a common side effect of my chemo, so I should have been paying more attention, especially since it is very important to get treatment within 48 hours of symptoms starting (I think I left it to more like 72 hours!). So so far I consider myself very lucky, although the hospital stay was a bit of a pain in the butt. I have also been told that I need to stay on the shingles med for about 3 months to prevent it coming back. Let’s hope medical aid pays for that, as that’s going to be a cool R10,000+ (!!!)

If you are specifically interested in my Waldenstrom journey, from diagnosis to the present day, then I suggest you view this page to see all the posts I have written about it, in chronological order.