Life after Shingles

It has been one year now since the Shingles virus ravaged my body. It came quietly one day and slowly over about 48 hours it hit full force. Being ignorant about the virus, I assumed it was just a rash thing and let it go as at first I felt just fine overall. After a couple days it started to hurt. I was covered on most of the right side of my chest and back, under my armpit and in the middle of my breastbone. Anywhere a bra would cover I was covered. I started feeling bad all over, tired and quite uncomfortable. My sister convinced me to go to the doctor. This is an issue as she has the most awesome and wonderful GP- Dr Jane. But Dr. Jane and her staff have issues with me not having Health Insurance. (like I don't?) They have grilled me about it and I continue to try to relay to them that I CAN NOT AFFORD Health Insurance. Period. Anyway, I went (cash in hand) and Dr. Jane wouldn't see me but passed me on to her PA. Fine with me, I needed drugs and relief. When she looked at my chest and back, she immediately went to Dr. Jane. Coming back she explained that I was the worst case they had on record. She wrote me two scripts; One for pain Tramidol (sp?) and something else to hit the virus. A Herpes drug. The Herpes medication was $155. I didn't fill it.

I went back to work that day. Took the free drugs they gave me and then went home. Shortly after that I started to get really sick. I didn't make it to work for the next two days. I was vomiting and sick to my stomach. I felt like I'd been run over by a Mack Truck, every muscle was sore and the pain from the rash was, to say the least, unbearable. It took me a day to figure out that the pain meds were what was making me vomit. Tramidol is not a controlled substance drug, however it does have the same results as Morphine. Hits the same receptors. My body doesn't like drugs. I've had reactions in the past to medications including anything with Codine. So, I stopped the Tramidol and suffered through with just Tylenol.

It took a good month before the rash started to subside. As it healed it sent shooting pains to those areas affected. Sharp, stabbing pain. Like a knife quickly slipping in and out again. This went on for WEEKS. The virus attacks the nerve endings at the rash site and sends wonderful blasts of pain to those spots. It was difficult to work. I was uncomfortable all of the time and so sick of alternating between Asprin, Tylenol and Motrine.

Around August I still had signs of the rash but was for the most part no longer in any pain. Once in a great while I'd get a little "shooter" but nothing compared to what it had been. I spent a lot of time researching the Shingles Virus educating myself and one day heard a story on the NPR station I listen to on the way to work about it.

Shingles is on the rise. More people are getting it than before because more kids have been vaccinated against Chicken Pox since the 1960's. If you've had Chicken Pox you have the chance of getting Shingles. Shingles attatches itself in your body during the Chicken Pox and lays dormant for years. Now, since children are not exposing adults to the virus – however subltly – we are not getting a natural immunity to it. Hence we in our 40's, 50's and 60's are breaking with Shingles at a much higher rate than before the Chicken Pox vaccine.

I am glad I have at least four more years before I have to worry about this again. I'm glad those months of pain are over and I am very happy to report that I have no visible scars. And lastly, I am embarassed to say that I never thought it was a big thing. Now I know better, it is a big thing and if anyone ever tells you they have it please don't make light of it. It is very, very painful.

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9 Responses to Life after Shingles

  1. Waterbaby says:

    I feel your pain. I came down with shingles about, oh, 10 years ago. My case wasn't as severe (and was limited to the back) but as you well know, even a small case can bring horrible pain. Like you, I was unaware of what it was until I dragged myself to a doctor, who, as I recall, prescribed anti-inflammatories, which didn't "cure" it but made the pain more manageable. I just remember being unable to move lying on the tatami (I was living in Japan at the time) on my back. God, I wouldn't wish that on anyone. As you may know, there's postherpetic neuralgia, the dull pain or ache that comes and goes post-shingles in the body parts affected. I get that when I'm stressed or overly fatigued. So it never entirely goes away. Of all the illnesses that have come my way, that was one of the worst …

  2. I'm sorry you had to go through it too. I had "heard" of Shingles but never really knew it to be as powerfull as it really is. You know "Oh, so and so has the Shingles…and by the way how's your son?" There wasn't "concern" added to it. So I didn't think it would be a big deal – until the pain started.
    I too have mild pain that flares up now and then, but my life/work is very stressful anyway and sometimes it takes me a bit to recognize it. Agreed, it kicked my butt and I'm pretty tough. They say there's a five year period before it can surface again, I'd like to be able to afford the vaccine by then. Even if it only slows it down some.
    From what I researched there is no cure, just management.

  3. boy i know how you feel, i have had shingles for a week now, a bad rash and lots of pain. my dr. has me on valtrex and pain meds. and i feel better today, still cant wear a bra so stay home.

  4. Oh, honey I feel your pain! I'm so sorry. It was months before I could make it through a whole day with a bra. I don't know if the Valtrex really helps or not as I don't have health insurance and could'nt afford to get the script filled. They gave me Tramadol for pain which I had a reaction to and complicated my life terribly. I think I was close to four days before returning to work. If you are able to stay home I would reccommend it.
    For me I was covered from the breastbone across the whole front and back of my right side, including under my armpit. You will get through it, it just takes a very long time. Once the rash subsides, expect continued pain underneath the rash site for a few months.
    Stay in touch.

  5. ZINA says:

    Well i was just dignosed with shingels yesterday.

  6. I am so sorry to hear that Zina. If you can afford the Valtrex fill it and take it. The sooner you get that into your system the better it works. Or so I was told, I couldn't afford it so only took what they gave me in free samples. It can be a long and painful process but I do hope that it won't be for you. Keep in touch if you need to share. I'm almost at the two year mark of onset, once in a great while I will get a shooting pain at some point of where the rash was but it's usually over in an instant.
    There was a very good story about the Shingles Virus on NPR quite a while ago, go to and research their Archives it should still be there.

  7. ZINA says:

    Thank you so much. I have been taking the valtrex on a regular basis, I've noticed a difference in pain and itching after taking the meds. Although, the pain is unbearable at times i have hope, i'm taking motrin during the day and percocet at night. I read on WEBMD that if treatment is started not more then three days after the rash appears there is a good chance of no complications and faster recovery. I started treatment one day after the rash appeared so I have hope that i will be better soon. I've heard of people having shingels, but I never imagined that it would be this painful. I keep hoping I don't break out any where else on my body so far it's only under my left rib and some on my stomach area. Do more blistere show up after five days? I just want to be able to go back to work at least by Wednesday. Thanks so much for your message it feels great to communicate with somone who can relate to what i'm going through.

  8. It's good that you were able to start the Valtrex right away. Well, I was out of work for two days I think. But if I remember correctly I got confirmation of my own diagnosis on a Wed. so that took me through the weekend. Anyway, I had to go back to work.
    I am no expert but I do believe that the rash you have now is the only rash you'll get. If I got lucky any place along the way it was that my blisters lasted a day or two maybe. The rash itself lasted almost a year. It was the pain that got me, and I had such a large area affected. If I remember correctly, the virus attacks the nerves starting in spinal cord. Those nerves affected are attached to the rash areas, so where ever you have the rash is where you will feel the most amount of pain.
    Like you, I had heard of Shingles but never imagined it was so painful. I had a lot of tearful days. My job is very physically demanding and many a day I thought I would just crumble. But I didn't. I kept telling myself that this virus has been around for many years and well before all of the medicine at our disposal today. I just pushed through it day by day.
    I posted about my experience with Shingles to basically spread the word. There is a lot to learn about it but it's really only when you get it does that information become relevent!
    You are welcome to talk to me anytime. I honestly am feeling your pain but truly wish you a speedy recovery.

  9. Between us speaking, I would address for the help to a moderator.

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