Thank you for joining me for part two of my experience with shingles. To read Part One, please go here.
Today is Day 20. My rash is nearly gone in some places and scabbing over and fading in others. The shingles journey is definitely not for an impatient person (the average length is 3-5 weeks). Every day, I rush to the mirror to see the progress God is making in healing my body. He has brought me so far. Just a quick glance at the pictures from those first days is evidence.
I still have intermittent pain and now my scabbed-over rash has started to itch. But I am doing so, so much better.
There are several things I’ve learned about this illness. Again, I am not a medical professional, so please be sure to check with your doctor before trying any of the listed items.
Use a cold compress. Placing a cool (not frozen) compress on the rash several times a day has worked well for me for pain management, especially in most recent days.
Wear loose and comfortable clothing. After this journey is over, I will definitely never again take for granted being able to wear whatever I want.
Make an appearance. Since shingles can make you feel so lousy, an important thing I have found to do is to be sure to get dressed, fix my hair, and put on some makeup each morning. This can do wonders for your esteem when you already feel crummy.
Do things to take your mind off the pain. As a writer, more than anything, I have been yearning to work on my current novel. Unfortunately, due to the location of my polka-dots (as I call my shingles) it’s difficult (but getting easier!) to sit in one position for long. However, writing takes my mind off the shingles, as does reading, watching a movie with my family, listening to my favorite Christian music playlist, and spending time sitting outside in the fresh air, surrounded by my flower pots (added bonus).
Continue to gradually build up to where you were before that fateful day. In my first post, I mentioned that I was walking each day and doing minimal stretches. I have worked my way up to walking further and to twice a day with plenty of rest in between.
Today, for the first time in three weeks, I actually took this one step further. As a group fitness instructor, I was on the schedule to teach my cycling class today. With my doctor’s permission, I taught class – low impact for me and the usual high impact for my class. For the rest of the week, I will take it easy and continue with my walking. Next Monday and Wednesday, I again teach. I am hoping by gently easing into teaching again, I will be able to progress and not regress.
Keep clinging to God. The odd thing that I have discovered about shingles is that you can feel better for a portion of the day and then zing! The pain reminds you it’s not yet gone for good. My pain has definitely been alleviating and I find myself taking less Tylenol than when I first started, but at times (especially at night) it rears its ugly head again. It’s a good reminder to me to continue to cling to God for comfort and strength as He continues to heal me. And just to humbly add – I have had a few tearful moments through all this, so if you’ve had some of those moments too, you’re not alone.
Be careful about what you allow into your mind. Trust me on this one, as I’m also talking to myself when I say this. There are some nasty things that can happen with shingles. Don’t be an internet warrior and go looking for them. Instead, at your doctor’s visit (or subsequent phone call with a nurse or other medical professional), ask what things would necessitate an emergency or, at the very least, a return visit to their office. They will temper their response so its helpful, but not scary. By Googling things on our own, sometimes we can find the worst of the worst. This doesn’t help. It only causes anxiety and fear, something we need to avoid, especially since stress makes shingles worse. Curious about something? Have a trusted family member look it up for you and see if it even applies to your situation.
Continue to get lots of rest. Oh, but there are so many things I need to be doing right now! Yes, I’m definitely behind on many things, but my family graciously reminds me that I’m not going to get better if I don’t rest (very hard for this active girl!). Even if we’re feeling better, we need to continue to take it easy. Our bodies will thank us for it.
Have a good support system. I am so grateful to have a family who cares about and for me. Not only do I have an amazing immediate family, but my extended family reaches out to me daily to check on and encourage me. They all, in addition to my church family, have been praying for me. We can never collect too many prayers.
So what do you do if you live alone? I would encourage you to connect with family members, friends, and/or your church. No one should have to go through shingles alone.
Pray fervently. I have prayed for four things consistently during my shingles journey. They are that no one else in my family would get this (especially my parents and other older relatives), that I would heal completely and not have the permanent pain that can affect some shingles sufferers, that God would change me through this for the better so that I may be used mightily for His Kingdom, and that He would be glorified through this (sometimes) frightening trial. Prayer is effective and it works.
Shingles are just bizarre. The burning, tingling, zapping, throbbing, intense pain is like nothing else. Big thanks (not!) to the reactivation of the varicella-voster virus, the one that gave us chickenpox when we were kids. It makes the top 10 lists of the most painful conditions, gives us several weeks of grief, and then, in some cases, can re-emerge (ummm, no thanks!).
So as I conclude the almost three-week mark, thank you again for joining me. Continue to hang in there. We will get through this!
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