surviving shingles – part 1

surviving shingles pt1

The most unexpected thing happened to me recently.

Totally unforeseen, unanticipated, and totally not on my radar.

As a matter of fact, I thought the soreness I felt a day before the onset was due to overdoing it while lifting weights or spending too much time at the gun range with my husband.

My diagnosis begged an answer to¬† the question: aren’t I too young for shingles?

Apparently not.

If you’ve ever had shingles, you know that it can be some of the worst pain you will ever experience. It’s a burning, searing, stabbing and unrelenting pain that gets a grip on you and doesn’t let go.

For those of you who have had shingles or are perhaps going through them right now, I hope this blog post offers you some comfort.

2 Corinthians 1 3-4

I am not a health care provider or a medical professional; the following items are merely things that have worked for me as I continue down this trek of surviving the shingles virus. Please check with your doctor before trying any of the following suggestions to be sure they are right for you.

Cling to God.

My first night with shingles was a nightmare. I still wasn’t sure of my diagnosis, only that instead of sleep, a pain like I’d never known invaded the left and back sides of my neck and my collar bone. Tears streamed down my face in the middle of the night, as I sought peace while calling upon comforting Scripture verses. I prayed that God would help me with whatever was going on, as my sweet husband clutched my hand and prayed over me. I’m not sure how people make it without the Lord during times of trial.

Get diagnosed.

My oldest daughter and I Googled rashes (by Friday morning, I had four blisters) and came to the conclusion I had shingles. My chiropractor confirmed it when I headed to his office for an adjustment in hopes of helping the unrelenting pain. By Friday afternoon, my blisters had multiplied from my left upper chest up around my neck, my jawline, my upper arm, and around the back of my neck and into my hairline. The fatigue and flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat, ear pain, and fever, added to my discomfort.

A few hours later, I was in my primary care doctor’s office with a prescription for Valtrex. While I am one who tends more toward natural therapies, taking the Valtrex soon after being diagnosed was a very wise decision. I have also been taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen for the pain.

Realize shingles affect everyone differently.

Some I have spoken to have said their shingles weren’t too severe, but for the majority I have talked with, their shingles were a horrific nightmare they don’t soon want to remember. And no, it doesn’t just attack the elderly. Three people I know shared with me that they had succumbed to the shingles virus while in their 20s.

Get rest.

There is no way around this one. You have to rest when you have shingles. Even if you have a mild case, get lots of rest and take time to heal so there are no complications. It’s said that this virus can last 3-5 weeks, and for some people even longer.

Do an assessment.

As I mentioned previously, shingles were not on my radar. How on earth could a healthy girl like myself get it?

Well…apparently stress can contribute. So I decided to do an assessment. Besides the many hats I wear: wife, mom, homeschool mom, author, volunteer, group fitness instructor, blogger, etc., I had also had some pretty serious stress in the past six months. In mid-January, my oldest daughter and I came down with the worst flu we’d ever experienced that lasted a month with lingering fatigue continuing an additional two weeks. Job furloughs and unemployment, a dental procedure that included an allergic reaction, a huge door swinging shut on me for a book project I had poured my heart into, and my youngest being rushed to the ER for what appeared to be a stroke added to my list of stressors. (Turns out she was having a horrific complex migraine – her first ever – and hopefully her last).

So do an assessment of where you’re at with stress. Covid-19 and all the upheavals currently taking place in our world are enough to cause anyone a sleepless night.

Be healthy.

In an effort to fight this virus, I adopted and continued with a list of healthy things I would be doing in the coming weeks. Some that have helped me are the following:

Supplements. Multi, C, E, D, zinc, B complex, and a good probiotic can be super helpful. For Optimal Daily Amounts, my personal go-to book is The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book by Shari Lieberman and Nancy Bruning.

Foods. Vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, red/black grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, berries, avocados etc. are all good choices. Avoid anything inflammatory, such as junk food, refined foods, and sugar.

Water. Stay well-hydrated.

Time with God. Spending time in His Word and a vibrant prayer life is a must for me. I am so dependent on His mercy and grace.

Prayers. I put myself on my church’s prayer chain and collected those prayers along with the faithful prayers of my immediate and extended family. Prayer works.

Sunshine. Plan on getting 10-15 minutes a day, preferably surrounded by nature.

Exercise. Gentle stretches and a short walk are a good start to building up to where you were before shingles.

Hugs. Studies have shown that hugs boost the immune system. My family is awesome about helping me fill my hug “quota” for the day.

Chiropractic care. It’s a good way to strengthen the immune system, and if you are fortunate to have a good chiropractor, he/she can be a wealth of information.

Just say no to stress. That includes taking a break from social media and the toxic news that currently surrounds us.

Sleep. A full night’s rest can be a challenge with the pain, so be sure to give yourself permission to take naps as necessary.

Don’t get discouraged.

I will humbly tell you that discouragement has knocked on my door a couple of times during this trial. As an active person not accustomed to not being busy, it has been difficult to not have the energy to do anything. And the pain? There is something called neuralgia that can stick with you long after the shingles are over. The thought scares me to death since my own sweet mom has severe chronic pain and is wheelchair-bound.

All this to say, discouragement will find you if you allow it. The second you take your eyes off Jesus, despair is there ready to accompany you through the day. Don’t let it.

discouragement - mom

Return your focus on our Lord and His promises. Remember Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus that day during the storm? He sank. We sink when we take our focus from the One who loves us so much He gave His Son for us.

To be continued…

I am officially on Day 13 of my shingles journey. I wish I could say I am completely healed. That I have no more neck, shoulder, and ear pain. No more fatigue.

But that’s not the case. While it has relented somewhat and I continue to get stronger everyday, I still have a ways to go. The pain and fatigue are ever present. But I’m hanging in there and am relying on God’s faithfulness to see me through this ordeal.

So all this to say that if you are going through shingles right now, hang in there. We will get through this!