I’ve Got Those Shingles, Shingles, Shingles, Shingles Under My Arm


my underarm shingles

No, seriously, I kind of do have them under my arm. I also have them on my shoulder.  My neck is aching. My shoulder hurts like hell. And the burning is so bad that I think that if it burned anymore it might start attracting sadists to watch how I deal with this illness.

I remember noticing the underarm rash on Tuesday, before I called the rheumatologist. The pain in my shoulder had been going on for about a day and a half at that point. I was sure that the pain was tendinitis or something related to the fibromyalgia/hypermobility/autoimmune, so I followed my mom’s instructions and called the rheumatologist. And then, of course, I went to the appointment where he said he thought it was the hypermobility–or as he likes to call it, loose joints.

The rash was sticking around, but I thought until yesterday morning that it was probably a scratch or some weird allergy. And it had spread to the top of my shoulder at that point. I did what most crazy, stressed out people probably do when they notice some health issue that they can’t figure out on their own: I googled it. And it looked a lot like shingles to me, but I was sure it couldn’t be. Sure, I had had “the pox” on my third birthday. Sure, I have a weak immune system and a body that seems to like to jump on the opportunity to get any kind of infection that exists in the world.  (Stupid masochistic body.) And, of course, I had the whole weird occurrence of my mom getting the vaccine for this stupid disease last week or the week before because she seemed to be the person most likely to get shingles in the house.

Anyway, my mom told me that we might have to go to the ER if the rash didn’t go away. Then, she decided to bring it up after my infusion. The first nurse to check it out said that she thought it might be, but that she was really bad when it came to distinguishing rashes. She got a nurse that had more experience and was better with these things.  That nurse said she couldn’t really tell, that it sounded like shingles, but that she didn’t think it was. I was lucky, I guess, that one of the hematologist/oncologists was still there and happened to like to check in on his patients as they got infusions and treatments. (He also happens to be married to an infectious disease specialist, which I found out later.) Anyway, they went and got him. He asked me to tell him when the rash started, when the pain started, and how it felt. After I told him all that, he said the part about how I was a day late on getting it checked out if I wanted to go on antivirals. (Something that the pharmacist disagreed with when my mom told her.)

So, like I said yesterday, I have shingles, aka old people herpes.

Do you know what that means?

Now, in addition to the whole infusions-make-me-feel-like-crap-right-after-I-have-them and the I-don’t-like-that-my-Bishop-thinks-that-he-has-the-right-to-order-me-to-go-to-church, I actually will be unable to go to church on Sunday because I could expose someone who hasn’t had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it to that virus. It’s especially important to avoid pregnant women and babies, and there are few places in society where you’ll find a larger congregation of pregnant women and babies than at a Mormon church on Sunday. Don’t believe me? Check one out. Unless you’re at a Singles Ward or Branch, you’re generally gonna find a lot of currently or recently knocked up women and their offspring. So I’m not just skipping church this Sunday because I’m feeling crappy post-infusion or because I’m prone to bitchy, stubborn, and contrarian behavior; I’m doing it because I’m a potential public health threat. I’m doing it for the mothers and-and, tiny, tiny babies.

Now I’ll probably get accused of purposely triggering this virus so that I could get out of church. You would not believe the number of times that I have been accused of faking my health problems. If that were true, especially in this case, I would deserve some Nobel Prize for Diabolical Behavior or something. (That would be the opposite of the Peace Prize.)

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I tend to get whinier and grumpier and, well, a bit stranger when I’m sick. I actually have been sick since right before the diagnosis. Nausea, dizziness, and just feeling like shit–kind of like with the flu. Basically, it sucks to be me right now, but I’m trying just to rest and not get upset about anything.


About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.