Friday, July 3, 2009

11 - Christmas Present


My Christmas present from the disease is a case of shingles. Apparently this happens when one is immuno-suppressed. Shingles is that childhood case of chicken pox come back to haunt you. The chicken pox is caused by a virus called Herpes Zoster, a relative of other herpes. The virus doesn't die or go away when you get over it. It gets into the nervous system and just lies there for a few decades. Then, when your immunity is down, when viral opportunity knocks, it infects, that is reinfects, one nerve coming out of the spine. Just one nerve, so it affects one limited area of the skin on one side of the body.

The pictures one sees on the web are scary. Big, angry red rashes all over some part of the body. I have it in the sciatic nerve, which is the lower left quadrant, a huge area, so it could be really bad. But luckily it isn't bad. I get just a few spots of rash, nothing like the complete coverage in the web pix. When it's over, there are only a few scars, and thankfully almost no post-herpetic (after herpes) pain, just numbness and some tingling. For many people, the pain lasts for months or years and can be terrible, requiring long-term pain meds. I do have a little "restless leg" for several weeks, but that goes away, too.

The odd part is that, on the plane just before Christmas, my left leg is killing me. I have to get up several times during the trip and pace around and stretch the muscles to avoid bad cramps. Of the four hour flight, I probably spend an hour standing up and stretching and walking. Drives the stewards nuts. Two days later when the rash appears, it becomes clear that there is something wrong with that leg. Then I find out that this is a nerve disease. Well, had I known, I would have known. But still overall, a very mild case. Lucky, lucky, again, again.

Another CAT scan

Six weeks after the end of the radiation, I have another CAT scan. This one looks, thankfully, normal except for some weirdness in some tissues caused by the radiation itself.

Another surgery to remove the port-a-cath. A week and a half recovery, a nice neat scar. However it still hurts every day, now two months later. For instance, if I sleep on that side, it hurts a lot when I turn over. Now and then a stitch sticks its nose out, so I keep antibiotic ointment on it most days. Six months later, the scar is still sensitive: itchy, slightly painful to the touch. A year later, still twinges now and then. Does that ever go away?

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