During my annual physical a couple of years back, my primary care provider (once known as family doctor), asked me if I had ever had chicken pox. I confidently responded that I had not. Indeed, for my entire adult life, for fear of contracting the condition, I had stayed away from children with chicken pox, those possibly about to get chicken pox, and any young person just getting over chicken pox. Doc chuckled rather condescendingly, and said that many of his patients insisted that they, too, had never had chicken pox. Yet, upon testing, were almost always proved wrong. He ordered the appropriate blood test for me to convince me I was mistaken as well.
On a follow up visit soon after, he reviewed the test results, and sure enough I was correct! I would have remembered the scars I told him, in a most non-condescending tone. He shook his head, smiled and actually apologized for doubting me. But now we had to get me a chicken pox vaccination posthaste because adults who had had chicken pox in their youth are prone to contracting shingles. He wrote me a script to get vaccinated.
After enduring a few months of dealing with a bit of a rigmarole involving matters such as who covered what, and when a supply could be ordered, I ended up back where I started at my PCP’s office, and he ordered the special serum. In two separate sessions, I was vaccinated, then boostered. I felt great – comforted knowing that now I wouldn’t have to worry about shingles (which I had always heard could be quite painful). I also always thought it was one of the goofier sounding conditions one had to admit going through.
I have had intermittent lower back (lumbar) pain since my twenties due to more things than I can remember. I imagine most of us can make that claim. I have often said that as soon as Homo sapiens finally stood erect, the entire species began having back pain of some sort (another story perhaps). At any rate, shortly after the vaccination episode, I started experiencing a bit more back pain than usual, and went through my normal protocol for relief – extra doses of Advil, some pain relief cream, stretching, et al. Nothing worked.
And then … I started itching and burning. Like sunburn. Then a rash developed. Then the self-diagnosis (with the help of Google, WebMD and a host of other sites), that I had contracted shingles. What? But I thought …
Never mind. Went back to the PCP, and sure enough, within about one second of examination, it was confirmed I had the suckers. Relatively mild case, but more severe pain than I had ever experienced next to kidney stones (still another story). Went through the prescribed treatment, and within two weeks all was fine. By the way, no one could really explain why I got shingles after being vaccinated against chicken pox. I personally feel the stupid vaccination made my body believe I actually had chicken pox, so why not let me fall prey to shingles as the natural follow-up?
A few months ago, my most recent visit to my PCP has him telling me I am now old enough to get the shingles vaccination and he suggests I do so as soon as I can. I venture to the pharmacy, and am informed that since I had yet to turn 60 at the time, I needed a script. Back to the pcp. Now with script in hand, back to the pharmacy. They can surely help, but they have none in stock, and the insurance site is jammed so it is not sure that my policy covers the shot. Is it me? I leave – don’t feel like waiting. About a month later I go back during my lunch break, and within 15 minutes, all is good. I get the vaccination with no co-pay or any other charge.
Except now, despite all this great preventative care, every time I get even the slightest itch in my back, guess what I’m thinking?