It always only lines up in retrospect–the consecutive days of splitting headaches upon waking, nerve pain coursing through my body, and extreme fatigue. But sometimes headaches are an independent event, nerve pain can be attributed to post-herpetic neuralgia, and I live with chronic fatigue as a consequence of permanent lung injury regardless. So, it’s hard to distinguish between symptoms of shingles and symptoms of life after cancer, until that fated stripe of horizontal rash blows up across my backside.
Following cancer treatments, shingles (aka “herpes zoster” or “adult chicken pox”) became my nemesis, and post-cancer immune suppression, my kryptonite. Despite getting the shingles vaccine last year, which protects against half of the various strains of herpes zoster, I’m now a six-time shingles survivor in as many years. Where’s my wristband?
Since I’ve unwittingly become somewhat of an expert on managing my own brand of shingles outbreaks, thought I’d share some immediate actions that I take to Jade Up and speed the healing. Maybe one of these tips will be a gem for someone else in the struggle. These are not recommended remedies for everyone, so please remember that I am not a doctor. I just play one on my own body.
Jade Gangster’s Shingles Outbreak Top Ten Pro-Tips:
1. Call the doc and get on anti-virals, like yesterday. Move on it. There’s only a short three-day window from onset to get started on anti-virals, which make the difference between the virus taking weeks versus months to run its course.
2. Quarantine. Until the rash disappears, keep to yourself and notify the people in your life as needed. Stay away from babies, elderly, sick people, and other canaries in the coal mine who may be immune suppressed.
3. Don’t scratch, it ain’t vinyl. Do not touch the rash. I like to apply coconut oil topically to soothe the itches, because I prefer naturopathic remedies. But I hear calamine lotion may do the trick. Also, icing the area can help.
4. Do way too much laundry. It might go against water conservation, but I think you get a pass on account of infectious disease and a drought on your ass. I never use the same bath towel, shirt, underwear, or anything that touches the rash twice. As an added measure, I like to soak my clothes in baking soda and vinegar for an hour before I run the washer.
5. Nom on raw organic garlic. Eat 1 teaspoon of ground raw organic garlic combined with raw organic honey 1-2 times daily. Raw garlic is an excellent and natural anti-microbial, but these properties are only intact when raw. Beware that raw garlic gets flaming hot when you’re nomming on it. The honey takes the edge off a bit, but you’ll for sure feel the burn.
6. Drink organic Echinacea tea. Echinacea root is commonly known for antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. I like to follow my feel-the-burn raw garlic and honey experience with a cup of Echinacea tea to bring it back down.
7. Eat this, not that. Ban foods high in the amino acid Arginine that feeds shingles: grains (rice, bread, flour), nuts and seeds, lentils and dried beans, caffeine, chocolate, and all processed foods. Eat foods rich in the amino acid Lysine that inhibits shingles: cauliflower, spinach, kale, green beans, asparagus, mango, avocado, eggs, low-fat Greek yogurt, and fish. Click HERE for foods to avoid from Livestrong.
8. Blow up that donut pillow. Swallow your pride and save yourself from a literal pain in the ass. Everyone will think you have hemorrhoids, but where the hell are you going right now anyway? I like to disguise my donut pillow inside a regular pillowcase, so it’s less embarrassing to take to work. So many folks sit on DIY contraptions to align themselves at their desks anyway. This might not apply to people whose shingles don’t affect their spine or backside.
9. Lay off intense physical exercise. I stay away from my power yoga classes and jog/walks. I typically limit myself to short but frequent low-and-slow walks with Malcolm dog and gentle restorative stretching on my own. Typically, fatigue makes it impossible to do much more anyway.
10. Stop stressing. This last one has been a real struggle for me. How do I control the level of stress in my life, when it can come from external sources? But rather than throw my hands up, I tried something new this time. I sat down and retrospectively wrote out things that were depleting me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually these past few months. Some of these things have since cycled out of my life, while others persist. I thought carefully about what things I might be avoiding doing by continuing to allow these stressors to persist. This kept me honest, and helped me find my power in the situation. I then committed to emptying my life of these stressors so that I can make room to do the things I’m avoiding, and welcome new things that energize, rather than deplete me. Not sure if this will work, but “lowering stress” has always seemed such amorphous advice, that I needed to make it more concrete.
That’s all for now from quarantine headquarters of #ShinglesOutbreak2016. I’m getting back to healing, and @TheMalcolmDog is returning to straight boredom.