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As I write this, I’ve been sick a few weeks, I just found out the great news that I don’t have the swine flu—I had the “run-of-the-mill” flu instead—and I have a strong pain in my back and itching on my belly thanks to the shingles.
It all started about four weeks ago, with a garden variety 24-hour stomach flu. Because of my long-running gastrointestinal issues, I played it safe and went RUNNING to my gastroenterologist’s office. He said I just had the so-called 24-hour flu, but just to be safe and because he knows I’m a hypochondriac and will nag his office staff incessantly until I get answers, he ran some tests on samples of my blood and, well, another bodily substance I won’t name here.
The tests all came back negative.
I had missed a day of work due to the 24-hour flu, and the day I came back I didn’t feel too hot. The next day, I felt as though “I was coming down with something” else, that vague feeling that I’m about to become ill (again). I woke up with a sore throat the day after but the day after that, it was gone.
A couple more days passed and then it was Friday. I went around all day again feeling as though I was coming down with something.
The next day, Saturday, I woke up with low-grade fever and body aches. I knew I had the flu and I spent the entire weekend in bed.
Monday came and I didn’t feel any better. My temperature was flirting with 100 degrees. I called in sick to work and got ready to see my doctor (my “primary care provider,” as opposed to the gastroenterologist).
I took a quick shower and as I dressed, I noticed a small rash on my back. I went to the doctor, she diagnosed me with the flu (and told me she didn’t think it was swine flu but at this point I hadn’t been tested yet), bronchitis and an ear infection, gave me a bunch of prescriptions and an excuse note for work that was good until Wednesday, and sent me home with an order to rest.
By Wednesday, I was feeling a little better but was worried about the rash on my back. And I had spoken to my boss, who wanted a doctor’s note certifying that I didn’t have the swine flu. So I went back to the doctor’s on Wednesday.
I showed her the rash and told her I was worried it was shingles; she said because I didn’t have any other symptoms I should keep an eye on it a couple of days and if it got worse, I could see her again. I asked her for a note for my employer certifying I didn’t have swine flu; she said she could only give me a provisional letter saying she didn’t think I had it but I hadn’t been tested so she couldn’t “certify” me for sure. So I asked if she could test me and give me the provisional letter, for now, and she agreed.
It was going to take a few days for the test results to come back but I figured I’d be okay to go back to work the next day, Thursday. I went back, with the provisional letter for my employer, but it was obvious I wasn’t ready to return to work yet so the boss sent me home early.
The next day, Friday, I woke up feeling slightly feverish again. The rash had spread around my side to my belly and it was feeling itchy and painful. In other words, typical shingles symptoms.
I called in sick to work yet again and went back to the doctor’s—again. The doctor said, yep, you have shingles, she gave me medicine for it, and we went back and forth over how many more days I should stay home. Finally, she figured the medication would work its magic on me that day (Friday), plus the weekend, she added Monday and Tuesday for good measure, and said I should be okay for Wednesday. So she gave me an excuse note good through Tuesday.
I rested and rested. On Tuesday I called the doctor’s office and was told I did NOT have swine flu. “Whew,” I thought.
I went back to work Wednesday and the day just kicked my rear end. Same thing for Thursday—which is today. The pain has been coming and going all day and I can’t get comfortable in a chair. But still, I don’t think I have shingles as bad as others have had it, like my mother who was completely bedridden for about three weeks the two times she had it. The medication for the shingles—which is a form of herpes—has worked. My wife, though, thinks I’m a living pharmacy with all the medications I take on a daily basis. The worst part for me is I haven’t been able to go near the baby for a few weeks.
So you see kids, this is what you have to look forward to after you’ve hit the big 4-0. Enjoy your youth while you have it but don’t do anything stupid—or, ahem, rash.