Finding Inspiration in Shingles

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  • By B. Lynn Goodwin.

    For a week, I had aches and pains in my left thigh, glute, and rib cage. When my body started itching and burning, I scratched until I had red marks across my skin. I ached, and my thigh and midriff burned. When the pain flared, I screamed, a blurt of a sound that I produced without warning. Eventually I called Kaiser’s advice nurse.

    Getting well

    Getting well

    I told her I was taking my fibromyalgia meds as prescribed, and she referred me to a doctor who suggested increasing those meds. I did so, and in less than 24 hours, a dark angry rash spread down my glute and across my thigh. Hours later it was bigger and splotchier. I saw pimply bumps in the midst of every red spot. I feared I had developed an allergy to painkillers and muscle relaxants. You need those if you have fibromyalgia.

    The phone-appointment doctor also scheduled a face-to-face appointment with my GP, and as soon as she looked at my rash, she knew I’d contracted shingles, a virus that lives in your body from the time you first get chicken pox. As you get older and your immune system weakens, you are more likely to get shingles.

    The doctor sent me home with an anti-viral medication and a very strong painkiller called Percocet, and four days later, I’m starting to get better, but I’m a long way from being healthy.

    So where is the inspiration in the pain of shingles?

    1. I’m surviving it. That beats succumbing to it.
    2. The meds are helping. I am not allergic to them.
    3. But, most importantly, my body has forced me to slow down.

    In between TV reruns of Judging Amy and Dr. Phil, when I’ve kept myself off the road and barely been able to walk across the room, I’ve given some thought to the roles of writing, rest, and relationships in my life.

    1. My writing is sometimes good, but I sometimes overbook myself. I need to prioritize. What do I MOST want to write about?
    2. Rest is essential. When I don’t get enough rest, I wear down like an Energizer Bunny on tranquilizers. When I get enough rest, I’m reinvigorated and want to write.
    3. Relationships matter. I’m lucky to have a husband who cares. Since he rarely experiences pain, it’s hard for him to imagine mine. If I remain aware of that, I stay grateful for his help, instead of being sad because he doesn’t fully get it.

    I’ve watched enough Dr. Phil since the shingles took hold that I feel confident saying he would be proud of my conclusions.

    The recovery time for shingles is slower than I anticipated, even though I saw my mother go through it. Back in the day, I thought she was stretching her pain out longer than needed. My husband probably thinks the same thing of me now, but I know better. I’d like to tell her I understand, but I’m not always sure she can hear every message, since she’s on the other side.

    Treasure what’s right about your health. Correct or cope with what is wrong. Allow yourself time to think, breathe, and reflect when you’re ill. You’ll be surprised by what you learn.

    What have you discovered after an illness?

    B. Lynn Goodwin

    B. Lynn Goodwin is the author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers, available on Amazon. Her stories and articles have been published in Voices of Caregivers; Hip Mama; the Oakland Tribune; the Contra Costa Times; the Danville Weekly; Staying Sane When You’re Dieting; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; Career; We Care;, Friction Literary Journal, and The Sun. A former teacher, she conducts workshops and writes reviews for Story Circle Network and InspireMeToday. She’s working on a YA novel and brainstorming a memoir. She’s the owner and editor of Writer Advice. Writer Advice recently celebrated its 16th year and runs contests for aspiring and published writers as well as sharing useful tips from experienced writers.

    For more information, please visit

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    1. JoAnn Hise Melton
      JoAnn Hise Melton says:

      January brought me a surprise trip to the ER where a cyst was found necessitating surgery. Recovery has been long and seemingly slow, but I concur that there is a certain blessing in learning to meter my energy and perform tasks that I would do sedentary anyway. I’m getting to re-view what is important to accomplish and what is not and treasure the time and energy I have. Best of everything to you as you also adjust to a different pace and level of pain until it moves on.

      • Lynn Goodwin
        Lynn Goodwin says:

        Thank you so much Joanne. The rash is fading, but the pain lives on. Fortunately there are meds which I take cautiously. I need to enjoy the age I am and living in the present.

    2. wemarriage
      wemarriage says:

      I have had FIBRO for most of my life. And other pop-up illnesses as well. The pain is very real, and no one who loves you can really fully understand. But I, like you have a phenomenal husband. So I think your approach is spot on. I simply can’t suffer. I am alive and do what I can from my recliner and wheelchair. Because I’m here. Because the people who love me and I love deserve the best I can do. A laugh, smile, kind words and other small acts matter. And I have found purpose. Shingles is very painful. And I am sorry that has been laid on you. You are radiate warmth and caring and whether you feel it I hold yo the belief your mother has heard your heart. Bright Blessings to you and all you touch.

    3. Lynn Goodwin
      Lynn Goodwin says:

      Thanks so much for your note, wemarriage. I believe my mother has heard my heart. I was going to write more to her in my journal this morning. Maybe an open letter I could also post here.

      Like you I have FIBRO, and I often write it exactly that way when I’m in my journal. The pain combo is a challenge. When the meds dull the pain, the also dull my brain. Each decade is a new adventure, and my body is forcing me to embrace this one.

      Bright Blessings back to you.


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