Tuesday, November 6, 2018


I noticed this tender bump on the back of my head sometime last week so obviously that meant that I was dying.

Meg says she's a hypochondriac. She claims to have mastered this.

Meg Walter is an amateur.

I once saw a bug bite on my hip, convinced myself that I had bedbugs, and not just regular bedbugs, poisonous bedbugs, hyperventilated, fainted at 2:00 in the morning, and then had to spend the next two weeks hooked up to a portable heart monitor so the doctor could confirm that I didn't have heart disease.

I single-handedly crashed the American healthcare system that year.

By Sunday I was convinced that it was a tumor/leprosy/bedbug-heart-disease, and so that's when I went to urgent care.

Having been around the block a few times now, I'm much more competent when dealing with my hypochondria today than I was during the bug bite situation. That's the only way I was possibly able to wait all the way until Sunday before seeing a doctor. What with my body aches, extreme fatigue, nausea, and every other symptom listed on WebMD under "things a sick human can experience."

No, it was remarkable that I hadn't sounded the alarms long before Sunday. But knowing my history with hypochondria, I was sure that the tender bump on the back of my head was a zit and the other symptoms were my anxiety trying to convince my body that I was dying.

By Sunday morning, this zit was getting rather large. It had multiplied. And the rest of the symptoms, including kidney pain now, were only getting worse.

So I went to urgent care, which has wait times so long in my neighborhood that it has now become the DMV.

Speaking of which, have you noticed the DMV has gotten better lately? We should stop comparing inefficient processes to the DMV. We should be comparing inefficient processes to going to urgent care in my neighborhood.

And so, after waiting 2 hours to see a doctor, even though the urgent care seemed completely empty so I don't know what the hell was going on in the back room, I was finally examined by Dr. Sippy.

I don't know her actual name, but she brought a very large sippy cup into the examination room with her and drank nearly a gallon of whatever was in it while she was with me so we're calling her Dr. Sippy.

I informed Dr. Sippy about the "zit" and apologized for wasting her time and I was halfway to the door and putting my pants back on before she even pulled out some latex gloves and told me to sit down on the exam table.

Dr. Sippy looked at my head while I explained to her that I didn't actually have a blood pressure problem and that homegirl out front had to take my blood pressure twice only because I had a partial panic attack during the first attempt since every time someone tries to take my blood pressure I convince myself that I'm dying and that when they're done with the test they'll pull out those heart monitor things that zap people back to life and those things TERRIFY ME and then Dr. Sippy interrupted.

She told me she thought I had shingles, and when she did I grabbed my shirt at the neck like a rich woman clasping her pearls in front of a scoundrel and shouted "well I've never!"

She said that I wasn't contagious, but suggested that I shouldn't rub my head against any pregnant women for a few weeks. I texted Meg this, to which she responded "Well there goes our pre-show warmups" because Meg and I were destined to be in each other's lives.

Dr. Sippy sent me away with HORSE pills that I'm supposed to take 65 times a day and told me that the gallon of blood and pound of skin flakes she had ripped from my scalp would be tested to confirm the diagnosis.

To be honest, I didn't believe her for a second because I never believe any doctor who doesn't tell me that I'll be dead within the hour.

The next day I was speaking at a storytelling seminar at BYU Law School. Halfway through my presentation, I noticed that both of my hands were shaking, which reminded me that Parkinson's runs in my family and before the seminar was over I was already rehearsing in my pounding head how I was going to break the news to Bob & Cathie.

Then I got to my phone, which had a voicemail telling me that the test results confirmed the shingles diagnosis, which meant that I owed a major apology to Dr. Sippy.

I drove to the office to finish some things, feeling worse by the hour, until a coworker/friend told me about someone we know who got shingles, which are caused by stress, tried to work through it, and then ended up in the hospital for like a week.

Brianne then banned me from the office, telling me that she would get started on my FMLA paperwork.

Then I called Cathie, whose first piece of advice was "don't let the shingles make it to your eyes or you'll go blind" which is the absolute worst thing you can say to someone who is trying to recover from a disease caused by stress.

I was ordered to stay home and rest today but do you guys want to know what I'm really bad at?


I'm not good at rest.

I complained to Skylar this morning that I was bored and asked if I had rested enough to be able to go back to the office but then he screamed at me that it was only 8:15 AM and then something about "SICK DAYS ARE WASTED ON YOU" and "STOP TOUCHING YOUR HEAD."

Duncan and I have been pacing the house all day, taking the horse pills as scheduled, looking out the windows, and wishing we could play outside like all of the other kids.

These shingles are taking forever to go away. They're basically worse than, well, going to urgent care in my neighborhood.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Oh, sweet honey boy, I am so sorry to hear about this! Literally, and I say this sincerely, shingles is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a human aside from the act of giving birth and about a hundred other things I can think of off the top of my head. But casting those minor life pains aside, shingles is the actual worst. Devin (my husband) is the exact opposite of you, in terms of handling health situations. Devin had shingles a few years ago, and his were on his back and chest and stomach, and I think it was about three days that he kept saying he thought he was having a heart attack because the pain was so intense and what else could it be when there's pain in your chest and it's hard to breathe? So for three days he kept telling me he thought he was having a heart attack and I was about to strangle him for not going to the doctor when he FINALLY did. He kept saying, "but I guess it's not a heart attack, or I'd probably be dead by now, right?" But it hurt so much he had to hold his shirt out away from his body to breathe or move or anything. If I send you chicken soup in the mail, it would still be good when it got there, right? Here's my prescription for you: put on a snuggie, get out the cheetos, and watch all the Christmas movies on Netflix with titles like, "Merry Kissmas" and "Christmas with A View" (that one's my new favorite). "Christmas in the Smokies", (the restaurant scene is where I'm living these days) And then get out your laptop and type up your novel we've all been waiting for. November is National Novel Writing Month, you know. OH, and don't let anyone make you feel bad for watching Christmas movies in November. It's not like I've decorated yet! OR you could catch up on all those Halloween movies we recommended for you.

    Ok, now go back to sleep, honey bear sweetums.

    1. You mentioned the snuggie and this brought up a thought I had the other day . . .


    2. It seems that the Ohio post office may have lost it. This is devastating. I'm currently considering starting anew.

    3. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Curse you Ohio Post Office! Every time I get a package I open it in hopes of it being the Snuggie!

    4. Ohiooooooooooooooo! How does this happen? Someone call Ohio. Someone put on a Sherlock Holmes hat, and walk around pointing at things until we figure this out.

  2. Shingles aren't contagious? I thought they were HIGHLY contagious . . . . I've heard they're awful - sorry to hear you have them. And just in case they are contagious - Skylar should sleep in the basement until you're cleared.

    1. TMI: She said that if they "open" they will become contagious, but only to people who haven't had chicken pox or are not immunized. Hence the "don't rub your head on pregnant ladies" advice.

    2. Ahh - Thanks for the added information - and I thought it was people who HAVE had Chicken Pox that were at risk.

      Does this mean I'm not at risk because I've had chicken pox???? Does this mean I don't need to get immunized for it once I'm old enough to qualify for the immunization?

    3. Right. So according to Dr. Sippy and the Internet, if you have had chickenpox, shingles are not contagious for you. See the below. There's a helpful chart and everything!


    4. Wait, now I'm confused. I had chickenpox as a child, then got shingles at 20 (I know, it's crazy to have them that young, but look at me go beating my age to old people diseases. Not that you're old, Eli.)

      So you can develop shingles if you've had the pox, but you can contract them from someone else? Is that correct?

    5. My understanding is that chicken pox is highly contagious because it is airborne and can be passed easily. Shingles is only contagious if you come into contact with the fluid from open sores. If you've never had chicken pox or the vaccine, and you are exposed to someone with chicken pox or shingles you would contract chicken pox. If you have had chicken pox or the vaccine, the virus doesn't go away. It hangs out in nerve cells and lies dormant until something (they don't know what, stress is a risk factor) wakes it up. Shingles typically presents on one side of the body or face in roughly a straight line (along a nerve). You can get shingles multiple times but it is incredibly unlikely that you get chicken pox more than once. I don't have specific references at the moment, but I'm fairly confident that this is correct.

    6. Lisita - you're my new online doctor . . .

      So - if I've had Chicken Pox (thanks Heidi Schachinger for giving it to me for my 8th birthday) - I can develop Shingles. Does the Shingle vaccine prevent this?

    7. Significantly reduces the risk but not foolproof, like any other vaccine. I believe they recommend it starting at age 50 when shingles becomes more likely. Probably consult an actual doctor, though. My degree has little to do with medicine, although I did take a forensic anthropology course once, and might be able to identify major abnormalities on a skeleton (not x-rays, just actual bones) which doesn't really help living people much.

    8. Where's Doctor Skyler to clear this up once and for all? Paging Doctor Skyler...

    9. I'm no Dr Skyler but I am your friendly CDC rep reporting for duty! (Except I am not representing CDC here officially as a disclaimer!) Luckily Eli's health scares keep me employed. Lisita is spot on, shingles is only contagious to people who have never had chicken pox. If you didn't have CP as a kid, you can catch it from someone with active ("open") shingles. If you did have CP, you can develop shingles later on in life, but we're not 100% sure what triggers it. Definitely stress contributes. Right now the shingles vaccine is only approved for older adults but I keep hoping they will allow it for younger adults too because I know of a lot of people in their 30s getting it! In fact my husband had shingles last year and said it hurt really badly!

    10. I'm a pharmacist and Lisita is correct! Open sore shingles is contagious to those who have never had chicken pox. If you've had chicken pox, you can get shingles, but it's from stress, not contracted from someone else. On a related note, I got shingles at 22 while in pharmacy school. I literally started itching and getting shooting pains over Thanksgiving break right after I found out about a test score. It's the worst. Not as bad as labor/c section or kidney stones, but nerve pain is terrible. I hope you feel better, Eli. Work on those sudokus, crosswords and candy crush.

  3. I’m on my second week of “rest”. I had surgery and am required to “rest” for a minimum of 2 weeks and then I MIGHT be able to go back to work part time. At least you have something cute to look at while you rest - take your pick of Duncan or Skyler.

  4. I forgot to mention that during my testing I am not allowed to do anything or lift anything heavier than a feather. Good luck resting. Hope you get better really quick.

  5. I’m the same way with the BP. My ENT office takes it as soon as they take me back and I always tell them I have white coat syndrome because I can feel it going up as we walk back. Stressing over how much is this one going to cost me (10K the last 2 years for tubes).

    Last visit the nurse decided to retake it after I’d been in a few minutes. It went down. The doc commented that it was better. No. It’s the same as always. It just goes really high when I first walk into your exam room.

  6. I got shingles a week or so after my niece got the chicken pox vaccine. I hate waiting in line at urgent care, so I tried the teledoc thing. He diagnosed me with ringworm, and in his notes mentioned that I had "tried several anti fungal creams to no avail". Last time I checked, calamine lotion was not an anti fungal cream. Anyway, I didn't pick up the prescribed cream, and refused to take work off (my shirt covered it completely, zero chance of infecting people because I don't stick my hands down my shirt and rub them on people). I can commiserate with the bad at resting thing. On my day off work, I went on an 11 mile hike. I was completely exhausted after, but could not sleep because I hurt so bad. To sum up, probably don't go on a long hike because ouch.

  7. It has been a while since you've been pantless in a story. My first thought when I read that was, "Possibly unnecessary pantlessness? Pretty sure that's a sign that Eli will be fine."

    Oh, and I hope you're feeling better! One perk of house arrest/resting is that pants are optional.

  8. I get shingles every so often. I've had it twice in the last 11 years. It suuuucks. Definitely brought on by stress, it is dormant chicken pox living in the nerve, or some crap, there's nothing you can do about the dormancy, and they only give the vaccine to the elderly folks.

    I now take L-lysene on a daily basis as a possible preventative to said shingles. I've never gotten actual sores, but my skin hurt so bad the last time I had it (about a year ago), it made life very difficult. It tends to materialize on me around my waist/back/stomach. So wearing pants is almost impossible.

    I hope the rest works! Watch Schitt's Creek. Enjoy life. Tell us more stories. :)

  9. I'm way bummed I didn't know about the storytelling seminar at BYU Law School! I definitely would have gone! feel better and less bored soon!

  10. It is probably a bad sign that my first reaction was jealousy. I would LOVE an excuse to watch TV all day. But then I remember how painful and uncomfortable shingles is, so I guess I'll just handle my busy life instead.

    Darn the Ohio postal system. I'm so bummed that the Snuggie is lost. :(

  11. I got shingles the day before my husband was supposed to have a golf ball sized kidney stone blasted into tiny pieces. Turns out that one in a zillion people wake up from that procedure in horrible, kill me now kind of pain. Because having a golf ball kidney stone wasn't "bad" enough for him. Oh no...he had to be in excruciating pain and taken by ambulance from the surgery center to a full fledged hospital. No, he couldn't let me have "my thing". He had to pretend it hurt so bad that they gave him morphine, dilauded and something so strong that I don't remember the name of and my little shingle diagnoses went right out the window. He had to have a much worse surgery, it's so bad that I won't even tell about it when a male is within a 50 mile radius. Suffice it to say, he screamed more than I did when I gave birth. Ouch. With out pain meds I must add.
    My little SHINGE dianosis was totally overshadowed. It didn't hurt but IT COULD HAVE. If anyone would have asked. And I didn't get eleventy million pills to take. I didn't even get one. What's going on? Did I get shoddy health care?

    1. You should have gotten an antiviral (such as acyclovir or valacyclovir) and a drug for nerve pain (such as amitryptyline). Depending on the antiviral, you have to take it 65 times times a day (aka 3-5 times a day).