Fuck my life. I got shingles again. I felt something on my face Friday night, and just assumed that something weird was formulating. No big deal. I didn’t want to over think it. Saturday morning I woke up, felt my face, and knew something was wrong. So very wrong. The same wrong as my fucking shingles that I had only 6 months ago.
I was supposed to go to my cousin’s baby shower that morning but I knew I had to go see the white man doctor to get the white man medicine. So I called the dermatologist I went to before assuming that would be the best first move since he already had dealt with me.
Toni: Hi. I have shingles festering on my face and I need to see a doctor.
Operator: Well, it is Saturday so dermatology is closed. You will have to call Monday morning to make an appointment.
Toni: Please, I really need your help. I have had shingles before. I know that is what I have. I can’t wait until Monday. Last time they were almost as painful as childbirth – and my baby came out horizontally.
Operator: Well, who is your general practitioner?
Toni: I don’t have one.
Operator: You don’t have any doctor that you see?
Toni: Well, I have my hippy doctor. But they are hippies. They don’t answer their phones – especially on a Saturday.
Operator: I guess you can come in to see the after-hours family practitioner. But you really should get a doctor. Can you get here by 10:15?
I was out the door and at the hospital by 10:00 am, feeling really sorry for myself. Let me tell you, there is nothing more depressing than a hospital on a Saturday. The after- hours family practitioner’s office was literally abandoned. There was no one in the hallways, no one in the waiting room, no one at the reception’s desk – everywhere was just empty. It was like a Twilight Zone. I sat there for 20 minutes by myself, thinking that a nuclear bomb had gone off and somehow I was the sole survivor of the blast, when finally a man hobbled out the door with puss-soaked gauze wrapped around his leg.
Eventually a woman called me back to the offices, and I waited in the room poking at medical equipment for the standard half hour to see the nurse practitioner.
Nurse: So what is going on here?
Toni: I am pretty sure I have shingles.
Nurse: I see in your chart you have had them before so I am sure you know what you are talking about. Let me take a look? Did you put makeup on to cover them up?
Toni: No, I don’t wear makeup. Last time I had shingles I had an acupuncturist see me, and she gave me this cream to put on them. I have no idea what is in it because it is all in Chinese, but I put it on anyway.
(I have to say I was pretty offended that she would imply I was vain enough to cover up shingles with makeup?? I mean I know they are not pretty, but putting makeup on a festering wound seems like a pretty bad fucking idea. Not to mention the fact that said cream was white, and looked like I had sloppily slathered toothpaste on my face. So this double insulted me because the nurse obviously thought I was really pathetic at applying makeup discreetly).
Nurse: Yeah. You definitely have shingles. Do you see how the pustules have already formed here around the eye and nose?
Toni: Please don’t ever say the word “pustules” again.
Nurse: Those are the shingles erupting from your face.
Toni: Yeah, I get it.
Nurse: So do you have a general practitioner?
Nurse: Do you go to the doctor?
Toni: Not really.
Nurse: Have you had a pap smear then?
Toni: You mean at the gynecologist? Yeah those things are horrible. I don’t do those. I guess I went about 3 years ago, and then about 6 years before that.
Nurse: Maybe you should go the doctor more often…
Toni: Yeah, okay
Nurse: You know you can get a vaccine for shingles. I highly recommend you doing that once this clears up. Here is your prescription.
Although the crazy burning itching pain of the shingles hadn’t started yet, all I could do was anticipate the suffering. Last time I had shingles, I didn’t know how bad it could get. But this time I was fully aware of the potential agony, and was in a state of total panic. When I got home I called the acupuncturist and made an appointment for 1:00. I then started recklessly taking supplements, unsure which where for my allergies, frequent periods, or the last time I had shingles. I took 3 out of every bottle… which was about 60 of them. I then started pacing maniacally waiting for the acupuncturist to torture me, and by they time she got there I was terrified. Not only of the pain of the shingles soon to come, but the pain of this tiny Asian lady jabbing me with needles then twisting them around sending electric shocks throughout my body.
Toni: Yeah, so my shingles are back.
Acupuncturist: Mmmmmm… yeah I see the pustules.
Acupuncturist: Let me take your pulse. In acupuncture we don’t just want to treat the disease. We want to know why it is happening.
Toni: Yes, yes, yes, I want to know why too! Can you tell me why?
Acupuncturist: Too much cold. Here. In stomach. Stagnation. Very cold. Energy needs to flow.
Toni: Okay, so why do I have them again.
Acupuncturist: Stagnation. Here. Stomach. Lower back. Energy stuck.
Toni: Okay… that really clears things up.
After the acupuncture, she gave me a bunch of Chinese herbs to take.
Acupuncturist: Just take these. Chinese herbs. No supplements.
Toni: The hippy doctor gave me the supplements. So I shouldn’t take them?
Acupuncturist: No. Just Chinese herbs.
Toni: What about the pills the doctor gave me? Should I take the white man’s medicine?
Acupuncturist: No, just Chinese herbs. Acupuncture and herbs take pustules away.
Toni: Why does everyone keep saying that word?
Acupuncturist: Excuse me?
Toni: Never mind.
I don’t know what I did to deserve this. This whole experience brings up a host of issues for me. For one, my conflict with vaccines, and how paralyzed I feel about them as a practice. Should I have vaccinated myself for shingles, should I in the future, should I be vaccinating The Munch? My head is spinning. Then of course the western doctor is in conflict with the eastern doctor, who is in conflict with the hippy doctor. I don’t know what to do. The last time I did everything – the supplements, the acupuncture, the herbs, the white man’s medicine, and I have no idea what cured me for sure. Was it a combo of all of them? I don’t know? Who should I listen to? Who should I trust? Help me!!
(Have you ever seen anything more surreal and sad than this waiting room?)