Saturday, August 12, 2017

"What's Up Buttercup?" or "How I Spent My Summer"

Can't believe it has been so long since I managed to get back here. My humble apologies, because I very much appreciate your visits and never mean to be away for so long. Where do I start???

Winter quietly turned into spring, spring passed quickly by, & summer was just about to start. The weather was getting lovely, & my thoughts were turning to the garden & filling our outdoor porches, front & back, with hanging plants, pots of beautiful flowers, wind chimes, & more. We (hubby & I) had just begun setting things up. We love being outside to enjoy watching the garden grow, rabbits running through the yard, lightening bugs at night, and, of course, I love painting outside during the daytime. I had even put an easel on the back porch overlooking the garden, hoping to spend more time painting out there. I usually paint my seashells or ocean inspired jewelry outside, but wanted to paint canvases "en plein air", outside, in open air, as the French Impressionists, Monet, Renoir, Sisley, etc., did. But, as they say, life happens while we are busy making plans. Around the same time, as usual, I had been working in my shops on Etsy & Society 6, and considering other ways to expand further. And then it happened.

Let me say up front, that I am not offering any medical advice, and nothing mentioned is meant to take the place of the advice of your family physician or specialist, etc. Every case or incidence is different. I can only tell you what happened to me, how it affected my work, how I have been dealing with it, and where I am at now.

The problem started in mid-June, or at least that was when I really became aware of it. It started off suddenly but quickly escalated into an incapacitating situation, partially, because we had no idea of what we were dealing with, and, unfortunately, neither did the doctors I had been seen by. And yet, amazingly, it turned out to be something much more common than most of us realize. In the beginning, I had what I thought was a mosquito or bug bite on my back, near my spine. I had scratched it a couple times since it was so itchy and gave it no further thought. Then a twinge started on the left side of my abdomen one morning after my shower. I wondered if I had pulled a muscle or something. The next day, it was still there and gradually started getting worse, but with no other symptoms. In spite of the discomfort, I figured I could handle it and just kept trying to keep up with everything. Soon, it was accompanied by pressure inside and numbness on the outside. My left side felt inflamed from the rib cage down to my stomach. I saw my family doctor and told him what was happening, and that I had been under a lot of stress also. He examined me and the bug bite, found nothing else & sent me for blood work. Nothing showed up, except a UTI, surprisingly without the usual symptoms, so undetected possibly for two weeks. He gave me an antibiotic to clear up the infection and something for the pain, which he said may have resulted from the infection.

Days later, around midnight, my family took me to the ER because the pain was increasing. The usual blood work was done, and other than the initial infection, which was already clearing up, nothing else was found. My interpretation: Good news, you're healthy, bad news, you feel like you're dying. Once again, they gave me meds. High hopes, but unfortunately no help. I was now having severe burning from the back to the front and what I thought were stomach spasms. The spasms and severe burning would keep me awake all night. Sleeping on my back or side was almost impossible. I often got up when everyone was sleeping and went downstairs to literally pace the floor in the kitchen. I guess I hoped that I would exhaust myself and fall asleep afterward. My sweet little cat, Poey, kept me company, though I can't imagine what he was thinking as he stared at me. He is often referred to as "Nurse Poe" for the sweet attention he gives us when we aren't feeling well. Three days later, another ER trip. Examination, CT scan, more blood work, and nothing found. I told them the pain was also in my back along my spine near the bite I had noticed previously. They looked at the bite and said it had almost disappeared and saw nothing unusual about it. The pain also spread from my shoulder blade, down, on the left side. It felt like someone had hit me with a big board across my back. I was discharged with more meds.

The next day, help finally came.....in the form of a rash. As I was changing for bed, I couldn't help wondering what could be causing so much pain and yet be unidentifiable. As I glanced in the mirror....there it was. I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but I remember being happy that now I had another symptom, one that I hoped would lead to a diagnosis and cure. In a line around my waistline, there was a strip of red rash-like marks. As soon as I saw it, I thought, SHINGLES?! Yes, I had heard of them, but never thought of myself as someone who might get them. I had known that it is a virus that comes with the childhood disease, chicken pox, and can lie dormant for many years and maybe someday "wake up" again in a much more painful manner.

What I didn't know, was that almost anyone can catch them, at almost any age. (Even young college kids are vulnerable during exams, etc.) I found out that it is extremely important to seek help as soon as the rash is found, because medication must be started immediately to prevent permanent nerve damage. It is contagious, and although no one can catch shingles from someone else, it can spread chicken pox to those who have never had it. Of special concern are pregnant women, children, and the elderly. I learned that anything that compromises the immune system, such as an infection, stress, even our back being out of alignment, etc., can leave us vulnerable to an outbreak. Apparently, I had all three, an undetected infection, more stress than usual, and a back that desperately needed chiropractic adjustment due to long hours at the desk. The combination, may have reactivated the"virus", which eventually made it impossible for me to work due to the severe back pain. Until the rash appeared, almost two weeks later, shingles were not suspected, since it is not often seen without a rash. After the diagnosis was made, I was started on an anti-viral drug & the proper meds for nerve pain, which I had previously thought were stomach spasms. Though I didn't have the rash as extensively as some, mostly single sores in a line around my side & front, I later found out that they were across my back as well, explaining the back pain, and the "bug bite" on my back may have been the beginning. When I finally realized that the back pain had become worse than the rest, I called my chiropractor to see if he could help. He explained to me that the virus runs along the nerves, and the pain extends beyond the actual sores. This is why it spreads and is so intense. Pressure on the nerves from muscles out of adjustment can make things worse. With gradual adjustments, the pressure is taken off.

Do I still have pain? Yes, but nowhere near as much as I had initially, The chiropractic manipulations have definitely given me some relief, though I did not think to begin therapy till quite awhile after the outbreak. I waited for everything to heal. Do I now sleep at night? Yes, and so does my cat, Poey. Can I work? Yes, gradually I am returning to my work and I am also trying to catch up a bit with my "lost summer". (Unable to sit at a desk, I posted pictures on Facebook from our garden & backyard areas for awhile.) Will I be getting vaccinated as soon as I can so I hopefully never get shingles again? For sure!!! And what happened to the garden? Unable to work in it, it has become somewhat overgrown with grass along the edges, but so glad for the beautiful lavender, & sunflowers that came back by themselves, even unattended.

In summary, I know there are many who deal with pain all the time, and my heart goes out to you, now & even before this. My appreciation goes out to the doctors, nurses, chiropractors, & techs who work so hard to help us through our pains & problems. I am grateful for my family who patiently took such good care of me and anything that needed to be done. And as always, I am grateful for the prayers answered for guidance & endurance that carried me through this, as well as so many other things in my life....for sure!

Until next time....

Hope all is well in your little corner of the world,

Keri