Way back near the end of July, exactly one day after a standard checkup at my doctor, I started having some weird pain in my armpit. It felt kind of like razor burn but extra irritating. I kept checking in the mirror to see if there was a rash or something but it just looked like normal skin.
5 minutes later it still looked like normal skin.
5 minutes after that there was still nothing visibly wrong.
It went on like this for days though the territory of the skin discomfort expanding, and moving down my arm and eventually across my chest and back but only on one side. It was painful stinging kind of pain. The kind of pain that tastes like metal in your mouth… or is that just me?
I once learned a move in a martial arts class where you’d grip a little bit of the skin on the back of someone’s arm and yank down suddenly. I would describe that as the most painful thing that ever happened to me in that class & it felt a lot like that. I feel like the look in my eyes probably matched the 8 or a 9 on the Hyperbole and a Half Pain Scale.
Because I have noticed that I have a pattern of always rushing back to the doctor soon after I’ve had a doctor’s appointment certain I’m dying of something, at first I was thinking “Ok. I this is just a serious case of hypochondria. I just think that my arm hurts really bad and that’s why I’m walking around with it clamped to my side so it won’t move. I’m not going back to the stinking doctor because there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fine. Oh god this is very uncomfortable.”
Helpfully Bulleted Scenario
- Arm pain+ but no visible rash
- Crazy pants hypochondriac having an epic internal battle.
- Scratched by a 75% feral cat two or three weeks before
(Did I forget to mention the cat thing? Yeah, I shoulda blogged about that. )
Based on the above facts, I decided that I most definitely had cat scratch fever. This actually seemed plausible when we looked it up on WebMD, even to Brian. For the most part if you’re a healthy adult they don’t really do anything for cat scratch fever so another tick in the “You will survive this so just suck it up and don’t go to the doctor” box.
I think I maintained the cat scratch fever belief for a few days but the levels of discomfort were just getting to be too much.
Then on Sunday morning, a rash started appearing, I was done trying to be tough. We drove to urgent care and were almost the first people in the door.
I described my symptoms to the doctor. I was disappointed that she didn’t even really look at my rash. I though she should look at the rash because it was really nasty. I wanted her to appreciate my achievement, even if it was really only the achievement of a virus that had been lying dormant on the T2 nerve of my spine since I was six years old.
“You know what you have.”
“Well… I thought I had cat scratch fever.”
“But, you know what you have.”
“Yes, you have a bad case of shingles.”
She prescribed me antivirals and said I should call my doctor if the pain got worse. Brian said I gave her the saddest look in the world at that point, and she decided to go ahead and prescribe something for the pain right then.
It’s two months later now. The rash is gone. I still have almost no feeling in my armpit and on a patch of skin on my back. I’m still taking the stuff for the pain and I still feel tingling and sometimes stinging or itching but without any real intensity. I tried to stop the medication couple of weeks ago but my nerves told me it’s not time yet.
I’ll try again next month.
If you’re old enough to get the shingles shot. Go now and get it.
If you’re not old enough to get the shingles shot I don’t have any real advice except to say that starting on anti-virals as early as possible is important so if you start having shingles symptoms get to the doctor ASAP.