As some of you know, I spent the winter of 2014/2015 living in my car in the Colorado Mountains in temperatures that were as cold (at times) as on the top of Mount Everest -30 F ~ (-35.5 C), WHILE I had some of my injuries looked at, and attempted to fix. It wasn’t easy, and all the doctors visits, the physical therapy, and countless x-rays, along with a sub-zero winter, and some other stresses, took it’s toll in the form of…wait for it… Shingles.
I didn’t know anything about Shingles, so when I found a little rash on my back after hiking in Morning Glory Canyon in Moab (which is THICK with poison ivy) I just assumed it was poison ivy, and I figured I’d contracted it from petting too many dogs that had been running through it.
When that rash started to spread, I still thought it was poison ivy, because when I was living in Indiana a (then) friend of mine burned poison ivy, and I breathed it in and it spread through my entire body. So I just figured I was just susceptible to it spreading.
Not until the PAIN started did I become concerned. But it was a Saturday morning, and my doctor wasn’t available until Monday. The PAIN was something akin to what I imagine a heart attack would feel like (except it was behind my left breast and not over my heart), and while the heart-attack-like pain was going on, it felt like someone was stabbing me in the back with a knife repeatedly. Over, and over, and over….all day, all night, all day and on…
I cannot describe the pain, it was 100% agony.
I survived the weekend by digging into my backpack and finding some left over prescription pain pills from years ago (I kept them with me in case I fell and broke a leg or something, and still had to hike out…you get the idea).
On Monday I learned it was Shingles, and my doctor asked me “How much pain can you handle?” by way of deciding what kind of pain pills he’d prescribe. I said I had a high pain tolerance, so he prescribed Vicodin along with the standard prescriptions for treatment of the Herpes Zoster virus. Now I know the word Herpes makes everyone cringe, but if you’ve had chickenpox you have the Herpes Zoster virus lurking in your body just waiting for a chance to wreak havoc on your body and your whole life (I’m NOT exaggerating here). Yes, everyone whose had chickenpox has this virus, because it is a second outbreak of chickenpox, but its nothing like chickenpox…it is WAAAYYYY worse.
With diagnoses in hand, I immediately went into research mode to find every kind of remedy, aid and natural herbal treatment for helping shingles through it’s lengthy cycle. The stabbing pain was eased a little with the Vicodin (by about 50%) and the rash….oh the rash (sweat beads up on my forehead just thinking about THE RASH).
Fortunately, I had a place to stay for the first few weeks of this agonizing experience. It would have been completely impossible to deal with this while living in Mitzi. The ONLY time I had any relief was when I fell asleep in a bath of warm water (a Vicodin sleep) that had a wonderful home-made concoction of colloidal oatmeal in it and some essential oils. Yes, there was a risk of drowning, but I honestly didn’t care at that point.
Laying on the bed was my second favorite place, only because one could lay there naked on the parts of the body that didn’t have a rash, while trying not to breath too deeply (it hurt) or letting the sheets touch you (they hurt) or the heat effect you (it hurt) or have the fan running (the moving air hurt). Everything hurt… just thinking hurt! Putting clothes on to go to the doctors was something I had to psyche myself up to… Oh the agony!
I did good with the rash…I tried every single suggestion I could find on the internet. I learned that organic apple-cider vinegar made those blisters pop up eagerly and in clusters that one had to gaze at with total fascination, and that (surprisingly) Raw, Organic Coconut Oil with either Eucalyptus or Rosemary essential oil in it helped to sooth the itch and the nerve pain more than anything else (it was still only a minor relief though). I tended that rash with such vigilance, that it blistered, scabbed and healed in just under three weeks ~ a record breaking period of time! Each day was a new adventure, each day I inspected that rash eagerly willing it on to it’s next phase. Each step was cause for celebration (which consisted of a wimpy YEA!). Honestly, this is the kind of experience people write whole blogs about, it is THAT fascinating – Don’t believe me?…visit here and learn more about it – This guy was lucky, he didn’t get any Post Herpetic Neuralgia (more on that later): http://21andshingles.blogspot.com/
However, before the rash healed, there came a day of such incredulous pain I honestly wanted someone to shoot me. I really think that had I not found a way to defeat this pain, I would have committed suicide, and I would not have been the first. It happens!
I first visited the doctor on Monday, May 11, 2015. On the night of Thursday 14th a pain started in my head that I can only describe as pure torture. It started lightly, and worked its way up to a crescendo that had me screaming so loudly I’m surprised that the neighbors didn’t call the police to see who was being murdered in the house next door. The pain came in the form of a 3-second blast of what (I imagine) an electrical shock being sent to my head would feel like, with the dial turned all the way up. The 3 second blast came every FIVE seconds, and was so powerful it knocked me to my knees, or made me convulse into a tight, screaming ball of sheer agony. My blood pressure must have been through the roof, my veins bulged. The only real words that came from my mouth were “Make it stop, make it stop.” I wanted someone to shoot me…
By Friday morning I was a wreck, and called my friend who kindly took me to the doctor. I had an acupuncture treatment which eased the pain while the needles were in, but came back about 10-minutes after they were removed. I spent the rest of that day in a stupor of pain, and fear as I felt the skin on my head beginning to form little bumps that were very sensitive to touch. (Shingles spreading to my head). My friend held my hand, his face white. He had no doubt that the extend of my pain was more than anyone could tolerate for long. Then suddenly, 24-hours after it started, it stopped! Just like that. Gone!
The next morning I learned that a package I’d been waiting for was at the Post Office, and my friend went to get it for me. I started popping the Olive Leaf Extract (by Olivus.com) religiously, at 2-2-2 (6 a day). On Sunday I had another 24-hour pain recurrence, but it was about 50% the strength, and it didn’t have the bumps with it. I knew that the olive leaf extract was doing its job (lets face it, the prescription pills weren’t working, because the shingles was still spreading while I was taking HUGE amounts of them). After that bout, the bumps never returned, and neither did the head pain. I truly believe that the properties in the OLE did the job. This herb is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal, and has helped millions of people (with no side effects) to recover from many maladies. It is my miracle cure, and I will never go a day in my life without it. It is MY chosen vaccine against shingles! I will take one pill a day, and always have some on hand in case the Shingles decided to rear it’s very ugly head again.
So what happened since the rash cleared up? Well, unfortunately, I ended up with a complicated side effect called Postherpetic Neuralgia. This can happen when the Shingles isn’t caught early on, and I realize I’d had it for a week before I learned what it was, and had signs of it months before.
The stabbing pain was still there for several weeks after the rash had cleared up, and the areas where the rash was were very sensitive to touch from clothes and seatbelts or just about anything. When in a car I had to put my Boob Pillow under the seat belt to protect my nerve ends from the rubbing. Heat, exertion, cold, and almost anything will made those nerve endings fire up enough to cook an egg on.
By July 1, the stabbing pain had eased, thanks to a series of weekly and even twice-weekly acupuncture sessions. The ones that worked on the stabbing pain the best was the ‘acupuncture-to-go’ type, which consisted of tiny needles that were stuck on my body all along the injured nerves, and the appropriate meridians. I had these little needles all over my left breast, my under arm, the left side of my back, my neck, my toes, my fingers, my forehead and my cheeks. These little needles are attached to the sticky bandage with a little white, plastic ball, which honestly look just like a stick-on warts. I got some pretty weird looks from people who saw them on my face. I LOVED my stick-on warts, but I honestly got tired of having needles stuck in me and all over me week after week. This human pin-cushion was ready to be done with acupuncture, and especially the kind that she had to wear day and night, for as long as possible.
My skin was very sensitive to clothing, heat, or just plain anything for months after, in fact all of 2015. I didn’t feel too bad as long as I didn’t do anything, but if I overdid it (and that can mean just turning a steering wheel back and forth for five-minutes while my friend listens for a knocking sound under his vehicle) I paid… and out came the Vicodin again.
Trust me, if you can avoid taking Vicodin, avoid it like the plague. It’s worse side effect is the fact that it sucks all the moisture out of the colon, and it causes the most painful kind of constipation you can imagine….If you think that hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up again makes your butt pucker, you should try Vicodin, but that’s another story…
By the way, I was back back living in Mitzi by July 2nd. It was doable, but not ideal…I also couldn’t work, and hadn’t worked since August 2014. My hiking was practically non-existent, my neuralgia flared up if I did much at all and sometimes for no apparent reason.
With the cost of things in this society, if I weren’t already homeless, I surely would have ended up that way after this experience. So many Americans are only one month away from being on the street. At least I knew how to do it…
So in ending… I beg you, if you get a rash that spreads, please don’t assume it’s poison ivy or oak, BE SURE it’s not shingles, and act quickly. I will always have some Olive Leaf Extract from Olivus.com on hand in the future…always.
Take care, and savor the journey,
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature