Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shingle Bells, Shingle Bells, Shingle all the way....

When I had my Stem Cell Transplant (SCT) in August of 2010, they warned me that my immature immune system would make me susceptible to colds and viruses such as shingles. Over the last fifteen months, I have had more than my share of colds, but managed to dodge the shingles.....until now. Monday night after dinner I asked Linda to look at the left side of my torso as it was feeling very sensitive and she took one quick look, winced and said "You've got shingles". Tuesday morning we traveled to the cancer center for confirmation and without hesitation any other diagnosis, such as an allergic reaction to my latest antibiotic, was put to bed. SHINGLES!  

This last year Linda and I have followed the blogs of many fellow myeloma sisters and brothers, many of whom contracted shingles after transplant. My PA today confirmed that they see many cases post SCT in those of us battling myeloma. In many cases,  we really did not 'catch' shingles, rather our immature immune systems simply let the dormant varicella-zoster virus, that has been with us since chicken pox in our childhood, to reactivate. 

Shingles is no fun. This painful rash can occur anywhere on your body, but it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of your torso, making the nerves ultra sensitive to being touched by anything or anyone. This condition will last two to four weeks as the virus runs it course, and the blisters scab up, the rash goes away and the nerves on the torso skin return to normal. It is very very important to have shingles diagnosed within the first three days after the rash appears. Antiviral drugs such as Valtrex and Famvir are very effective in minimizing the rash and duration if taken within this early period. Failure to quickly diagnose and address this virus can cause permanent nerve damage (postherpetic neuralgia - PHN) and even blindness if it spreads to the eyes.

I remember my grandfather, an old dairy farmer in northwestern Pennsylvania, who refused to go to a doctor when he contracted shingles. The drugs we have today were not available, and without any medical treatment, his shingles caused permanent nerve damage to his torso. For the remainder of his life he could not wear clothing that touched the affected area. He was often shirtless and in constant pain. 

For those of you that have never had shingles, keep your immune system healthy. If you find a reddish rash on 1/2 of your torso, see your doctor and get treatment immediately. For those of us that currently have shingles, I pray that your healing time is quick and that you suffer no permanent nerve damage.
I leave you with my new theme song for the holiday season (sung to the tune of Jingle Bells):

                       Shingle Bells, Shingle Bells, Shingle all the way. 
                       It is no fun to have this rash, I wish it'd go away!


  1. I am so sorry to hear that! You will be in my prayers...feel better soon!

  2. I crack up every time I think of you singing Shingle Bells... only you would come up with a hilarious song when you are in so much pain.

    Love you and praying for this to go away quickly!!

  3. Oh no... so glad you caught it early.

  4. Dad, I feel terrible that this has come up but praise the Lord that you caught it early! Praying that the meds work quickly to take care of the pain and begin healing the blisters. We pray for you lots!

  5. I'm so sorry to hear about this and to know that you're in pain! So glad you caught it early and that it's getting taken care of! Marsh and I are thinking of you and praying for you!

  6. Hi there!

    My husband was diagnosed with MM very shortly after developing Shingles! Apparently, his weakened immune system manifested itself with Shingles.

    That was in 08, and he still has numbness.

    Best of luck with your health, Ernie... stay tough, man!

  7. Hi, EZ, I had Shingles post transplant - left side - was put on Valtrex right away. It was annoying for about three weeks (a stinging sensation) and cleared up with no residual effects. I now take 500 mg of Valtrex every other day. I think you'll be OK.

  8. Thank you everyone for your kind words and especially you prayers! Please be diligent about rashes on you torso this afternoon one of our active blog commentors noticed he had a rash, emailed me for some pictures of my rash on my day of discovery, and immediatly went to see his doctor. By the time he arrived there, the pain was intense as he could almost not breathe. If he had waited for. His normal appointment on Tuesday, his risk exposure and pain levels would have been much higher. PLEASE be diligent and see your doc asap if you see a rash!
    Again, thank you for your prayers! They mean so very much, not only to me but to my entire family. God bless!

  9. Rashes on my torso,
    may be weeks before their away.
    Have no fear, God is near
    to keep my spirits gay!!
    Shingle bells, Shingle bells, Shingle all the way...

    Praying for you! Love you

  10. I hope you don't mind but my family has taken up your headline and have been singing Shingles bells to me all day! Stay strong my friend and get better.. Prayers coming your way!

  11. even with shingles you are making everyone smile. love the song, hate that you have to deal with the rash. hope the meds are helping and that you get over it quickly. love ya.