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Heather Grabin, Editor

For those of you that have seen me over the last month, I know you have noticed the heavier makeup and skin that looks worse than the worst teenage case of acne ever. It’s not. I’ve been honored to have shingles yet again.
First, let me explain what shingles are. I’m a member of the diminishing tribe of people that were not offered a chicken pox vaccine. Back in my day you suffered through the chicken pox. I had them in kindergarten and they were awful.
Once you have had the chicken pox that virus lies dormant in your body forever embedded in the roots of your nerves. Some people never have any more problems, but in others the virus returns as the shingles.
Generally your chance of developing the shingles is greater if you are older than fifty because of aging and its effects of weakening the immune system. In others the shingles can be triggered by disease, stress, even some medications.
Shingles are not contagious as shingles, but there is a remote chance that they can cause chicken pox for someone that is unvaccinated or never had chicken pox, so I can’t go around small babies whenever these occur.
This is my fourth go-around with this miserably painful disease. Every time I try to deny that this is happening and then it’s just too much to ignore. Not only does the area look awful, it burns and itches and just throbs with pain in general.  Sometimes if you’re lucky you become very sensitive to light, get headaches and feel like you have the flu. The last three things generally occur just before an outbreak.
The first time I had the shingles was in 2008 when I was thirty-one. I went to the doctor for what I thought was a really gross infected fever blister on the left side of my face to realize I had shingles of all things. So after about two months it clears up and I end up with a round of Bell’s Palsy, which made the entire left side of my face paralyzed for about a week or two. (I realized this while trying to take a drink out of a straw. Nothing moves on that side of your face and your eyes droop like a stroke. I almost had a mini-heart attack until I made it to the doctor’s office because I thought maybe I did have a stroke and was just unaware. I was told this would probably never happen again, I hope that is right.)
All is good, but then in 2012 I had shingles on both hands, which I was told is odd for it to happen on both sides of the body and last year I had them at the bottom of my scalp and down my neck.
This time they are on my face again. All over, in different stages. I knew in late January I was starting to have an outbreak, but I tried to ignore it and blamed it on the new face soap I had bought causing the rash. It was just one spot.
Then Mamaw died, then a whole bunch of other stuff occurred, some within my power to prevent, some not. Life has a way of inserting cruel and inconvenient moments at the worst possible times. But these are supposed to make us stronger.
For a while I thought I was gaining mental strength of mind because it is definitely not physical for these outbreaks to keep occurring. (but maybe it can’t really be mental strength if it’s effecting my nervous system this way. I don’t know. Guess I’ll have a lot of interesting stories to tell if I make it to a ripe old age.)  I’ve had outbreaks on the corners of my lips, my chin, my neckline, under my eyes and most recently this last week around the inside corner of my eyes. If it were closer to Halloween I could walk around without any makeup and win a best costume award.
My stress level since January has been insane and I know that is what keeps causing these outbreaks, but this is ridiculous. Sometimes they hurt so bad it’s hard to think and it is very difficult to even try to eat, which I guess could be looked at as a bonus since it does cause weight loss, but I’m hungry. Mostly, they just make me feel bad and ugly and very gripy.
I never realized how vain I was until I had them the first time and had to go out in public and cover meetings with them on my face. I was absolutely mortified. You would think that would have made me a little more prepared for this time, but it didn’t. It seems I’m still quite a vain person and I really need to get over myself or something, but until then you will see me in clown makeup or not be seeing me at all.
This is so much worse than my first gray hair my sister so lovingly pointed out a year and a half ago. That’s a story for another time. She made me cry then, but It is actually quite a funny story now. She made me hysterical in a convenience store parking lot after she already knew I was having a bad day.
Life lessons are wonderful. I hope the next few chapters of my life get a tad bit better. I don’t even have hopes for a whole lot anymore, just my children’s well being and small moments of happiness. I’m just ready to feel well enough to lose myself in my yard work.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know, the way it would all end, the way it would all go. Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.” The Dance-Garth Brooks