Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I'm not that old

It started late last week, an itch on my back in the spot it's most difficult to scratch - just under my right shoulder-blade. I did think about asking the doctor to have a look when I went to pick up my hayfever pills on Friday, but the surgery was packed with unwell people, and I didn't fancy hanging around with them for an hour or so waiting for an appointment. You never know what you might catch.

But over the weekend, the itching got worse, deepening to a pain more like a slow-healing wound. A couple of large spots appeared a bit lower down my back, so I figured I must have been bitten by one of the myriad nasty beasties that have started coming into the house now to get out of the endless rain.

Sunday night was uncomfortable to say the least, and the spots had multiplied into a tight little band. I phone the doctor first thing on Monday morning, booked and appointment for the evening and spent the day trying not to squirm too much in discomfort.

Unlike most visits to the surgery, where I get to see a different, foreign locum each time, I was shown into the consulting room of the head man himself, Dr Williams. He took one look at my spotty back and said: 'you've got shingles.'

Now, like most people, I was quite unenlightened about this manifestation of the varicella-zoster virus. I thought it was something you caught from other infected people - which made no sense as I interact with very few on a daily basis and come into physical contact with only the Horse Doctor.

The truth of the matter is that anyone who has had chicken pox can later develop shingles. It's more common in older people - over the age of fifty which I've still a long way to go until I reach. Doctors aren't quite sure what causes the virus -lying dormant in the nervous ganglia after chicken pox - to become active again. Most commonly cited is stress, followed by a compromised immune system. Since I'm healthy, fit and not particularly under any stress at the moment beyond the obvious anxiety about tomorrow's shenanigans, I can't quite see how I fall into any of the obvious risk categories. But then life is never fair.

My little brother says it serves me right for reading Mr Stuart's naughty books, but last time I looked you couldn't get nasty diseases from that. And anyway, he's read it too. So has my mum, and neither of them have got spotty backs. I'm left with the only possible conclusion, which is that fate hates me.

According to the bumpf the doctor gave me, you're only in danger from someone with shingles if you've never had chicken pox. And even then you've got to come into contact with the spots - or blisters as they call them, though at the moment they don't feel like that. They feel more like someone's taken a grater to a small patch of my back - presumably to pare off some skin for a recipe - and then rubbed some chilli oil into the wound to help it heal.

Tomorrow morning, I'm meant to be getting on a train and travelling down to London. Tomorrow evening it's the CWA Dagger awards dinner, and I've forked out a considerable sum of money to attend. Not to mention two months of running and food deprivation* so that I can fit into my kilt. There's no way a spot of back-acne's going to make me stay away.

Apparently I'll be fine - and more importantly so will anyone I talk to - just as long as I keep my shirt on. I've heard rumours about these crime fiction types and the raucous behaviour they get up to at their annual bun-fight, but I'm not planning on showing anyone my pale torso. So we should be all right.

But if you're there, and you don't want to shake me by the hand, I'll understand. No hard feelings on my part. I hope you'll feel the same.

Hopefully it will all be cleared up well before Harrogate in a fortnight's time.

*hmm. I guess that could be considered quite stressful. Just goes to prove that exercise is bad for you.

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Blogger Vincent said...

I thought shingles was when you suffer an outbreak of pebbly beach.

Harrogate's in two weeks? Bloody Hell, so it is. Perhaps I should start actually get round to booking something then.

July 04, 2007 11:12 am  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Well James... I guess you can celebrate the fact that you're ahead of your time.

Best of luck tomorrow night.

July 05, 2007 4:50 am  

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