Sunday, August 30, 2009


It's been 11 weeks or almost 3 months ago today when Herpes Zoster, commonly known as "shingles", infected my right thigh. The wounds had healed. The ugly patchwork of darkened skin on my thigh where big blisters appeared left ugly scars that are testimony to my painful suffering. Today, the pain still threatens to break my resolve to bear and live with it.

The pain was almost unbearable the first 3-5 weeks. My thigh felt like a sharp knife was cutting off the skin piece by piece. My right lower abdomen and buttocks were too painful that I was willing to undergo an MRI and for surgical operation if these would somehow ease my pain.

I am a diabetic with diabetes mellitus II condition. Before shingles caught me, I was having trouble with extreme burning sensation in the soles of my two feet accompanied by numbness of my two legs and pain on my lower back. Since I couldn't get the help I wanted from my diabetologist, I sought out second and more opinions from other doctors about my condition.

Dr. Francisco K. Ontalan, III (Nazareth General Hospital, Dagupan City), a nephrologist, confirmed that I have diabetic neuropathy, a problem with damaged nerves, due to diabetes, causing all those pains. My clinical test results revealed increased blood sugar for the past three months, high cholesterol, and high creatinine. He likened me to a time bomb ready to explode if not immediately attended to.

I followed strictly a one week regimen of exercise and medication recommended by the good doctor. On my return for a follow up checkup one week after, the tests revealed lower blood sugar, cholesterol and creatinine counts. Still the pain became more pronounced from my right waist radiating down my right thigh and two feet. I could hardly walk. Even when I was sitting or lying down, the throbbing pain was very disturbing. My blood pressure shot up, too.

I was again referred to the orthopedic where a physical therapist subjected me to nerve rehabilitation clinical procedure on my lower back. I was able to undergo only two sessions of nerve rehab when big blisters appeared on my right thigh. The blisters started to appear from my outer thigh and spread within 2 to 3 days underneath. I felt that my thigh was like an angry volcano full of hot lava ready to explode. I thought those were burns caused by the hot wet compress I applied two nights ago when my pain was intense.

My "burns" were treated by Dr. Odessa A. Bautista (Jesus Nazarene Hospital, Lingayen). In fairness, she was surprised why more blisters kept on appearing while she was treating them. Two days after, I went back to the hospital. I was wheeled into the dermatology unit. It was there where Dr. May F. Gonzales, a dermatologist, told me that I was infected with Herpes Zoster, known as "shingles". I froze in my seat when she told me all- infects the weak, the elderly, the diabetics with low immune system; stabbing pain for the first 3 to 5 weeks; medication and treatment takes from 6 months to a year.

Immediately, she prescribed Arcoxia for my pain. Since I learned that the disease is highly transferable at the blisters stage, I nursed my own wounds at home. For two weeks I went on a self-quarantine in my bedroom. I could hardly bear the growing pain. I felt bloated around my lower abdomen. So once the blisters were ruptured my daughter and I consulted another doctor, Dr. Oliver D. Ferrer (Villaflor Hospital, Dagupan City). The idea was to submit myself to MRI to find out what was causing the pain on my lower back and abdomen. Dr. Ferrer is widely known in the analysis and operation on slip disks. He prescribed Lyrica for my shingles and neuropathy which I took for 1 week. The pain slightly subsided and my yearning to be operated on was shelved. It was not slip disk. The shingles aggravated the pain caused by neuropathy especially in my lower limbs. Lyrica and Arcoxia are good combination, at least I was relieved.

After 1 month, my daughter and I went to Manila for family affairs. My shingles then had dried up and left dark ugly scars. But I was still wondering why the pain has not stopped yet. While in Manila, I took the opportunity to consult another doctor, Dr. Jose C. Navarro, (UST, Manila) a neurologist. I was disturbed by the seemingly unending pain despite my medication. In addition, the high cost of my medicines are too hard to bear. He prescribed Neurontin, similar to Lyrica but lesser in cost. After a week, we went back to Dr. Navarro. It seemed that I was not responding to Neurontin. He changed it to Calmpent. My pain reliever was also substituted with Dolcet. Both are cheaper and affordable especially so because the treatment is longer.

I will always remember the soothing words of Dr. Navarro. He said the pain is already there. It can be aggravated by emotional pain, anxieties and stress. With those words, I am careful to keep hold of my feelings. I only tap my fingers lightly on my thigh when the stabbing pain comes. Since a heavy touch exacerbates the cutting pain I just run my fingers where the itching and pain are. I know that healing is not far to happen. Until then, I will keep on strumming the pain off my shingles.

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