Aunt J, our 90 year-old Australian darling, came down with shingles about four months ago. Sadly, right as we were burying our dear, dear, dear, mom, mother-in-law, grandma, friend, aunt and all around great gal (that’s all one person, don’t panic.) Aunt J and Grandma had been sisters-in-law for almost 70 years. So I think the stress of losing her dear friend and companion, as well as just being 90, herself, sent her a bit over the edge.
As it happens, SOME people, not all people, but some very unfortunate few people, get something called post herpetic neuralgia after the rash of shingles disappears. This is basically a continuing shooting, stabbing, painful discomfort associated with shingles that may last long after it seems you no longer have shingles, or a life or a mind.
Of course, at 90 years old, Aunt J has post herpetic neuralgia. Up until this point, she was only taking two medications. She had heart surgery back in the ’80’s (not her 80’s THE 80’s) and is by all accounts a pretty terrific old gal. She is amazingly charming, has that adorable accent, and has wonderful tales of her times in New York City and travelling.
So she was on her way to a grand ancient old age. But this shingles thing has changed the game and it’s disheartening, unfair and just plain crap. She does her best, most of the time to be a trooper. She will go out to lunch, go shopping, watch TV, fold laundry and participate in every way. But when there’s not much to do, or she has a day that just gets her down, the nasty pain that travels around from her back to her side to her front is frustrating for everyone. It becomes the topic of the day:
“I just don’t understand why this won’t go away, Mate ( I just added that so you wouldn’t forget the Aussie accent).
“Well, Aunt J, it’s just a nasty bugger that can last months, even though there is no rash”, I tell her, keeping to myself that this damn thing can last months and months or even years.
“But why did it go away and come back? I took all my medicine. I was a good girl!”, she whines.
“I know, I know, but the shingles don’t always work that way. They can just hang around as a painful reminder as long as they want. I’m really sorry. ”
“O dear, O dear, O dear, O dear. I don’t know what I’m going to do……” , she trails off with a wince of pain.
And this is where it just starts all over again. The same conversation, the same laments, and the same ineffective answers I have given her time and again. We have tried various other medications, but they have had nasty and dangerous side effects. So here we are.
“I know”, I say, “let’s go get ice cream!”
She looks at me with a jaded eye. We are both thinking the same thing. Can it be that easy?
“Okay!”, she says.
You just have to laugh……..