“Ah Ellen, you look younger every time I see you.” His warm, Lebanese accent was soothing, as it almost always was. Almost.
“That’s just because no one else over the age of twelve would dare leave the house wearing their hair like this.”
He shook his head and looked down at my chart. He raised his wooly gray eyebrows. “You think you have Shingles?”
He pulled his lips together, off to the side of his face. “Where?”
“On my back.” I motioned behind me with my right thumb. “But it’s coming around the side and onto my stomach, too.”
He pulled up my shirt and leaned me forward as he bent to look behind me.
“Shit,” he muttered as he stood up. His eyes wandered in thought, landing on his assistant sitting in the corner and taking notes. “Oh, excuse me,” he apologized, looking back at me, chagrined.
“No worries, Doc. I’ve been cursing since they showed up on Tuesday.”
“Tuesday?!” he scolded. “You had these since Tuesday? Why do you wait so long to come see me?”
“I thought they were bug bites.” The look of disbelief on his face was rattling. “Really, really horrible bug bites. Or poison ivy. I certainly didn’t think it was Shingles. I’ve never seen Shingles. Who gets Shingles in their 30’s anyway?” The disbelief passed and was replaced with pity. “Right,” I continued, “The kind of gal who gets cancer in her 30’s.”
“Are you in a lot of pain?” he asked, again with great kindness.
“It’s all relative, Doc.”
He touched my right shoulder. “Ellen, when was your last scan?”
“Aww, man. Don’t say that. I was hoping I was just being paranoid. It was really recent and all clean – right around Christmas.” I felt my heart beating in my temples.
“Still, we run some blood work, yes?”
If draining some of this blood would make the pounding in my head a little less, then so be it. “Better safe than sorry, right Doc?”
“So I was just diagnosed with Shingles and I want to make sure there isn’t something I should be doing prophylactically for Paul. I mean, my physician suggested hosing down with betadine, which I’m doing, but he also suggested I speak with you.”
“But you’ve been in remission for a long time, right?” The words sounded even stranger in an Indian accent.
“Three years,” I stammered in surprise. Are you kidding me? The pediatrician thinks it’s back, too?
“Oh. Well I hope you feel better.”
But it’s not back. I spent the weekend in intense pain and near hysterics, but the blood work came back Monday and I’m fine. Well, I’m miserable and fine. Let’s just say “normal” might be my new favorite word.
The only thing wrong with me (well physically, at least) is my back’s penchant for having unprotected sex with wanton, genital herpes-infected sluts. At least I assume that’s how you get Shingles. I’ve seen the commercials for Valtrex.
While I was sick, I used to be grateful I had a type of cancer that could be cured, not one of those watch and wait kinds. I wanted to know there was an end to work towards. I wanted a finish line to cross.
But now I wonder if you ever really beat cancer. If it’s always there, lurking, waiting to come back, every day another battle to keep it at bay.
But today I don’t really care. Because either way…I’m still winning, dammit.