Normal is a Beautiful Thing

“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.


  1. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’ve never had cancer, never loved someone who battled it, so I can’t pretend to understand. But I’m really glad you’re winning.

  2. You get shingles by having had chicken pox as a child. It’s the same virus only mutated or some damn thing. Shingles are not contagious per se, so no need to worry about Paul. Shingles may be brought on by stress or perhaps that’s just an old wives tale? I’ve exhausted my wee bit of knowledge already. I hope you feel better soon!

  3. I got The Shingles last winter. For some reason I always equated Shingles with some sort of diarrhea type thing. I guess I was just confusing it with chipped beef (aka: shit on a shingle)


    Just don’t hurt your Coccyx, or get The Gout, OK?

        1. You confuse me with the slutty koala. I know a few bears that would trade you a syphillis for some shingles.
          P.s. Scabies are cute!

  4. Dude, fuck it. Shingles suck but they suck WAY less than that fickle fuckwit the big C. so celebrate those fuckers. Celebrate the fact it’s some stupid little disease and you’ve already beaten a huge one so WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?

    Feel better soon. I was just about to whine about how I’ve had the flu then I read this and now I feel like an asshole.


  5. Okay. So what you don’t know about me is that I have a close mom-friend here in Vancouver who also has survived cancer in the last five years. A bad-assed cancer, but she kicked its ass.

    So … every once in a while I can’t breathe.

    Like when I read the above.

    So while I only know a little bit (not even, really) how you feel, I can say for a moment, just a little moment, I was feeling it with you.

    You’ll be glad to know that I’m breathing again now, lightly. But the screen is blurry.

    So glad you have shingles. (Not really) (but really really).

    Now I need to go and cry. Really.

    So glad you are okay. ish.

  6. Dude, I had shingles. Shingles suck ass. But you laugh in the face of shingles. You kicked the shit out of cancer. Shingles can kiss your sleep deprived ass. (Btw, I’m worried about your ass. Looks like it hasn’t been getting much sleep.) I can hear you roar all the way over here, woman.
    Ps btw, Paul may have gotten sweet, sweet antibodies from your boob juice and may never have to suffer the indignity of the pox. They can test him for that.

  7. Holy crap this scared the shit out of me. Glad you’re ok. You need to take zinc. Ev. er. y. day.
    (I have no idea what I’m talking about as usual but my pharmacist said this to me a few months ago when I got a stye. She told me it would boost my immune system.)

  8. Who is this “Ellen” you speak of and how is it she has so many striking similarities?
    I’m so very sorry you have the shingles. The name conjures up all sorts of odd shape images in my mind. Trapezoid, square, oval, shingle, rectangle, triangle. See?
    My little story didn’t lessen the pain did it?
    Hugs & kisses, feel better!

  9. Shingles suck. Not as much as cancer, but they suck. Keep your head up, and tell your back to stop hanging out in bad neighborhoods.

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