I called Dr G this morning about a rash that appeared overnight on my leg and he said to come in before the MRI scheduled for this afternoon. One look, that's all it took -- shingles!
When combined with the kind and spread of pain I'd been complaining about all week, the appearance of red vesicles (rash) enabled him to out all the pieces together. He immediately cancelled the MRI and started me on valacyclovir and gabapentin.
It will take quite a few days for the infection to clear up and perhaps longer for the pain to reduce. Gabapentin will also make me tired and I shouldn't operate machinery (i.e. drive a car) while taking it. I will stay on the fentanyl patches also, since one is supposed to increase the gabapentin slowly to a maximum of three per day.
I had chicken pox as a child and the odds favor that I have carried it around in my body ever since. There's little doubt low immune counts from the chemo caused me to be more susceptible to a flare up. That's also why I couldn't have the shingles vaccination. It's a live virus vaccine and would have put me at risk to develop shingles, which I did anyway.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says,
Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the virus that causes shingles, the varicella zoster virus, can be spread from a person with active shingles to a person who has never had chickenpox. In such cases, the person exposed to the virus might develop chickenpox, but they would not develop shingles. The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters, not through sneezing, coughing or casual contact.
A person with shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. A person is not infectious before blisters appear. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.
Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox and the risk of a person with shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered.
So I will cover my rash, swallow the huge valacyclovir pills (1 gram, the size of my thumb!), and hope the gabapentin controls the pain soonest, plus remember that shingles is NOT MORE CANCER.