How a Misdiagnosed Case of Shingles Made This Mom Slow Down

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

“Uh-oh, I’ve got a pimple!” I sighed while getting ready to volunteer at a book fair at my kids’ school.  I tried to brush my bangs over my forehead and hide this blemish which sat squarely above my right eyebrow.  Acne, thankfully, was not one of my many afflictions during my teen years, so I was surprised that I would get one now…as a middle-aged mom.

“Oh well, I’ll let the other moms envy me for being young enough to still get a zit,” I quipped to my husband who chuckled.

My life was busier than ever back in those days, what with a kindergartener and a second grader keeping me on the go as a chauffeur, chef, and mom.  I barely had time to look at myself in the mirror each day.  But I couldn’t help noticing that this pimple was growing. And it hurt!

The next day, I noticed another pimple threatening to break out just a hair away.  Now, I had two volcanic cousins right next to each other, like Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii.  They both hurt so much that they were giving me a headache!

At last, I went to my doctor-husband, David.  “Honey, can you take a look at my forehead?  I can’t believe these pimples!”

He took a good look.

“They’re not pimples — they’re spider bites,” he diagnosed, very doctor-like.  “Brown recluse spiders tend to bite like that. ”

What?  We have a brown recluse spider living in our home, crawling onto the bed, across the pillows, and onto my forehead to bite me at night? Yikes! 

I immediately stripped our bed and washed the sheets in extra hot water.  I vacuumed every nook and cranny in our bedroom, hoping to eradicate this arachnid before it killed me.  I couldn’t help but wonder why the spider liked my forehead so much more than David’s.

Research on the internet provided me with more frightening information than I ever wanted about spider bites.  Some terms left me with a sense of doom: venomous, necrosis, gangrenous.  Ewwww!  And on my face?

I made my husband immediately drive me to his clinic for a second opinion.  I needed another physician to take a look at my necrotic bites on my forehead by a venomous brown recluse spider before my forehead turned into a huge gangrene.  The pain kept getting worse, but I couldn’t tell if it was all in my head — er, I guess it was, technically.

“Doc, I think that’s shingles on your wife’s forehead,” stated David’s colleague.

Shingles?  Well, I did have chicken pox as a child.  That virus lies dormant inside until something triggers it to manifest itself as shingles.  A common trigger?  Stress. Gee, who would have thought that a mom of young children would be stressed?

Since my shingles were so close to my right eye, they did an eye exam to make sure that I wasn’t also going blind. Fortunately, my eyes were clear, and I was sent home with some topical creams and meds to reduce the pain.

This was no ordinary diagnosis, for it did wake me up to the fact that I was putting myself under a tremendous amount of stress, and it was showing up…on my face.  I needed to cut back on my activities and to stop trying to be Super Mom.  I reduced my volunteering schedule at school and at church, I began to pray and meditate on Scriptures every morning, and I began exercising more regularly.  I also hired a housekeeper to help with the cleaning so that I would never have a brown recluse spider moving in.

Those volcanoes on my forehead did erupt a few days later to create the telltale blisters that typify shingles.  “Now I see it!” exclaimed my husband rather sheepishly.  (For a while afterwards, I think he diagnosed every pimple or rash on his patients as shingles.) They left two little scars which are still on my forehead today, several years later.

Now, when I look at those shingles scars, they serve as my daily reminder: slow down, stress less.

Thank you, Lord, for shingles!