Oh yes, or rather, oh no, it is definitely shingles. The red patch has resolved itself into a red swathe with bumps and I briefly contemplated clawing out my own throat as I tried to fall asleep last night. The itching, my god, the itching. On the plus side it still only hurts like a bad sunburn and not even the worst sunburn I have ever had, either.
Per your much appreciated advice I called the doctor's office first thing this morning and said I had changed my mind about the drugs. Better to get them and discover that I don't need them then to wake up tomorrow in such pain that I am forced to call around to friends, asking if they have any spare opium. That's how rumors get started in small towns, you know. So I spoke to the nurse who read me the note the doctor had left (I was amused that I had said no, no thanks, no narcotics and his note said: Patient will call for painkiller) and while I had her on the phone I also asked for something to help manage the itching. She asked if I had tried Aveeno with oatmeal and I laughed. Did I mention that IT REALLY REALLY ITCHES?
And hey! For those of us that cannot seem to produce the requisite titers no matter how many times we get vaccinated I found the most apropos pubmed article. The link is here but the money bit is this:
"CONCLUSION: ... [in] a subgroup of individuals the antibody response to VZV vaccine may be low despite an adequate cell-mediated response. Commercial VZV ELISA assays were designed to measure higher titers associated with natural infection rather than the lower titer induced by the vaccine. Repeated immunizations plus more sensitive measures of VZV-specific IgG should be used to validate protection rather than the current commonly utilized ELISA screening. Clinicians should be aware of the variability in VZV-specific antibody assays when assessing post VZV vaccine titers prior to determining protection in health care workers."
I don't speak science very well so feel free to clarify for me but I think the gist is that some people need more sensitive blood tests to detect the presence of the low-level of antibodies produced in response to the chickenpox vaccine. So although I might have tested negative for any trace of the virus it was there nonetheless and now I have shingles. Oh and the point about the chickenpox vaccine was not that it should have prevented shingles. Quite the opposite. If one believes that I never had chickenpox then I got the virus from the vaccine and I got shingles from the virus. The good news - for me - is that shingles in such cases tend to be more mild. We - I note darkly - shall see.
In the meantime when I picked up my prescription today I also bought a medicinal can of Pringles, two boxes of Junior Mints and a bag of mini Kit-Kats. Then I went home and slept for three hours.
Life could be much worse.
PS Not to be a purist but the word "shingles" annoys me. A shingle can be a pebbled beach. It can be a roofing element or a way to describe a roof thus created. It can refer to the sign that professionals used to hang outside ye olde firme of law. I fail to see any connection between these things and my rash.
PPS I forgot to tell you about my insult to injury moment. I had covered my... my affliction with a large bandage in order to reduce the risk of spreading it. When I went to change band-aids this evening I discovered that I am having an allergic reaction to the adhesive. So my super-pretty shingles rash is currently surrounded by a big red welt.