Shingles Part II now playing at Empty Nest - by Curt Swarm


I had the shingles 10 years ago, plus the shingles' vaccination. I should be good to go, right? Evidently not.
The skin on my right side started burning and tingling. I took a look and did not like what I saw. The red bumps looked exactly like the shingles I'd had previously. How could this be?
It was Saturday morning. I showed Ginnie, and she just about lost her breakfast. I called Quick Care and found out their hours. Because of COVID, you have to have an appointment now. Fortunately, they could get me right in.
The doctor didn't mince words, “Shingles.”
Ironically, a couple of days before, I'd been visiting with a friend who had the shingles across his face, very close to his eye. He was one miserable dude. I told the doctor this.
“No,” she said. “Shingles are not contagious.”
“Power of suggestion?” I asked.
“Perhaps. The mind is a powerful thing. Stress can do it, too.”
“I just ran a practice half-marathon (13.1 miles) a couple of days ago. I was physically stressed,” I told her. (We're holding a half-marathon here at the Empty Nest Farm, on November 3, which is election day, and also the anniversary of my 31st year of sobriety. I wanted to be ready.)
“That could do it,” she said.
She prescribed an anti-viral medication and I went home knowing what I was in for. There were lots of ups and downs with alternating periods of zero discomfort to almost intolerable pain, like a knife stabbing me in the side. But, “It is what it is,” a saying Ginnie despises. I just had to tough it out, and take comfort in that the shingles weren't on my face (or eye).
Of course, the shingles spread to the front side of my chest, which didn't surprise me. They are so predictable (now that I'm a pro). I'm thinking that the cold and flu season which we are entering, not to mention COVID, has something to do with the shingles. After all, there are all these little viruses running around. And I had chicken pox as a child, which is supposed to be the root cause. But I had taken the precaution of getting the vaccination. I put my trust in science. Sometimes life isn't fair. But, still, I can take solace in the fact that I don't have COVID, and I'm not all that discombobulated. It's just more of a major nuisance, which I can handle. I'm alive and sober, and Ginnie is still baking cookies. It could be worse. The shingles, which are caused by the varicella-zoster virus, can take a hike.
As with the first time I had them, I still don't understand why they are called “shingles,” except that maybe it's because they feel like they are shingled to your body. Both of my parents had the shingles. My father had the hives followed by the shingles. Poor guy.
I'm wondering if I should get the newer shingles shot. The last thing I want is to have these devils a third time. I had such a bad reaction to the pneumonia shot once, so I'm vaccine leery. It's a good question for my doctor.
In the mean time, the sun is in the sky, I have a day of making art, and Ginnie still loves me. What more could I want?
A banana cream pie, that would do it.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

author, Column, Curt Swarm, editorial, Empty Nest, Mt. Pleasant, Pen City Current


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