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Not A Broken Rib

Last week, on Saturday, I woke up at 3:30 a.m with problems breathing. Every time I took a breath, my left lower rib would hurt. I thought I must have a broken or badly bruised rib. My back rib also hurt, which often happens when the front rib is injured.

The funny thing was that I did not have a bruise in the area that hurt and I could not remember being punched or kicked there (at least not recently). I did, however, have a small area with a rash. Hmmm.

So I was off to the emergency room.

The doctor looked at my rib area. I was sure it was broken, cracked, or at least bruised inside. Can you guess what the problem was?

Shingles. The rash gave it away.

When you have chicken pox as a child (which I did), it is possible for the same virus to recur when you are an adult. This usually happens on only one side of the body, as it did with me.

Fortunately, I sought treatment right away, and the doctor was able to prescribe an antiviral. This helped to keep the rash area from spreading.

But the reason I thought that my rib was broken was that shingles really hurts. It feels like a combination of an itchiness and a burning feeling, not just on the surface but deeper. Ouch! A week later and it still hurts.

But I am telling you all this because as I have found, shingles is a pretty common thing. There is a vaccine, but it is usually given to people over 60 (I am only 50). Also, if you ever have shingles, it helps to get treatment as quickly as possible.

I also found out that shingles tends to be triggered by stress. As you know from reading this blog, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year in June. Since that time, and especially during her chemotherapy, radiation, and subsequent treatment, I have tried my very best not to get sick. And I have not caught a cold or flu since that time. So getting shingles really upset me -- but it was probably stress triggered.

While I feel that I could, at least somewhat, work to stay healthy and avoid colds and the flu, I was not as successful in avoiding stress. My wife's diagnosis and treatment certainly caused a lot of stress. Fortunately, practicing Karate regularly, and lifting weights and cardio exercise, helped to relieve stress. But apparently not enough to avoid triggering shingles.

We all are human. None of us are Superman or immune to sickness and aging. Through regular Karate training, however, we can stay in the best shape possible, which will help us to stay healthy and fight off illnesses, at least some.

Since I have turned 50 I have had a colonoscopy and shingles. I also joined AARP. How about that!

By the way, my wife has been doing very well. Cancer diagnosis and treatment really makes you appreciate each and every day.

OK, here is the irony in my case. I have been working on the roof of my house in preparation for reroofing. I was painting the eves and installed gable vents. I have also been getting quotes for different types of roofing (new roof versus elastomeric coating). My roof has asphalt shingles -- and I got shingles.

Also, when I went to the emergency room, the doctor asked me how much my rib hurt on a scale of 1 to 10. I said 2. He said, "only 2?" I said, "yes, if a 10 is having your arm ripped off." It turns out that you are not supposed to compare a 10 to having your arm ripped off. Karate students don't like to complain, so a Karate student's 2 is probably a normal person's 6.

No matter how tough we might be (or thing we are), getting prompt medical attention is important. In my case, it probably made the shingles much less worse that it could have been.


Charles C. Goodin