Monday, March 28, 2011

Lip Service

Wow, my hands look old!


Last week was THE week that I became adept at playing the world’s smallest violin. So much so the sound pierced my poor boyfriend’s eardrums. I was attacked by a vicious viral infection that debilitated me all week grotesquely rendering my lips to swell in inordinate proportions. The culprit: HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus-1).  I felt like a walking parasite with my oozing and blistery fish lips but the overall malaise and pain were excruciating. I did childbirth three times without pain meds, refused narcotics for my back pain, but “the herps” had me begging/pleading/whimpering for pain medication. It was as if I skidded on hot asphalt with my lips and nothing I used obliterated the searing pain. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, AND couldn’t work. 

So why share this with the entire blogger world? Because my blog is titled “…how I laugh in the face of adversity” and want to help those who have suffered or are suffering from this. When a coworker came into my office, abruptly halted, and asked "Who have YOU been kissing." I replied, "Nah, it's Botox gone awry." I desperately scoured the internet for answers and relief. I was met with “there is no cure…” and “duration of the virus lasts 10-14 days” and “try this remedy…” Working in the medical field I was surrounded by sage knowledge and advice but I wanted to scream, “TAKE THE PAIN AWAY!!! NOW!” My medical director took one look at me and said severe stress caused my ailment, shutting my immune system down. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my thorough research on the internet already told me that. All I wanted was for the pain to go away. I couldn’t fathom the people who told me they suffer from these outbreaks on a regular basis. Say what?

I used everything that was recommended: Abreva, Carmex, Lysine ointment, Listerine, Vaseline, Alcohol, Neosporin Lip Treatment, Blistex, ice cubes, and Anbesol. Nothing on the internet showed extreme swelling of the lips or accompanying migraine headaches so I pleaded with my doctor to put me out of my misery. My doctor diagnosed me with an infection on top of the regular viral outbreak. Oh lucky me! Of course! Of freakin’ course! After a Toradol shot in my butt (for instant migraine relief), steroid paste (for lips), Acyclovir (for viral infection), and Fioricet (for future migranes), I was sent home. Stupid me expected instant relief but my misery continued. I ventured to work and felt like the resident leper by the alarming looks I got from people. So I lasted 2 hours and quickly went home marking day 2 of missed work. Really? From fever blisters?! What a wuss! But the saga continued…the steroid paste burned my lips, Fioricet didn’t squash the migraine headaches, and I knew Acyclovir wasn’t a cure. I prayed for healing. I prayed for forgiveness because the remnants of Catholicism intoned an ominous warning: "You are being punished for talking so much sh*t." I finally relented and called my doctor for narcotics so I could eat and sleep.

What finally alleviated my confounding misery? Good ol’ Vicodin for the searing lip pain, Excedrin Migraine for my debilitating headaches, dabbing hydrogen peroxide on my lips, and then coating the sores with Bacitracin ointment and Carmex. It is now Day 11 of my viral infection and my mouth is almost back to normal…almost.

What can I do to prevent future outbreaks? (Because believe you me I am determined to prevent them.) First, eliminate stress or learn not to be a total freakazoid. During those sleepless, pain-filled nights, I realized no amount of bills is worth this crazy pain and ugliness. Second, stay away from long exposure to the sun. Again, my beach bum days may be over. Third, take L-Lysine supplements because the amino acid may help prevent outbreaks. Also, I plan on consuming foods rich in L-Lysine such as yogurt, salmon, liver (errrr…forget that), and spinach. Lastly, learn to recognize the symptoms and treat it quickly.

Overall, I believe the big message here is to quit stressing the small and big stuff because once a person contracts the virus it remains inactive in the body until something triggers it. I have to learn to take a step back and allow myself to relax because my body is evidently rebelling and imploding. If friends and family can’t understand that I am unable to fulfill obligations then I have to be okay with their disappointment and anger. I have to stop being my own worst enemy and allow myself to breathe deeply and sit still even when I think MY world is deconstructing around me.

For detailed information on Herpes Simplex Virus 1 click on the links below.