Some of us need more convincing than others. (The picture is royalty-free, take it if you want!)

The Saturday before Whitsunday I noticed that I had a mass of acne or some such on the right side of my neck, both in my scalp and further down. These continued to grow and hurt during the long weekend. (In Norway, surprisingly, we celebrate two days of Pentecost, with shops and also clinics being closed, except for urgent care.) I was worried that this sudden affliction might be yellow staphylococcus, which can be quite problematic if they decide to attack in mass (and also sometimes are resistant to antibiotics, plus they spread fairly easily). So Tuesday morning I called my regular clinic and asked if they could check me out. Amazingly I got an appointment the same day.

My regular doctor wasn’t there, but a female colleague of his took one look at my neck and exclaimed: “Hellfire”!

Well, she spoke Norwegian, and the Norwegian word “helvetesild” can mean both hellfire and shingles. (It also sounds like “helvetes sild”, damned herring, but that was definitely not a topic here.) In this case, I am happy to say, it was shingles and not eternal damnation. And despite its name, shingles are rarely fatal unless you are immunocompromised or very, very old. Actually, I was somewhat relieved that it was not MRSA (multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). She prescribed Valtrex, which contains valaciclovir, an anti-herpes drug. It is amazing what they can make these days!

Yes, the shingles virus is a variant of herpes, but not the herpes you get from sleeping around. It is the virus from some childhood pox, I believe it is called chicken pox in English. In Norwegian it is called vannkopper (water cups) which is even more misleading than our name for shingles.

But the fun did not stop there. I came home and found that the tablets were sized for a small horse rather than for me who just barely can swallow sesame seeds whole. I am the guy who sits chewing frantically while the others have long since finished the meal and are deep in conversation, and this is the reason. I tried to find out whether the tablets could safely be crushed, but there was no mention of this in the documentation in the package or online. I had to ask the local pharmacist, who instantly said that it could be crushed or divided, no problem. (Am I the only one who is a little skeptical when people answer questions like that without looking up in a book or on a screen? They could at least pretend that it was difficult!)

But the fun had barely begun. The evening after I started the cure, my heart rate increased drastically from 60-70 to 100-110. (It used to be 50-60 before I crushed my hip socket and nearby bones. Or “before the Fall” as I like to say.) Anyway, I could live with that. Then the next time it evolved into outright fever, even if not very high. And with it headache and low appetite bordering on queasiness. This is a problem when the drug requires you to drink large quantities of water to not destroy your kidneys.

Today I took a sick day and also left a message for my regular doctor about the problem. He said I could take a break from the treatment until Sunday and see if it was the drug. Well, who knows, but tonight the fever is gone and the general malaise is reduced. And while my appetite is still absent, it is no longer difficult to swallow juice and water.

You’d think crushing a central part of my skeleton would have been enough to remind me of my mortality, but evidently not. It is time to take life even more seriously, or what is left of it. But how easy will that be if I get healthy again? I think of what Jesus said to the paralyzed man he healed by the pool of Bethesda: “Go and sin no more, lest something worse happen to you.”  That worse being the real Hellfire, I suppose. I believe that Hell is an expression of destruction rather than eternal torment, but it is still a terrible alternative for someone who could have become a true Child of God, brother of Christ, Light of Light. If a few weeks of pain and discomfort can bring me closer to my goal, I welcome it.