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June 22, 2005

I Have WHAT?

Because things aren't fucked up and stressful enough at/about work, I had to get a visit from the Health Fairy.

Yeah. That's right. The Health Fairy. And I'm going to rip her goddamn wings off the next time I see her.

Last Tuesday morning (the morning before Trade Journal Nightmare Day) I woke up with a very strange and painful purple rash taking up most of my right hand. Said purple rash was not unlike a port wine stain birthmark, only I don't have a port wine stain birthmark, so I just went about my daily business of trying to survive the corporate world.

On Thursday, the rash was still there, and still painful.

On Friday, blisters started forming a la chemical burn (which I assumed was what happened). And strangely Angus' right hand started getting covered in a thick purple rash.

By Sunday, the blisters were popping.

Tuesday morning the skin on my hand started coming off in sheets, and Angus' formed blisters.

It was time to see the doctor.

Tuesday afternoon I got an appointment with Dr. Henry, as my usual doctor is on holiday this week. I stroll into the office and read a two month old copy of Hello! magazine. When my name is called, I go into his office.

Dr. Henry is sitting on his chair, and I am surprised to see that Dr. Henry is Hispanic. There are not a lot of Hispanics in Whitney Houston, after all. And even more unsettling is the fact that Dr. Henry looks amazingly like the Hispanic character from The Simpsons, the one who is always dressed up in the Bee costume.

"Hola!" calls Dr. Henry cheerfully. I resist the urge to ask him to say "Ay Carumba!" I will not play into stereotypes. "What is the problem?" he asks.

I hold out my hand and sit in the chair next to him. "I have a bad rash." I say, feeling silly. He asks me many questions: Have you been gardening? Using any new chemicals? Feeling bitter and sexually harassed in the workplace? Eating oranges and then lying in the sun? Only one of those are true, and that one wouldn't give me a rash, just a nervous disorder, so he has a quick answer.

"It is the herpes." he says, looking at me.

I look up sharply. "What?" I say weakly.

"Herpes. It is the herpes."

I start to cry. I know that herpes is a common affliction and that the stigma is no longer necessary or warranted, but out of all the illnesses I can think of in my life, herpes is one of the ones I fear the most (likely due to a chick I worked with in a bookstore who had them. The horror stories she would tell! The sheer unmitigated nightmare she would talk about! So...um...yeah thanks, N. You've made a quivering little herpes-fearing mouse out of me).

"I don't understand!" I wail. "I'm in a long-term relationship! I can't have the herpes! I've always been so careful!"

He looks panicked. "No, no, no! Is no genitals!"

I pause in the weeping. "What?"

"Is no genitals! Is no like genital herpes! Is not from sex!"

I am starting to calm down now. "What do you mean?"

"Is a virus, like shingles." He whips open a book of people who are in various forms of putritifcation and rotting from any amalgamation of highly unpleasant disease categorized A-Z. He finds the Happy Herpes section and shows me, amongst pus-ty penises and virulent vaginas, what herpes blisters look like.

"Mine didn't look like that." I say with relief. I am relieved. It is not the herpes. It cannot be the herpes. "I don't have the blisters anymore, although Angus-that's my boyfriend-he does."

"Can your boyfriend come here now? Seeing his blisters will help my diagnosis." asks Dr. Henry. This will be popular. Angus just loves him a slice of Doctor visit.

I call Angus and he warily agrees to come up. A slice of doctor visit is one thing, but if it comes needle a la mode there will be problems. As we wait for Angus Dr. Henry and I chat. I decide I like Dr. Henry (although I now have to work to not call him Dr. Herpes). There is something good and wholesome about Dr. Henry, plus it's hard not to like someone who was named the same name as my childhood crush Henry Thomas (I'll always be right here for you too, baby. Always).

Angus comes in and shows his hand to Dr. Henry. He chooses the seat closest to the door and this amuses me-if he tried to do a runner I think I could take him. Rug burns would be involved, but considering we're in the surgery I imagine there is a waterfall of First Aid cream in the back.

Dr. Henry looks at the hand and looks at me. He nods. Dr. Henry and I briefly are in cahoots about my tragic illness. Angus looks at me.

"Dr. Henry thinks we have the herpes." I say grimly. Angus looks up in shock.

"Is the herpes." Dr. Henry agrees sagely.

"We have the Hand Herpes." I reiterate sadly. I wonder when it will go from Dr. Henry's Spanglish "the herpes" to "herpes", but maybe we need more time to get familiar with our affliction. Maybe buy it a glass of wine to loosen it up or something.

"Is like the shingles." explains Dr. Henry. "Is a virus. No from sexual contact, just contact."

Angus looks at his hand with horror. "What is the most common way of getting it?" He looks as though amputation might be his favorite option.

Dr. Henry considers. "Most common way is to come in contact with someone recovering from the chicken pox. Know someone with the chicken pox?"

I resist the urge to ask him about saying that "Ay Carumba!" quote again. I don't know anyone with chicken pox, and if I did, I'd bitchslap them. I tell him I don't know anyone. He sighs, shrugs, and prints off a prescription. "Is so unusual for two people to have the same rash in the same place!" he said, looking at us. "I have never seen this before! And you didn't start the rash at the same time! I wish I had my camera!"

Yes. That's right. We're medical marvels. Us and our identical Hand Herpes, we are making history. Look for us in a medical journal near you, only there will be a black box over our eyes and we will be repelling 9th graders during a boring study hall for the rest of our lives.

"You happy? Healthy? Eat good meat?" Dr. Henry asks us.

"I'm a vegetarian." I say.

Dr. Henry looks at me in horror, as though me and the Hand Herpes are sprung from the same virus. Then he looks at Angus. "You are the vegetarian too?"

Angus looks at him. "Never!" he swears, straightfaced.

"Is no good! You must eat the meat! The steak!" he says, looking as though the entire beef nation is mourning the fact that I've surrendered my A1 belt. He looks at Angus and hands the prescription to him. "You. You have early stages of the dermatological herpes. You can be helped, but her? She too late. Pills will not do any good now. Helen, you will have the rash for another week or so, but Angus? Angus we can help."

Great. So I instigate the doctor visit and I'm the hopeless herpes cause.

Angus looks at the paper. "I can drink red wine while taking this medication?"

"Absolutely." says Dr. Henry.

"And eat red meat?"

"All the meat you can get!" Dr. Henry crows, looking at me. I roll my eyes.

"My Hand Herpes and I thank you." I say, standing. "Is this contagious? Should we have a Hazmat suit?"

"No contagious. No problem." Dr. Henry says as he reaches for a jar of anti-bacterial hand gel and slathers it on. Bastard.

"If it is no gone in two weeks, you come back in and give me a hard time." Dr. Henry says kindly.

"I will!" I say. "And I will come bearing vegetables!"

Angus and I take his prescription and he goes and fills it. Later, surfing at home, he finds out that the prescription Dr. Henry has asked for the type of anti-viral medication that is also used for the genital herpes. This, while he was making small talk with the cute chicks at the pharmacy.

Better strike those babes off the Helen Replacement List, sweetheart.

We make Hand Herpes jokes the rest of the night, only if anyone asks, we have decided to say that we have shingles.

Yeah, that's it.



PS-I am back in the Lion's Den today in London, dealing with the same place I was one week ago. But some things may have changed. Some things may (hopefully) be different. I have taken a few steps of action about what was said to me/about me on Wednesday. I'll update tomorrow on what has happened and if it was successful or not, and where I am going from here.

I am still so scared you wouldn't believe it.

And I am still very, very down about it all.

Posted by Everydaystranger at June 22, 2005 07:48 AM .

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It Is the Herpes
Excerpt: The hand herpes only! Is no from sex! I love this visit-to-the-doctor anecdote. Helen compares her MD to the bumblebee-wearing Hispanic on The Simpsons, but all I could think of was Dr. Nick Rivera. "Hi, everybody!" "Hi, Dr. Nick!" I...
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Tracked: June 22, 2005 08:34 PM


I'm with RP.

Posted by: Simon at June 23, 2005 05:20 AM

If it makes you feel any better, I have a patch of eczema on the ball of my foot that won't go away. We could form a new superhero group: The Ailments.

Posted by: sporty at June 23, 2005 03:04 AM

Wish you and Angus the best w/ the Hands Herpes. Sucks. But it is not deadly.

Posted by: Marie at June 23, 2005 01:08 AM

When I was a teenager, my cousin had herpes on her forehead and the side of her face. She was supposed to stay out of the sun, because it made it worse, but she was CA cheerleader chick and would bake herself. Both my mum and my brother have had shingles -- painful as hell. I read last week that they're testing a vaccine for adults for shingles. As much as I hate shots, I think that's one I'm going to get!

I 'the herpes' clears up soon!

Posted by: Ith at June 22, 2005 11:40 PM

After finally arriving back in NZ I have come down with bloody fucking shingles TOO!! Its the reactivation of the chicken pox virus! Mine is on the left side of my head and my eye is closed shut! And the PAINS in my head are terrible! It was also from stress...I feel for you Helen and Angus and know the pain you go thru!

Posted by: butterflies at June 22, 2005 10:46 PM

And I am still very, very down about it all.

Don't be down. Be up! Remember: Is no from sex!

Sigh. All kidding aside?--I really hope a little sensitivity training is in order for some of your coworkers.

Not because I think sensitivity training actually works, but because men hate sitting in it.

And isn't that just too damn bad for them.

Posted by: ilyka at June 22, 2005 07:59 PM

I hope that when you went back into the Lion's Den you went armed with a big load of attack vegetables.

I really hope you're able to make those assholes sweat a HUGE lawsuit for awhile, before getting the mess resolved to your satisfaction without having to go through all that hassle.

Sounds like they were indimidated by your obvious ability and success within the company, and used the only methods available to them to try to knock you down a peg.

They couldn't do it by questioning your abilities, since you've hit homers with everything they've pitched at you, despite having one hand tied behind your back half the time, so they had to resort to the schoolyard level stuff. They deserve to get their asses handed to them for it, but just keep in mind... that's the best they could come up with to attack you; little boys' sniggering innuendo.

Makes 'em look pretty pathetic, huh?

This whole thing says a LOT more about them and their insecurities than it does about you.

That said, from your past performance, I'm betting you manage to come out of this accomplishing what you need, without resorting to acting like an asshole yourself. I've always been impressed by how you've managed to accomplish that in the past (when all I'd be able to think about is machine guns and hand grenades) and I'm betting you pull it off again.

And just in case The Henry is wrong about the contagion, I'm hoping you passed around lots of friendly handshakes all day too.

Posted by: Light & Dark at June 22, 2005 07:13 PM

heheh. the herpes. That's priceless. As it turns out I had herpes (the happy kind) in my eye once. Hurt like a motherfucker, but really, not that big of a deal. And dude, I soooo did not get happy herpes in my eye from sexual contact. Just don't go there.

Posted by: emily at June 22, 2005 06:46 PM

Hey Helen... I will break the french bureaucrats bullshit rule and come over to sink a spiked heel into the next person's ass who tries that shit on you... You just call me ok :)

Posted by: stinkerbell at June 22, 2005 05:55 PM

Ooh The Hand Herpes! Dr. Henry sounds really awesome. It is hard to find a practice where there are TWO docs that are cool. You should post pictures of The Hand Herpes!

Posted by: dani at June 22, 2005 05:47 PM

This job thing smells like a giant law-suit. To be honest, the way you have described your doctor, I would not trust him for the world. Go on and ask a second opinion, it is something you have to be careful about.

Posted by: paolo at June 22, 2005 05:46 PM

This isn't the same thing at all, but my sister was diagnosed with the Hand Herpes several years ago. We avoided her like the plague. Recently, she went to an actual dermatologist and found out it was a nickel allergy. Lo, and behold, it is gone now because she knows what it is. I would get a second opinion from a dermatologist just to be sure.

Posted by: Ms.Q at June 22, 2005 05:20 PM

You have all our support and love whatever happens. Cold sores on the mouth ARE herpes - herpes is a wonderful virus. In case no one told you, it never goes away, just lies dormant. If it makes you feel any better, the herpes I have on my mouth often go around my mouth and in one horrific incident, covered one whole side of my face from mouth to ear. It sucks - what I think really sucks is you dont even have memories of good sex to make up for it.

Posted by: That Girl at June 22, 2005 04:38 PM

If you've ever had chicken pox, the virus lies dormant in your system until later, usually when you are under much stress. That can be a trigger and you can have a shingles outbreak. You need to REDUCE the stress in your life! Drink herbal tea! Find new, non-sexually-harassing work environment! Take a sabatical. You SO deserve one!

Posted by: Teri at June 22, 2005 04:34 PM

turn that fear into anger and kick some ass!

I'm here for you.

Posted by: suz at June 22, 2005 03:03 PM

Right before my wedding a few years ago, I got a massive outbreak of cold sores on my lower lip. Not wanting to appear leprous during the ceremony, I went to the doctor. He prescribed pills and an ointment [how I hate that word] that I later found out were generally prescribed for genital herpes. No wonder the hot pharmacy guy looked so horrified when I picked it up.

I had no idea one could contract the herpes on the hands, though. See, you're performing a public service here. *grin*

Posted by: mac at June 22, 2005 03:02 PM

Loved your entry today : ) About the job... be assertive, not afraid. Don't go overboard, just do the right thing to make yourself feel comfortable. Not that what happened can be excused, but it's possible those morons were just a teensy bit jealous of your accomplishments... or possible that it was their Neanderthal way of welcoming you to the Boy's Club, hah! Hold your head high, and go on about your business... after all, you've proven yourself and have nothing to apologize for!

Posted by: Annette at June 22, 2005 02:08 PM

Of course, being about 12 years old (mentally), I second/third/fourth/infinity the opinion of wishing vehemently it's contagious, and glad-handing (shaking hands with, at least I think that's what it means) every! one! of the bastards that made you feel this way.

But my more mature side just wishes things would turn around for you, and soon, in ways that would make life fun, again, even with the hand herpes.

Posted by: scorpy at June 22, 2005 01:42 PM

You should insist on shaking the sexists' hand with your infected hand while assuring them it's not contageous and then scratching it madly when they think you can't see them watching you.

Hope everything goes well for you!

Posted by: Erin at June 22, 2005 01:37 PM

You know that from now on I'm going to assume that anyone who, says they have shingles actually has herpes, right? And shouldn't you be calling it 'The Shingles'?

The work shit will all work out. Either they'll treat you better or there will be a big settlement.

Posted by: ~Easy at June 22, 2005 01:07 PM

Go around and touch the work bastards. You never know. Maybe the herpes is contagious. Also, give them food. MAybe you can take down the whole floor!

Posted by: RP at June 22, 2005 01:06 PM

Im sorry life is still being crappy to you Helen. i hope things start to improve.

abs xxxx

Posted by: abs at June 22, 2005 12:32 PM


I hate it when I do that.

P.S. It's 3:27 a.m. PDT. Not my fault.

P.P.S. What a dork I am, huh? Sorry!

Posted by: Margi at June 22, 2005 11:27 AM

I briefly considered making a horrible joke about hand herpes and office jerks but thought better of it when I read your last line.

I'm hoping everyone there treats you with the respect and kindness they deserve.

And if they DON'T -- may they contract non-hand herpes.


I (heart) you, babes.

(And I would like to e-mail you, but I seem to have lost your address. Are you still talking to me?)


Posted by: Margi at June 22, 2005 11:26 AM
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