Posts Tagged ‘Cold sore’

This blog post started off  with the title ‘An Open Letter To My Cold Sore’ but honestly, that fucker doesn’t deserve its own open letter.

It’s been the Worst House Guest Ever. It arrived unannounced, trashed my face (and my reputation as a Great Beauty – yeah, yeah, don’t laugh) and it then proceeded to overstay its welcome by, like, FOREVER.

For a while there, my only hope was that it would eventually grow so large it would become the size of a small African nation and proclaim its independence from me.

As it was, it quite possibly became the first human lesion visible from outer space. Most certainly, it arrived in a room a good thirty seconds before the rest of my body did. Small children would burst into tears when I – or rather ‘it’ – approached them. Some adults thought I was an extra from the film ‘Alien’ being attacked by a face-hugger. And I thoroughly expected Wes Craven to contact me in the hope my cold sore could be the New Face of Freddy Kruger.

I found myself having to warn friends in advance of meeting them.

“I have a cold sore,” I told them. “Do not talk about the cold sore, do not look at the cold sore and, most certainly, do not address the cold sore directly.”

I was worried that if they gave the cold sore too much attention, it would develop a human-like personality and end up with its own reality TV show by the end of the week. Like the Kardashians.

And every time it looked like it was on the mend, it would make a sudden comeback. Like Aussie Rocker Legend™ Johnny Farnham (although nowhere near as embarrassing).

And when it finally DID  start to go away, it felt like the boyfriend that nobody ever liked but never told you they didn’t like him until after you’d broken up. Everyone who’d said things like ‘Oh, you can hardly see it!’ or “What cold sore?” at the height of my cold sore’s power, finally admitted, once it had slowly diminished into the west like some Elvin Queen on a boat, “Yeah, that was a big one” or “Man, that shit was like Cold Sore-zilla!”.

Listen, there is one good thing you can say about my cold sore and that is this:   it made me come in from the cold and write this blog post. Even if it was kinda hard to see past the cold sore while I wrote it.


Pass me the Zovirax, please.

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The other day I went to a Ball with a headache and a cold sore – this season’s Must Have accessories. In my little lady purse, I packed myself some codeine and some Zovirax. Yes, I sure know how to party hard.

I was going as the date of my friend The Mild-Mannered Lawyer, who was attending the Ball for the second year in a row for work. The previous year, she’d gone with our friend Lady K and they’d drunk excessively and the details were all a bit hazy. This year, however, neither she nor I were really drinking – The MML was driving and I was trying not to extend the lives of my cold sore and my headache any more than I absolutely had to. Understandably, I was worried that I might appear to be a dud date in comparison.

“Now, I don’t want to hear about how last year you did such and such with Lady K and how much fun you had together,” I told her sternly as we drove there. “And I don’t want to see you crying when they play the song you danced together to because you miss her so much and you wish I was her. You’re with me now, okay?”

The MML nodded.

“Now let’s go make our own memories!” I said.

Luckily we had ‘The Darryl Cotton Band’ to help us make those memories on the dance floor. Which is just as well, as it turns out my old memories were growing faulty.

After the second song, I shouted to the MML: “I didn’t know Sherbert sung ‘Tainted Love’!”

“You’re thinking of the wrong Darryl!” The MML shouted back. “The lead singer of Sherbert was Darryl Braithwaite. This is Darryl Cotton.

I was bitterly disappointed and I don’t think I was the only one. On the other side of the dance floor, one man had pulled out his iPhone.

“Look!” I shouted to the MML. “I think he’s googling ‘Who the fuck is Darryl Cotton if he’s not from Sherbert’!”

I did the same the minute we returned to our table. Wikipedia had something about him being in a band called ‘Zoot’ and a hit single in 1980 called ‘Same Old Girl’. And yet ‘Darryl Cotton’ was a name I’d known for at least 20 years of my life. Is this what it meant to get older? To know you know people but not to remember how or why?

ANYWAY, the MML and I had ourselves a fine time dancing to ‘The Darryl Cotton Band’, mostly because we were the only women under 50 without our husbands on the dance floor and that made us hot.

However, at one toilet stop, I realised the one thing I hadn’t packed in my lady purse was a Welcome Pack for the Silent Red Ninja – whose approach was the cause of both the headache and the cold sore, of course.

And so it came to pass that I spent the last band’s last set of the evening on the dance floor dancing to a Darryl I didn’t know and in the shadow of the MML’s previous wild date Lady K, one week off my 40th birthday, virtually sober, with a cold sore and a thumping headache AND with half a roll of toilet paper stuffed down my undies and I STILL managed to attract the attentions of a bearded youth (albeit an extremely drunken bearded youth).

Which is to say “I still got it”, right? RIGHT?

In saying that, of course, I thought I was quoting The Fonz from Happy Days but I’ve just googled it and it turns out I’m actually quoting Ralph The Mouth.

Which is to say, whatever the “it” is that I’ve got, let’s hope it’s not contagious.


PS. ‘The Darryl Cotton Band’ got me thinking…  If there were ever a ‘The Darryl Cotton Band’ tribute band, they could call themselves ‘The Darryl Cotton Experience’ (part of which would no doubt involve the audience googling the name ‘Darryl Cotton’ and all of which would involve playing cover versions of cover versions) and if that didn’t work out for them, they could maybe throw some Buddy Holly numbers into the mix and call themselves ‘The Cotton Bud Experience’. Maybe not.

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The other day, I rang my husband at work.

“Let’s pretend for a moment that one of my aims before I turned 40 was to get quoted in the Australian Women’s Weekly,” I said. “You know, instead of getting a book published or becoming a syndicated columnist for a major print and/or online publication…”

“Uh, ok-ay,” my husband said slowly.

“Well, guess what?!” I enthused. “I was quoted in this month’s Australian Women’s Weekly and I’m turning 40 next week! Yay, me!”

“Yay you!” my husband said. “That magazine has a circulation of about two million, you know.”

“Well then guess how many people have already searched for ‘Not Drowning, Mothering’ today probably as a direct result of that article?” I asked.

“How many?”

“Three!” I exclaimed. I think I might have punched the air as I said it.

“Quick, let’s monetize them before they read any more of your blog and and you lose them forever!” my husband replied, no doubt with dollar signs in his eyes.

I’m not sure if monetizing those three readers is going on my ‘bucket list’ for turning 40. And if you don’t know what a ‘bucket list’ you can either accept my definition of it as being a list of those things you hope to achieve before you drink champagne out of a bucket at your 40th birthday party or you can click here.

Somewhat predictably, my list is getting less and less ambitious the closer my fortieth birthday gets. Of course, quite a few have been ticked off  – e.g. convince someone to marry me, convince someone (preferably the same person) to have kids with me… But gone are all hopes of, say, a lucrative book deal, spending six months drinking wine in the south of France or even finding the perfect pair of red shoes to turn 40 in.

At the moment only three things on the list, with one week left to achieve them. They are:

1. AVOID GASTRO “LIKE THE PLAGUE”: Every time anyone mentions the word ‘gastro’ in my presence, I physically jump back a metre from them. One woman I saw at the shops, pointed at her son (who was wrestling with my Tiddles McGee at the time) and told me he’d been firing out both ends for nine days. Nine days. It was all I could do to pick Tiddles up, throw him over my shoulder and run from the building screaming. If I’m going to spend my fortieth dealing with vomit I want it to the be excessive-alcohol-induced variety. Just sayin’.

2. BE COLDSORE-FREE: Just two days ago, my top lip suddenly exploded into song, that song having something to do with the fact that the lip had herpes.

I rang my dear friend KT, a fellow HVP-1 sufferer, and she helped me do the maths.

“You have ten sleeps until your party,” she said. “You’ll be fine. Your coldsore couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Uh, my coldsore might have thought about coming after my party. Nobody wants to go to a party with the birthday girl looking like this:3. MOUSTACHE-BE-GONE: The volume of dark hairs on my upper lip has been causing strangers on the street some gender confusion lately. Getting rid of it is easier said than done, of course, because it’s currently sharing the same real estate as the cold sore and I’m afraid the anti-moustache lotion that I bought might anger the cold sore unnecessarily and cause it to stage some kind of hostile invasion of my entire mouth and then I won’t even have my moustache to help conceal it. It’s a bad situation.


Of course I realise that, now I’ve blogged about these things, I’ve totally jinxed myself. Which is why I’m now planning to wear a bucket on my head on my 40th birthday. Not only will it hid my coldsore and my moustache from the world, but it will come into its own when the gastro hits.

I may even decorate it with the pages from ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’ article I was quoted in, just to show people I’m not a total loser.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do so love it when a plan comes together…

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It’s fair to say that uttering the words ‘ORAL’ or ‘THRUSH’ in public is bad enough, but when paired together, they make for a very awkward conversation. Especially when talking and showing your tongue to a pharmacist in a crowded pharmacy.

But please don’t be alarmed. I don’t actually have oral thrush. At least, according to one doctor and three different pharmacists, I don’t. Apparently I don’t appear to have anything as there are no visible symptoms. But from where I’m standing, my tongue feels like it’s licked an electric hotplate and whenever I eat I feel like that metal-mouthed Isabel Lucas character in “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen” – but without the tan.

Of course this has all happened on the back of oral surgery and a cold sore and a week without alcohol, combined with the dairy-free diet my doctor placed me on to see if I’m late-in-life-lactose-intolerant. Part of me suspects my taste buds have just withered up and died of disappointment.

Anyway, in lieu of an actual diagnosis, I ended up trying to diagnose myself by way of google. Big mistake. Turns out the internet is littered with forums full of jolly people discussing their symptoms in minute detail with other people helpfully suggesting treatments with nary a trained medical professional in sight. These sites are obviously for the medical profession what Deadwood was for the law.

The diagnosis I ended up choosing from the veritable buffet of diagnoses on offer was that my ‘oral flora’ needed re-balancing. I mostly chose this because it gave me an excuse to shout “There’s a garden party in my mouth and you’re all invited!”, except that it’s really less of a “garden party” and more like a scene from Apocalypse Now where half the “garden” has been napalmed and Martin Sheen is smashing furniture.

According to my new online friends, the way to ‘redress the balance’ was to sprinkle acidophilus on your tongue. (Acid on your tongue? Surely that would make it worse!) I also (briefly) contemplated trying out the Candida Diet, which I had high hopes would involve playing food tricks on people in front of hidden cameras but ended up being one of those bleak diets where you’re not allowed to eat anything but leafy green vegetables and wheatgrass, which I have long suspected is just the scunge scraped from the bottom of a fish tank.

In the end, I followed my husband’s advice (often more dangerous than random online strangers) by swirling shots of whiskey around in my mouth to “kill the nasties”, also to make me drunk enough to forget that my tongue was giving me jip. But ultimately this treatment just added a slight headache to my raft of ailments.

Then to make matters worse, nine days into my lactose-free diet, I made a terrible discovery. In an incident soon to be known as ‘The People versus Paul’s Milk”,  I erroneously bought – and consumed – a carton of Physi-Cal rather than the lactose-free Zymil and now will have to embark upon my two weeks without butter again.

Mere words can not express my disappointment in life right now…

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I SAY: It all started when my friend The Mild-Mannered Lawyer handed me the gift of two bottles of wine at school pick-up time. It’s hard not to feel a little self-conscious standing in a school playground with a bottle of wine in each hand and at least half the school community looking on. So the minute Mr Justice turned up, I stashed them away into his school bag – which, of course, half the school community watched me do.  Not wanting that same half of the school community to then see make my seven-year-old son carry my wine, I hoicked his bag onto my back and stepped forward with great confidence straight into a slight dip in the pavement, causing me to stagger in a most unseemly fashion, my legs buckling underneath me and my arms swinging wildly.

THEY SAY: The NDM is drunk. Again.

I SAY: The next morning I had one of those school runs where I was still making my kids’ lunches twenty minutes before the bell was due to ring, standing in my bra and only my bra. Somehow, I managed to get the kids through the school gates on time (and yes, I managed to get dressed as well) but I paid the price back at home when my mouth – like some kind of self-inflating life jacket – exploded into a cold sore. And we all know how I feel about cold sores – not least because it means I really shouldn’t drink alcohol until it’s well past its “rapid expansion” phase. Stupid empire-building cold sore.

Later that afternoon I went to see my doctor about – how can I put this delicately? – the protracted case of the blurty bums I’d been having. The doctor’s response was to send me out for blood tests and to take me off dairy for two weeks. Yes, two weeks without butter. I think this was the point where the light in my eyes went completely out.

And so it came to pass that I found myself as a volunteer at a Bunnings sausage sizzle twenty four hours later. With a cold sore the size of the Roman Empire. And a dairy-free dullness to my eyes. And track marks and bruising on my arm from where the nurse had taken thirty litres of blood.

THEY SAY: The NDM is on the junk.

I SAY: It was then that my trousers started falling down. The particular trousers I had chosen that day are strange in that they start off behaving well, lulling me into a false sense of security. But then I think my weight – like so many beans in a bean bag – must redistribute itself and the trousers start to panic. Now, luckily from the front view, my trouser-failure was covered by my apron. But not from the back. And of course, the money tin and the soft drinks were behind me, resulting in many a sausage sale with me awkwardly trying to get the change without turning around, all the while spreading my legs out as wide was I possibly could to stop my trousers from falling the fuck off completely.

THEY SAY: The NDM is on the junk while she’s serving at the Bunnings Sausage Sizzle.

I SAY: At the end of the sausage sizzle, we were in the process of cleaning up when two guys asked us we had any soft drinks left. We did but they had already been packed into the back of The Suburban Diva’s car a few metres away, where I duly led the two gentlemen to make the transaction.

THEY SAY: The NDM is selling bootleg soft drinks from the back of a car in the Bunnings’ car park to fund her junk habit.

I SAY: Of course, as the two gentlemen walked away, I had to seriously re-adjust my trousers again and at that point I realised that A) I was still holding a fistful of latex gloves the sausage-cooks had been wearing that I’d been in the process of throwing away; and that B) from a distance, these latex gloves may or may not have resembled at least thirty used condoms.

THEY SAY: The NDM is turning tricks in the back of a car in the Bunnings’ car park to support her junk habit.

I SAY: It’s not as bad as it looks!

THEY SAY: Sure it isn’t.

I SAY: No, really! I just need some wine, a shit load of butter and a new pair of trousers!

THEY SAY: We really don’t need to know any more details.

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When I was originally diagnosed with osteo-blah-blah-blah, the doctor I saw gave me two suggestions: take glucosamine and do the dishes.

“You ladies are lucky,” he said. “Your therapy is part of your work.”

Like washing dishes was automatically a woman’s work! Shuh!

Admittedly, though, it is technically this woman’s work in this house. Yes, I am the Domestic Dish Pig. Sometimes, as I feel like I stand at that friggin’ sink all day, washing dish after cup after splade after saucepan, pausing only to fix another meal for my rabidly hungry children.

The problem about the dishes, of course, is that they cannot be ignored – unlike laundry, which can be left for a couple of days until someone runs of out underpants or I lose one of the neighbour’s kids under one of the huge piles.

Anyway, after my recent weekend in Sydney, I had the worst flare-up of my osteo-blah-blah-blah in my right hand. It was only after a few days of being back home that the terrible truth hit me: I had been in such pain because I hadn’t had to dip my hands in warm soapy water for over 72 hours.

It was like the thing that I hated the most was the thing that saved me. How ironic! Stick that in your stupid song, Alanis. Because it’s actually ironic, unlike “rain on your wedding day”, which is merely unfortunate, or “ten thousand spoons when you just need a knife”, which is some kind of crazy spoon-invasion situation. I say to Alanis, “The spoons are coming! Get out of that damn cab and run, run for your life!”

Anyway, I decided I should see a doctor about my flare-up but couldn’t get an appointment for a few days. (See how smoothly I got out of that spoon-invasion scenario just then?)

While I was waiting for my appointment, I quickly discovered that the best way to forget about arthritic pain was to get a cold sore – it gave me something else to focus on. And the quickest way to stop worrying about the cold sore was to start developing one of those kaleidoscope-vision migraines. And the most effective way to transcend a migraine was to have one of your kids throwing up All. Night. Long.

And then the best cure for the whole damn lot was to drink lots and lots of champagne in honour of Australia’s first female Prime Minister.

On the morning that Julia Gillard took charge of the nation, I came home from the school run to find a message from the Mild-Mannered Lawyer insisting that I drop everything and join her and our friend MGK to drink champagne.

I looked at the time. It was less than hour and a half to my doctor’s appointment. Could I honestly go and talk to my doctor about my ailments after chugging champagne and risk her lecturing me on the perils of drinking before noon?

So I did what any responsible person with a sense of occasion would do: I canceled my doctor’s appointment, forgot about my persistent headache and my cold sore, left the dishes undone and hot-footed it over to the MML’s house, where we drank champagne and watched events unfold on the television for many hours.

And that afternoon, when I picked the kids up from school, I looked into the eyes of my small red-headed daughter and told her “You can do whatever you want to do!” and really truly meant it. It would seem that the position description for a woman’s work just got a whole lot broader.

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Cold sores are Mother Nature’s way of kicking a girl when she’s already down. Here I am, run down, exhausted, having eaten nothing but tinned food that really hasn’t been classifiable as “fresh” for well over a year and I’m not exactly feeling or looking my best any which way you look at it. And then Mother Nature comes along and really gets the boot in by giving me a big fat cold sore.  

In some ways, getting a cold sore is like getting a new hobby. Suddenly I’ve got Things To Do. I’ve got to look in the mirror. A lot. I’ve got to buy and use lotions and vitamins. I’ve got to spend time googling which foods I’m supposed to eat and which ones I’m supposed to avoid (such as chocolate, coffee and champagne? Yeah, right. Like that’s ever going to happen). And then I’ve got to cancel all non-essential social contact with the world. And if I do have to interact with anyone, I’ve got to employ the standing-at-a-particular-angle strategy so as not to alarm anyone unnecessarily. It’s a complicated business. 

I talked with my friend KT, a fellow HSV-1 sufferer, about whether or not it’s best to blurt out “I’ve got a cold sore!!!” the moment I see someone rather than try to chat normally, all the time with the other person staring at it like it’s about to explode (likely) or even burst into song (unlikely). Her advice was to think up some funny line like “I ran into a door and got this cold sore!” to use at the outset and kind of disarm them. I like her approach: get everyone relaxed and laughing and thinking “Hey, this girl is really a bit of okay… even though she looks like a freak

And I really do look like a freak. I love it that the advertisers of Cold Sore Solutions think that, when I have a cold sore, I look a little like this:

If I place my finger casually to my lips and look a little glum...

If I place my finger casually to my lips and look a little glum...

Whereas I actually look a lot like this:



As I write this post, I’m currently at the worst stage of the cold sore: the Crusty Stage (having already gone through the “rapid expansion” phase, where it’s spread faster than Starbucks outlets through the Westfield empire and the “throbbing/sobbing/weeping” stage where the cold sore throbs, I sob and we both start to weep openly). The great thing about the crusty stage is that this is when the cold sore is actually on the mend (rather than on the rampage) but the downside is that this is when it looks its very worst. I want to wear a little sign saying “It is getting better, actually” except then people will be wondering “Why is [NDM] wearing a sign” and be rushing up to read it. Stupid people. Can’t they just leave me and my cold sore alone? 

There’s still more cold sore fun to be had for me: the itching, the cracking, the bleeding and then, if I’m really lucky, the red afterglow for weeks and weeks to come. Luckily my children and husband still love me, if from a slight distance. Actually the kids didn’t seem to notice it much at all until yesterday afternoon when Tiddles suddenly pointed at it and said “Ah-dun!”. Whatever that means. 

Oh, that’s just Mummy’s little “ouchie”, I explained. It will go away soon enough (actually not soon enough) but in the meantime, Mummy’s still pretty, isn’t she?

Tiddles shook his little head vehemently and said firmly “No way!”. Ouchie, indeed.

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