Tag Archives: Infectious Diseases

Cold Sores and Me, or, A Fun Problem To Have Is One That People Commonly Mistake For An STD.

Jana: If you’re an avid DWDSTDT reader (oh my god, ok, we see it too, that acronym is TERRIBLE. I’m gonna talk to our marketing intern about it, or in lieu of having a marketing intern I’m just gonna leave it – you guys don’t mind, right? We can talk about it if you do)… anyway, if you are, you may have read my previous post about my allergies. And you may have seen that my list of allergies contained some weird and not-super-explainable things, like chocolate and spicy foods. So, I will now disclose that those foods are to do with a problem entirely SEPARATE from my chronic congestion: my lips. Folks, I’m prone to cold sores. Who isn’t? Ok, some people, but not me.

Between junior year of high school and sophomore year of college, I got some seriously terrible cold sores that resulted in alienation and intense sadness. In high school, I just stayed home from my bakery job and tried to eat foods that I could fit into my mouth in one bite, so that I didn’t have to crack my lips open too much. When the sores struck in college, wiser and more tech-savvy,  I took to the internet. There, I read tips from fellow cold sore sufferers, such as “Go to the movies, so you’ll be distracted from the pain, but no one will be able to see you.” And, “Ice your lips to stop the tingling” (I did this religiously, often falling asleep with ice pressed to my lips and waking up in pools of melted ice). Anyway, I also read that you should avoid chocolate and spicy foods and nuts, and SO I HAVE. And will. Because cold sores are the worst, and it’s awkward when people think you have herpes, specifically if you are dating them, which I’ll get into in more detail some other time.

…. or NOW. Briefly.

First, I’ll show you this picture, in which I DON’T have cold sores. This is to spare you all, as one picture of me with cold sores does exist, and it’s straight disgusting. Here, though, I look as angry as I looked with the cold sores, but my lips are pursed in a way that would have been impossible in cold-sore condition. So, this is a photo of me on a good day, really.

I was once dating a very nice guy. Now, before my first date with this guy, one of my housemates was hanging out on my bed while I got ready. “Maybe you should put that valtrex away,” he said jokingly, referring to the pills that I took daily to stave off cold sore attacks (I kept the bottle next to my bed – I’m all about convenience). I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, regular viewer of television commercials for prescription drugs, that valtrex is commonly used to treat herpes. Now, looking back, I can see that my friend was not joking, but rather trying to protect me from future weird mix-ups. At the time, though, I just responded “I know right?”, and laughed. We moved on, he approved my outfit of black skinny jeans and a black top (I am NOT a risk-taker, fashion-wise), and I went on the date.

Cut to a few weeks later, when the romantic interest in question and I had been on several dates, and he had seen my room, and things had been going well until they sort of stopped going well and he stopped contacting me as much. I assumed the worst, which was that he’d realized he didn’t like me, weird but charming jokes and solid black outfits be damned.

But here’s the REAL story. After a week of light communication, I received an email on a Thursday night. I was so glad to hear from him! I opened the email and read the first few lines: “Jana: I like you, but something is bothering me and I need to talk to you about it. I saw your bottle of valtrex last week, and I know that you have herpes.”

OHH NOOOO. NOO. It’s just that.. I keep the pill bottles there cause I take them in the morning… I would have told you if I… NOOO. I wrote back and, luckily, we had a good laugh over it. Fake herpes scare! No better way to get to know someone. And no, I am not currently dating this person; we stopped dating shortly after the Valtrex/Email Incident. We both thought it was funny, but probably best to move on.

It’s now been a while since I’ve had a cold sore, but I can’t actually in good faith tell you that because I’m too suspicious. So I’m knocking on wood AS I WRITE THIS. I still take valtrex (and keep it in plain sight – one day I’ll own a medicine cabinet but not, honestly, until I win the lottery or an embarrassed spouse buys me one), and I don’t eat chocolate, and sometimes I ice my lips just for old times’ sake. Cold sores! And me. Together in sickness and in health.

Catherine: Oh, memories. I think that the day that Jana showed me the first fateful lines of the e-mail aforementioned was one of the greatest moments in my life. Jana, do you recall how long I laughed in your face? An approximate minute count? No? Nor I. Minutes turned into hours that day, so who knows how long I enjoyed your incredible misfortune.

I would like to mention how, often when Jana and I would get drunk alone in our apartment, the nights would freqently end in a good ol’ Jana ice-lipping. Another time she came to my house, and my brother saw what she was doing on our couch as we watched “Friends” and opened a second double bottle of white wine, and was so blown back that he too could not help but to laugh uncontrollably at her poor, cold-sored, can’t put lipstick on them lips. (Did you mention how you can ONLY put black chapstick on them? I greatly enjoy that as well.)

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