Age of Empathy
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Age of Empathy

On Tylenol and Turmeric

Also, how I wish I had some Icy Hot

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich via Pexels

Marketers know our weak spots. For me, it’s square in my lower back, between two surgery scars and just under the tattoo of a barbell with the Wonder Woman logo holding the plates. In fact, at my recent six month surgical follow up, the surgeon looked at the scars and said, “Oh yes, I recall that tattoo, it’s how we knew where to stitch you back up.”

“I hope there were other indications,” I said. He laughed.

When I saw the advertisement in an app for Icy Hot Pro, I immediately added it to my shopping list to investigate. I love Icy Hot. I always have. The smell alone has saved me from migraines that made me want to vomit. I love slathering it on sore muscles and feeling the burning tingles it generates for about 30 minutes. Even if it doesn’t really do anything than make me feel like I have done something.

What I imagine Icy Hot feels like. Photo by Kaique Rocha via Pexels

But Icy Hot Pro? As soon as I pushed a cart into Target I made a bee line for the first aid aisle where I almost always find it. That’s another marketing ploy — shelf space for topicals in first aid to give it a sense of real urgency.

There it was sitting next to the regular schlub stuff in its white boxes. This was in a bigger, jet black package with silver so that you knew it was serious. Best that I could tell is aside from the applicator method, the Pro was short for profit in that it was nearly double the cost of the schulb version.

I scooted my cart around to the next aisle filled with every version of pain reliever you can buy over the counter in the U.S. — most of which, I cannot take. Bellying up to the acetaminophen section, I scoured the half-emptied shelf looking for the Arthritis strength. That’s right, no longer am an extra-strength lackey, I get the bigger dose reserved for those with debilitating pain who have doctors that think a little extra Tylenol ought to do the trick.

And I do have some arthritis. It’s nothing to write home about. Arthritis isn’t why I’m looking for a bottle of 100 caplets that don’t also solve my insomnia or any other ailment. One drug per pain, please.

Finally scoring what turned out to be the last bottle of generic available, I hopped one more aisle over to hopes and dreams — also known as vitamins and supplements. Every so often I toy with the idea of a multivitamin, and then I laugh and laugh.

Menopause is kicking my ass.

Photo by cottonbro via Pexels

And, frankly, there is enough going on in that region. The hot flashes had taken a winter break, but when it is August on the U.S. East Coast, by all means let’s bring back the inferno inside my body. If that could also happen while I need a heating pad on my back, then it will. Since I am not a candidate for hormone therapy, Instagram algorithms feeling the sweat roll down my back, have offered up several other options for me to consider.

I shall be clear, as a descendant of witches, I’m not opposed to some good old fashioned herbal potions. What I fail to understand is why, why, why all the menopause relief options are on the bottom shelf. Stooping over to see the singular box of the singular option left at Target, I literally said aloud — time to check Whole Foods.

Now you know how serious I was.

The difference between the stores was that Whole Foods crammed three options on the bottom shelf under 12 shelves of prenatal vitamins and supplements. No joke. You can’t do this to menopausal women. Ever.

None of these options seemed like the miracle cure, though I did like the inclusion of turmeric in one. Completely unsatisfied with the selections, and remembering that long line of witches, I set out to make my own way among the “alternative medicine” aisle. Black cohosh — check! Turmeric — check! I decided to stop there, mainly because the other ingredients I needed were not available on the well stocked shelves.

About that back surgery.

Hardware in my back. Photo by technician. Property of author.

The x-rays always show this nice little cage around my spine with screws that look scary long along the sides. Quite literally holding the spine in place and keeping the nerves less angry than before. And by being less angry, I describe my pain as 98 percent better than it was before surgery. This is, by all accounts, considered a terrific result. That’s the average. There are days where the pain can be really bad.

Maybe, just maybe I overdid something in the garden one day. I swear I can feel the screws keeping my spine from spilling over into my uterus and causing what I envision as a domino effect up my back.

And maybe one of those days was today. Spent alternating a heating pad and hot flashes. Timing my doses of Tylenol and turmeric. Making a morning smoothie with all the magical potions and powders I could think of except the black cohosh — because I read in randomized tests it lead to weight gain, and menopause puts weight on like a freight train. I had deep, meaningful fantasies about the Icy Hot Pro I didn’t buy.



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Nikki Barr

Nikki Barr


Normal human in an extraordinaire world. Memoir / Humor / Just Life