I have a new Tamoxifen side-effect to add to my long list: T-rage.
T-rage joins an unpleasant cast of characters that feature starring roles in my daily existence. These characters take turns on center stage and compete for screen time. They jostle and nudge each other in their attempts to take over for real.
Who are these characters? The cast list is long, so bear with me. I’ll save the newest, T-rage, for last. These characters are all sponsored by my frenemy Tamoxifen. It’s my frenemy because it’s alternatively saves my life while also making me miserable. That life it is busy saving is increasingly becoming one not worth living.
Anxiety: because once you’ve faced down cancer, you need heightened worry and fretting, right?
Bone pain: an ache so constant it only changes with the inexplicable flares that come along. Pain so acute I swear I can see my bones under my skin, because the pain illuminates them. I’d say I’m like a skeleton, except I’m not because of the extra weight that literally weighs me down, thanks to my frenemy Tamoxifen. If only I were a joyful, dancing skeleton.
Joint pain: while I don’t envision the joints beneath my skin the way I do my bones, they hurt. A lot. Most of the time. And I don’t even want to think about Tamoxifen’s contribution to my bad knee.
Hot flashes: because living in Houston–land of eternal summer and omnipresent humidity–isn’t enough to keep one drenched in sweat.
Sweat, sweat, and more sweat. Like the clown car at the circus, the sweat just keeps coming.
Dry skin: Why can’t all that sweat moisturize?
Brown spots on my face: I’m aging at a quick clip. Not pretty on a banana, not pretty on me.
Thinning hair: To go along with the dry skin and brown spots. Pretty. Real pretty.
Peach fuzz: there’s hair where I don’t want it while that on my head is withering. By then end of my proposed 10-year course of this damn drug, I’ll have a full beard and a bald head.
Mental fogginess: huh? What was I going to say?
Sleeplessness: because the previous characters don’t wreak enough havoc, now there’s no escaping them.
Fatigue. Crushing fatigue. As in, each of my limbs feels as if it weighs 50 pounds. As in, it’s a Herculean effort to get off the couch. As in, I’m not rested after a full night’s sleep. As in, this bites.
Irritability. Major irritability. Sometimes I can barely stand myself. It is ugly.
And, introducing irritability’s next-of-kin: T-rage.
You’re heard of ‘roid rage and road rage, and now T-rage. It’s similar to the other rages, in which something — in this case, Tamoxifen — causes a major-league reaction to a minor provocation. The sight of a Toyota Camry ahead of me in traffic (I hate Camrys). The guy conducting a shouting match on his cell phone in the middle of the grocery store (does anyone want to hear him squabbling with the unfortunate soul on the other end of that conversation?). The lady in the grocery store who leaves her cart in the middle of the aisle then gives me a go-to-hell look when I say “excuse me.” The asshat in the middle of the parking lot waiting for the person loading their groceries to pull out rather than picking another space. There are a hundred parking spots, but he’s gotta have that one. It’s a wonder I got out of the store without someone filing assault charges.
The T-rage sends me into certifiable-crazy mode in an instant. It’s not enough to just get around the Camry in traffic; I want to ram it. I’m not satisfied with shooting the cell-phone combatant a dirty look; I want to yank the phone out of his hand and shove it so far up an orifice he’d need it surgically removed. I’m not at all content to say “excuse me” to the inconsiderate grocery shopper in a shitty tone; I want to push her down and run over her repeatedly with her ill-placed cart. I don’t want to just shake my head at the fool holding up traffic in the parking lot while he waits for that close spot; I want to hurl my gallon of organic milk through his windshield.
Don’t even get me started on the moron in the mini van at middle-school pick-up yesterday who thinks the “No parking” sign doesn’t apply to her. No longer content to roll down my window and politely (or rudely) ask her not to park there, with T-rage, I want to do mean and horrible things to her.
I’ve got the T-rage. Real bad.
This. Is. Not. Good.
I know full good and well that I would not do well in prison. I’m much too fond of my own personal space, unlimited moisturizer, and fresh produce. Oh, and alcohol. Some inmates want a cake with a file or a shiv baked inside; I’d need my visitors to smuggle in booze.
Since prison is not a viable option, I need to get a grip on this T-rage. I need to figure out how to get through my day without murderous thoughts about the neighbors who can’t be bothered to pick up the crap-tastic freebie newspapers littering their driveways. The sight of so many neglected second-rate publications should not incite such violence. And yet, it does.
There are tips for dealing with road rage, and I’d suggest the best way to avoid ‘roid rage is to simply not take steroids. But I’ve not found any helpful tips on avoiding the T-rage. I’m gonna have to look for a 12-step program. Right after I punch someone.
Yesterday I wrote about the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and my friend M, who I met through this little blog, sent me this photo. It’s the new Freedom Tower, built on the site on which the former World Trade Center stood. M and her son visited New York City this summer and happened upon this beautiful convergence of the financial district skyline and the new building as the sun was setting. The result: a stunning light shining from the new tower.
Looking at the play of light suffuses me with warmth, and it calls to mind the visual my yoga teacher uses while instructing us to concentrate on our breath. She says to imagine our slow, long, belly-tightening exhale as a plume of breath exiting through a small hole in the top of our heads. A concentrated ridding of toxins and stale air. That’s what I think of when I see M’s photo: out with ruin, in with new life. Signs of life.
The Freedom Tower stands 1,776 feet tall and, according to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation,”serves as a beacon of freedom, and demonstrates the resolve of the United States, and the people of New York City.”
Surrounding the tower is the Reflecting Absence memorial, which pays tribute to the 2,986 men and women who died on that terrible day. I visited the memorial in February while on a girls’ trip with my bestie Yvonne, and I still haven’t found the words to describe the experience. It was a brutally cold, insanely windy day — I think the temperature was 27 degrees, which is this Texan’s version of hell — but the discomfort the weather provided seemed fitting as I began my trek toward the memorial. I walked from our Times Square hotel to Lower Manhattan, freezing my tail off the entire way. This idyllic shot of Central Park blanketed in snow looks tranquil, but within that tranquility were some mighty cold temps.
As I reached the Financial District, I noticed an increased police presence around the memorial — a sad reminder of the lasting effects of the terrorist attacks. Ditto the incredibly long process of getting through security to enter the memorial.
The memorial contains two giant pools of cascading water, each set where the Twin Towers used to be. The walls of water are the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States, and the deep, dark pit in their centers are an incredibly powerful symbol. The brochure from the memorial says that the pools are intended to be “a reminder of the Twin Towers and of the unprecedented loss of life from an attack on our soil.”
The names of those killed that day in New York City, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon are inscribed onto waist-level granite surrounding the pools. The six victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are included as well. Seeing all the names is powerful, especially upon the realization that the names stretch all the way around the massive pools. Seeing multiple references to unborn children is crushingly sad.
I wonder if the friends and families of those who perished gain some smidgen of comfort from seeing and touching the names. I wonder if those friends and families are at all buoyed by the fact that random people like me, who never knew their loved ones, are moved so deeply by seeing those names etched into the panels.
I also wonder why we need signs such as the one pictured below. Do people really have to be told not to scratch or sit on the panels containing the names?
And do people need to be told not to throw anything into the pools? Were I to see someone scratching, sitting or throwing things in this sacred place, I’d be sorely tempted to push them into one of the pools.
The Survivor Tree, pictured below, is yet another symbolic piece of the memorial. (Apologies to the unnamed tourists who ended up in my photos.)
According to the memorial’s blog, The Memo, this tree endured the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. A few weeks after the attack, the blackened, leafless tree was discovered in the rubble in the plaza of the World Trade Center. The ornamental pear tree was originally planted in the 1970s between buildings in the World Trade Center complex. Before September 11, the tree was tall and full. When it was uncovered after the attack, it was an 8-foot-tall stump with broken roots. “The tree is a testament to our ability to endure,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. After the attack, the tree was nursed back to health at a nursery in the Bronx, where caretaker Richie Cabo said “It looked like a wounded soldier. When I first saw it, I thought it was unlikely it would survive.”
By the spring of 2002, though, the tree showed signs of life, and Cabo knew the Survivor Tree would survive. “It represents all of us,” said Cabo. and the then-8-foot-tall stump with broken roots is now a 30-foot tall thing of beauty and is a popular site at the memorial.
Like most of us, the Survivor Tree has faced hard times and has seen better days. Uprooted and damaged, yet showing signs of life.
As I left the memorial on that frigid day in February, I took one last look at the Survivor Tree and smiled as I noticed the tightly-closed buds forming on the branches. While it was still too cold and too early in the year for those buds to open and unfurl their renewal, they were there. Showing signs of life.
Leaving the memorial, the wind whipped in between the Financial District’s buildings. The sun dipped out of sight, and the temperature seemed to drop even lower. My feet hurt from my cross-town walk, and my face ached from being the only part of my body exposed to the cold. But my heart was warmed by the Survivor Tree, and by this random tourist in her chicken hat.
September 11, 2001. A day that changed our lives. It’s been referred to as this generation’s Kennedy assassination — everyone remembers where they were when it happened. As the unbelievable images flooded the TV and the tragedy unfolded, our brains struggled to comprehend the horror of what was happening in Lower Manhattan.
Four planes hijacked and intentionally crashed into three buildings — both towers of the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. That third plane crashed into a remote area of Pennsylvania before it could reach its intended target.
I was pregnant with my favorite girl on this fateful day. My #1 son was a toddler in the throes of the terrible twos, and life was hectic. The day before the attack, I suffered what I thought was a terrible thing. I had my ultrasound to check the development and health of my unborn child. We wanted that child’s gender to be a surprise, as it was with my first pregnancy. So many things in this life of ours are structured and scheduled and planned to the hilt that the idea of hearing my OB-GYN say “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” very much appealed to me. My sweet mama, however, did not like that plan because it thwarted her shopping efforts for my unborn children. That motivated YaYa wanted to buy pink or blue, not gender-neutral colors. She disapproved, but I held firm, and we were indeed surprised and delighted to learn of that first baby’s gender at the moment he entered the world.
The men in my husband’s family like to close ranks, and produce lots and lots of boys. My hub is one of four boys, as is his dad and one uncle. There were 14 boys born in a row in that family. Girls seem to not be on the menu, and the hub’s family predicted yet another boy for the clan. When my #1 son entered the world in 1999, they likely smiled smugly at the interloper (me) who insisted there was a 50/50 chance either way. Boy or girl didn’t matter to me; either one would be great.
Fast forward a couple of years later and again I pursued my surprise. Despite the family history of lots of boys, I still didn’t want to know until that child’s birthday. At the ultrasound on September 10, 2001, we peered over my big belly to peek at the fuzzy image on the monitor. The baby on the screen appeared quite clearly and cooperated fully in our efforts to count fingers & toes while avoiding glimpses of the boy- or girl-parts. That baby cooperated fully, but did it with his/her right arm laid across his/her face, as if to convey the inconvenience he/she suffered as he/she afforded us a quick glimpse into that underwater world. Little did we know that this dramatic gesture in utero would prove to be a harbinger of things to come.
We laughed about the dramatic gesture but did not speculate as to the gender of the child-to-be who would act that way, even before being born. We were clear about not wanting to know. We reiterated our wish to be surprised. We said it multiple times in multiple ways. And still, the doctor slipped. My heart was broken.
I went to bed with a heavy heart and a perhaps misguided anger toward that blabby-mouthed doctor. I awoke to images on The Today Show that made no sense. My pity party was officially over.
A few months later, a baby girl was born.
The all-boy trend came to a screeching halt, and sugar & spice became the fragrance du jour. Trucks, dinosaurs, and baseballs were joined by fluffy stuffed toys, floral patterns, and giant hair bows.
Twelve years later, my #1 son and my favorite girl will discuss the al-Qaeda attacks in their social studies classes. A lot has changed in the 12 years since the terrorist attacks. My busy toddler is now a 9th grader, and that dramatic baby in my tummy is a 6th grader. Twelve years later, my little darlings are not all that little anymore, and before long they’ll be spreading their wings and setting off on their grown-up lives. The world is a different place now than it was before the terrorist attacks. More dangerous? Perhaps. Less secure? Certainly, at least in our minds.
We will never forget.