Feedback is not just for Hi-Fi Systems

Wanna tell me what you think? Email me at and I may just devote an entire entry to your comment.

Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Colour me Happy?

I have or shall I say, I HAD great black hair. I have the kind of hair that many women pay a lot of money for. This is not a shameless boasting. This is plain fact. This is not all it is cracked up to be. My hair is huge and takes a good 20 minutes to wash and condition. With a blow dryer I can have it dry in 20 minutes. Given the 40 minute production I really am the woman who stays home on a given night in order to wash her hair. In short it is like having a child.

Last week I did something truly new for me. This was not a pursuit for a blog topic but rather a near 40 year old woman’s time to cover her grey once and for all. My hair in homage to my mother’s side of the family had decided that “salt and pepper” is really the way to go.

This has been going on for easily the past 5 years. However, I always felt that a bottle of drug store hair dye was easily the economical and practical choice. When your hair is black- it is easy to repeatedly match things up between dye jobs.

This was until someone gave me a gift certificate to Suki’s hair salon and my new job (more on this later) necessitated a slightly less harsh hair colour.

Off I went to cash in my generous gift and transform my locks from raven to auburn?

I met my very first colourist. His name is Jeff (name changed out of creative license) and he really is lovely. Thirty plus years in the industry. He grabbed a fist full of my hair and immediately pronounce that I needed my store bought layers removed. This would according to my experienced new dye guru give my hair a sense of life that years of blackened pharmacy isles had tried to push away.

Let me preface this by saying that when it comes to beauty I AM A PARADOX. I have no hesitation dropping a mortgage payment on a handbag and a pair of fabulous French footwear. I will easily spend twenty plus dollars on mascara and when it comes to skin care products I seriously believe that the more expensive the product, the better. However, when it comes to hair and nails…. I am frugal to a fault.

I buy the cheapest black dye out of the logic that all shades of black are equal. I never have my nails done professionally because my lack of logic reasons that it is in fact a waste of money.

You see…. My purse can be amortized over 3 years. Hair grows and nails chip so the six or seven lattes I could buy for the price of one manicure is in my mind not worth the money. I understand that many people like the hand and scalp massages that come from a professionally trained manicurist or colourist, but I DON”T LIKE TO SIT STILL.

Seriously, my trip to the colourist involved an Ativan as well as a gift card. Four hours in a seat that does not have bike pedals attached to it requires me to be medicated. Enough said.
According to my research, permanent haircolour is the only way to dye dark hair into a lighter shade, and it must be done in two parts: First, the hair is lightened, then color is applied.

Colour is removed by wither bleaching or stripping with a colour remover. Then a permanent haircolour is applied to natural hair and diffuses the natural pigment molecules within the hairshaft, splitting them apart to make room for the artificial pigment (from the hair color) to attatch, forming a new color chain.

Earlier studies have linked permanent hair dyes to bladder cancer as well as to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

A research team out of Yale University analyzed hair dye use in 601 women with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and in 717 similar women without cancer.
The results showed an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in women who reported the use of hair coloring products before 1980. Women who used dark-coloured permanent hair-colouring products for more than 25 years doubled their risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The risk was nearly the same for women who used more than 200 applications of these products. No increased risk was seen in women who used semi-permanent dyes or temporary rinses.

The research team led by Dr. Zheng, found no increased non-Hodgkin's lymphoma risk in women who began coloring their hair after 1980. In 1979, the hair care industry drastically changed the formulation of most hair dyes to remove known cancer-causing agents.

Another population-based case-control study was conducted in Los Angeles, California, and published in the International Journal of Oncology in December 2000. It involved 1,514 incident cases of bladder cancer and an equal number of age-, sex- and ethnicity-matched controls. Information on personal use of hair dyes was obtained from 897 cases and their matched controls.

After adjustment for cigarette smoking, a major risk factor for bladder cancer, women who used permanent hair dyes at least once a month experienced a 2.1-fold risk of bladder cancer relative to non-users. Risk increased to 3.3 among regular (at least monthly) users of 15 or more years. Occupational exposure to hair dyes was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer in this study. Subjects who worked for 10 or more years as hairdressers or barbers experienced a 5-fold increase in risk compared to individuals not exposed.

And so I am now more worried for Jeff my lovely colourist than I am for me. I will undoubtedly return for a “touch-up” in 6 weeks so that my black and grey roots can once again match the perfection that Jeff has created.

But before I take my Ativan and hunker down for what a part of me will consider to be “a silly waste of money”, I’ll be sure to mention to “Jeffrey” to have his bladder checked once in a while?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Rose by Any Other...

Women united (and the odd man out) it has come to my attention that birth control pills always are named after "the good girl" in high school. There is Dianne and Alesse (could be pronounced Aleez) and even Yasmin. The names themselves imply an easiness and a care free nature. Dianne could as easily be the teenage girl who minds your children let alone the pill you take daily to prevent their existence.

Incidentally, let it be said that I am all for the choice of women for the fates of their own bodies. Politics aside this is not a statement on planned parenting. I am here to celebrate the new age of contraception.

The birth control pill turned 50 this past week and everyone needs a party.

When the Pill hit the market in 1960, 30 states had laws restricting the advertising and sale of contraceptives. Two states banned them outright. Those laws were rendered invalid for married women by a 1965 Supreme Court decision and the ruling was expanded in 1972 to cover all women. In Canada, the pill became legal and available in 1965.

The "push for the pill" did not come from the pharmaceutical industry but rather from a nurse and founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger.

In 1912, Sanger gave up nursing work to dedicate herself to the distribution of birth control information. The Comstock Act of 1873 was used to forbid distribution of birth control devices and information and in 1913, Margaret was indicted for "mailing obscenities". She fled to Europe, and the indictment was withdrawn. In 1914 she founded the National Birth Control League and in 1916 Sanger set up the first birth control clinic in the United States. She was arrested and charged on several occasions and even sent to a women's work house for her activism. That being said, Sanger led the charge which helped change the laws giving doctors the right to give birth control advice (and later, birth control devices) to patients.

I can't imagine a world where as a physician I could have been arrested for advising a women to use birth control.

At first I thought that naming a pill Dianne or Yasmin was ridiculous. Then it dawned on me like a big beautiful diaphragm coming over the horizon. A century ago it was illegal to advise a woman about the use of birth control. Fifty years ago the dawn of a new age emerged where women could decide independently if they wished to conceive or not. Forty years ago the Birth control became a drug that propelled a generation and a movement towards female empowerment and Independence.

And today we gave the drug a name just like any other chick we know. Last week I went to the washroom at a movie theatre and there was a massive poster of Yasmin on the floor of my cubicle. What would Ms. Maggie Sanger think about the ovarian grafitti come advertising beneath my feet?

I suspect she would pour herself a scotch (in my mind she drinks scotch) and praise the dawn on an intelligent new day.

As for me I will raise my martini glass in style in homage to those Margarets who came before me and who brought with them a woman's world where a 50 year old revolutionary pill has a history filled with pain and progress, transformation and reform. I no longer shake my head or cringe my nose at the notion that the birth control pill has just another girl's name.

In fact, stand tall my girlfriends. Clear your throats and sing along with me....

"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday Dianne (or Yasmin or Alesse).... Happy Birthday to you."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Human Race

It truly has been a whirlwind of a week with many a topic to discuss. A blog can inspire and inform. An opinion can influence and reflect. This week, permit me if I may to send a cyber "shout out" to a nameless man who stood on the sidewalk on Sunday morning at English Bay and watched 55,000 people run by him as he clapped his hands and cheered us on.

It was the Sun Run, Canada's largest community race and I was one of the many who was chasing a dream. It was somewhere around kilometre 6 that energy was fading and the inspiration I had at the starting line was a distant memory. As I rounded the turn out of Stanley Park and headed towards the Burrard Street Bridge I felt as though I was ready to sit down on the curb for a latte and a nap.

It was then that my eyes met a perfect strangers. He was adorable in a perfect "American Eagle" kind of way. He was too pretty for words and possessed 4% body fat. He did not run in the race. Instead he stood on the sidelines and cheered us on. The sun was out and it was a perfect Vancouver summer day. His hair shone in the morning light, his highlights (gleaming with the force of a thousand solar panels) were that perfect outdoorsy beautiful. HE WAS Mountain Equipment Co-op. And just when I thought this running health bullshit thing was killing me, he gave me a thumbs up and yelled,
"You in the black , you go girl!".

And that was all I needed. Yes, this was just a perfectly fit stranger cheering for the chubby chick in the race. Yes, this man could spot a stylish runner from a hundred metres. My outfit was fabulous and it was English Bay. This man knew a fabulous visionary when he saw one. Perhaps he was just picking someone out from the crowd and making my day. Perhaps I was dehydrated and likely had low blood sugar. But none of this mattered. I was a woman who needed a fan. I was a runner who needed a crowd. I wanted to "show off" and this was my moment to shine.

I may be built for comfort and not for speed but in that split second I was a goddess tastefully dressed in a black running outfit. The duckling was a swan. My feet grew wings and for the next 4 kilometres, I was a well dressed gazelle who was born to run.

I know not the identity of this nameless cheering man. I will likely never meet him and thank him for the seconds of significance he posed in my running life. Like many things in my life I am being far too dramatic about the role he played. But the moment made me think about the significance of a "fan base".

Do we do better in life with our own "cheering squad"? As a doctor I spend much of my work life motivating patients to embrace healthier lifestyles. For all intensive purposes I am their nameless stranger in English Bay, cheering them on as they run the road to healthy changes.

A German study published in the International Journal of Sports psychology examined a set of rugby teams' performances based on the reactions of the crowd. Sports performance and spectator behavior were recorded simultaneously with video cameras during four home games and then judged by raters. Spectator behavior (support vs. no support) was observed before and during each down (or play). Performance within each down was rated as positive or negative. After analyzing 631 downs the research team concluded that there was no indications that supportive spectator behavior such as cheering before a down had any influence on subsequent performance.

A further study done out of Sweden showed that when individuals are cheered for (instead of a team) the results are in fact the opposite. In fact when individuals were "singled out" and encouraged, they did better.

Teams of medical literature confirm the benefits of a good patient-physician relationship as playing a significant role in patient's well being and compliance.

Could Oprah be right? Do we all just want to know that we matter? Was the fact that I was singled out exactly what I needed to finish the race? Does the same apply to my patients?

Ultimately my interaction on Sunday was a seemingly insignificant event. It was a split second in my life. A flash of encouragement from an adorable stranger that was nothing like the daily support I receive from the people in my life who know me and love me.

I could have brushed it off as a passing moment. Instead, it made me want to be better, do more, run faster. Blame it on the sunny day or the perfect sky or the Abercrombe and Fitch catalogue good looks of a stranger.... but that moment was a metaphor for life.

Things move fast and time races by. Sometimes we want to sit down on the sidelines and have a latte and a nap. All it takes from time to time is a little encouragement. Once in a while the true moments that define us are the ones witnessed and supported by a perfect stranger.

Whether we're a patient in a doctor's office a worker bee or a wanna be athlete with a 10 kilometre personal best, don't we all just want to hear that perfect sentence once in a while,
"You in the black , you go girl!".

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And on the 99th day... she rested

I spent the good part of yesterday lying in bed watching downloaded television and drinking diet Pepsi out of the can. After 9 hours, a full series of Cougar Town and a six pack I removed myself from the bed to shower, change pajamas and return for a restful night’s sleep. This “lay like broccoli” experience happens perhaps once or twice a year. No I did not have the flu. I was not even a little feverish. There was no cold, no depression, no premenstrual syndrome looming. It was a perfectly good Monday and I was just fine.

Ever an active woman I am not prone to engaging in behaviour where the risk of bed sores is involved however, sometimes I can help but spend a good twenty four hours “resting up” in every sense of the word.

Isn’t it funny how we only confine ourselves to pajamas and hours of television and fizzy pop when we have the flu? Isn’t it sad that such a heavenly experience has to be had when we feel so physically bad that the sense of loveliness and laziness must be wasted on a fever, chills and rigours? Why did I have to have a viral illness before I could enjoy an entire reality television series from start to finish? Did I have to wait until I verging on pneumonia or be thoroughly depressed before I could spend $35 on a year’s supply of TV and liquid aspartame?

According to the Hartford Time Off Survey done on 91,730 Americans in the work force and published recently in April, 2010, 73% of America’s working force felt stressed.

Conducted in February 2010, the joint survey by The Hartford and ComPsych found younger Baby Boomers, ages 45 to 54, are carrying the largest burden of family care responsibilities, with more than half saying they've taken time off from work to due to their caregiving responsibilities.

More than 80 percent of Baby Boomers said they feel moderate to high levels of stress related to the care or support they are giving to children, spouses and/or parents. More than three-quarters of Baby Boomers reported taking up to 16 hours of paid vacation time to care for another person.

There is little evidence to date about the benefit of my kind of day off; the day where the rest of the world WILL JUST HAVE TO WAIT, DAMN IT, while I let my toenails dry and the dust of my life settles. But the evidence is mounting about how being EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE is killing us.

Maybe there is no balance. Maybe we’ll never decrease the work loads of our lives. But wouldn’t it be nice amidst any emotional shit storm to have one or two days of peace and quiet every few months? Just so we could “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” so to speak?

Our roles as women are getting more diverse and more demanding. We judge one another for being too busy, we judge one another for being too still. We judge one another for eating too much, too little, not enough. I submit that we have become the GOLDILOCK’s GENERATION. Everyhting is too small or too big, too fast or too slow. We are constantly in pursuit of that which is JUST RIGHT.

And so every once in a while, I get out of bed, shower, change and put on a fresh pair of pajamas. I stock up on diet Pepsi and catch up on bad TV. I take all my meals in bed and screen all my calls. I spend 24 hours hibernating (here’s to the 3 bears metaphor) until I can’t stand to sit still any longer.

It is then that I emerge from my little self indulgent cave and face the world again. As far as solution go…. It’s self indulgent, glutinous, antisocial and quite frankly…It’s pretty fabulous.