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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s that time of year my cyber sister…. The holiest of holy.

Yes, You know what I am talking about…. Boxing Day.

Some have Christmas or Yom Kippur or Ramadan or Oscar Night…. I love the days between December 26th and January 7 which in the ever reliable world of excess have become the BOXING WEEK.

I love that in the world of shopping, a weeks is really more like 17 days.

Now let us be clear.  I never shop on Boxing Day itself. I’m a tough broad. Hell I can handle a mountain climb and a good triathlon. I can battle a good shoe sale like any other woman of distinction. But to shop in the stores on the 26th itself is just asking for trouble.

Why just this year I got a jump-start on my oh holy night festivities. Indeed my Boxing Day shopping is done and might I say that my Comme de Garcons dress looks pretty fabulous…. Never mind its 80% off price tag.

But should you venture out on this day of days or even in the next few, please my girlfriends obey the rules of the road….

Rule number 1: Wardrobe.
Ladies, Yoga pants or some sort or leggings are a must. I am talking about a base layer that can easily accommodate an entire outfit being worn/tried on over it should the line to the fitting rooms be completely unacceptable.

Should you wait for 2 1/2 hours to try on that Prada suit now discounted at $225? I don’t think so my sister. Instead get your fabulous ass to a quit corner in the store and put the whole suit on over your legging and t-shirt.

Here, you use your imagination to adjust for what the fit would feel like without the “base-layer” beneath.

Now- you’ve used your used your spacial relations and time managed with the best of them.

Rule Number 2: Fluids

The key here is to bring a coffee that is big enough to provide the needed energy and enjoyment for a day of shopping endurance but not too big to have you draining your bladder periodically throughout the day.

A full bladder can be the difference between a pair of Christian Louboutin Prive peep-toe pumps for 80% off or the need for a bathroom break.

Chose wisely my young Jedi- a happy bladder or jubilant feet.

Hint- no one cares if you piss on the floor as long as the shoes you are standing in have red soles.

Rule Number 3: Music

I love to shop with my I-pod. I listen to books on tape or a great mix. I find the music or the story take me away and allow me to shift my focus to the clothes at hand and not the greed in the store.

Rule number 4: Attitude is Everything.

Ladies, Boxing Week is not for the faint at heart. There is no sisterhood. This is not the place to make lasting friendships or find a playgroup for your Mommy and Me class. The store on Boxing Week is an endurance challenge. Keep your head down, smile, be polite put really…. Expect service personnel to treat you like shit and fellow shopper to be greedy and nasty.

Maybe you will be surprised. Maybe a lovely fellow retail sista will let you have the cashmere she was eyeing that looks way better on you. However as in medicine- hope for the best but expect the worst.

This way when someone shoves you down in a Holt Renfrew accessories department you are not disappointed or even surprised- you are merely able to get up, align your chakras and love on to buy the Lanvin crystal safety pin that you have been having an affair with since you saw it walk down the Fall runway in Paris.

I know it sounds brutal… but I love it. I love it all. I love the physical emotional and retail thrill of a good Boxing week blow out. I love the waiting that went on for my perfect dress all season only to find it 70% off and in my size waiting to come home with me like a puppy in a window.

I love it when I can suspend belief for just a few hours and wonder what suit, what dress hell what handbag will be marked down so low that they are practically paying me to buy the damn thing.

Turns out, there is science to back up my retail euphoria….

In a paper published in 2007, researchers at the UK's Brunel University noted that shopping is associated with increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that has been linked to pleasure and positive thinking. In fact, levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter released during pleasurable experiences including sex, can rise sharply even when you're merely window shopping.

In another study, published in the journal Neuron, researchers at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Stanford strapped volunteers to an MRI machine and showed them photos of products. When shoppers saw something they wanted to buy, a flood of dopamine to the nucleus accumbens--the brain's reward center--lit up their MRI images like a dashboard.

And it's not only about pleasure. Shopping may also help women maintain their mental acuity in old age, says Guy McKhann, M.D., a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University and a co-author of Keep Your Brain Young. "People who are doing really well as they get older tend to be mentally engaged, physically active, and socially involved," he says. "And women are all of those things when they shop."

Who new my shopping would help me train for my mature years.
Studies show that picturing several different outfits engages the brain and the prefrontal cortex, which are all important activities as we age….

So the key to eternal youth and happiness really can be found in my closet…
Forget the big holidays and bring on the Boxing Week…. My health, my well being and hell, the science of my longevity depend on it.

And who says you can buy happiness.  Well the obviously haven’t found Manolos at half price…

Now get out there ladies… and make me proud. As one fashion season closes and another opens never forget the ultimate message my sisters… GOOD CLOTHES OPEN ALL DOORS…

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A gift that keeps giving

Here you are my sisters- like good little girlfriends on Christmas morning running down staircases across this great planet to open your laptops/desktops/iPads/whatever to peruse the internet over your breakfast and belinis. And here I am in the spirit of giving on call in a hospital in the Interior of British Columbia. Sit back, enjoy your morning coffee and your eggnog or whatever and let’s have our usual weekly chat, shall we?

Firstly, did you unwrap your presents? Did you get anything good? Was there  a lump of coal in your stocking or a Bergdorf gift card?  

Yes I know my girlfriends- you all want the spirituality of this Christmas day to penetrate beyond the gifts given and received but really?

Let’s talk turkey (no pun intended)…. This holiday does have a certain present oriented theme, no? Make no mistake my sisters- I am NOT knocking a holiday where you get some serious presents from others and then sit around, drink champagne and eat in the name of God.

That is most definitely my kind of religious celebration. Yay his holiness, I say.

Yes, I know what some of you may be thinking- it’s not like that- it’s about family and friends and NOT the presents. It’s the thought that counts.

Is it really the thought that counts?

I think not.

Firstly if it was really the thought that counts- just give me a card… with your thought on it. Don’t bother with a gift. When you give a gift- it’s the gift that counts.

There I said it. Yes, I’m a shallow cow- but hey you were all thinking it.

And so in the spirit of gift giving I am going to re-gift one of my all time favourite blogs…. Yes I know its lazy- but hey it’s the holidays… cut a sister some slack….

Here goes:

A little girl sat down next to me on a plane last week. She was 16 months old, I later learned from her naturally proud mother (who incidentally told me later- she thought her daughter was a genius). She was pretty cute as far a little kids go. She had the requisite round face and shiny blue eyes that have not seen too much to know better. She was smiling her two-toothed grin.

As far as the outfit goes- she had on a corduroy jumpsuit with a flower cardigan and rather flashy (for a 16 month old) plastic necklace. By all estimations most people would have been cooing at this kid. In fact some heads even turned around me to inspect and admire the “little darling”.

Her name, I later learned was “Claire” and her mother affectionately called her “Claire-Bear”.  I smiled at Claire and tried to ask all the “right” questions;

How old is she?
What is her name?
Is this your only child?

You know…. The standard operating conversation when faced with a solitary mother on a plane whose child will be seated next to you in a confined tin can of a space for the next few hours….

Make no mistake- Claire was a cutey. But in that lies one flaw- I don’t like kids. I know, my girlfriends, there you sit shocked and in horror. “How can she not LIKE kids?” you think. “Who doesn’t like kids?” you ask.

Well, it’s me. Me and the old lady in Hansel and Gretel. We both don’t like kids. If some eight year old comes by my gingerbread house hungry and decides to take a bite out of my back porch, make no mistake- I am locking them in the cellar without hesitation.

It’s a shame really. I suppose it is a true character flaw. I wanted to LIKE little Claire-Bear with her sweet little flower cardigan and pediatric bling. I even paused for a moment to “check my insides”. Maybe there was a shred of sentimentality that was dormant and would now spring forth in the presence of this little cherub from Yellowknife.

Nope. Nothing. All I could think of was “Why is it people still count their kids ages in months? What’s with the 16 months? When does that shit end? When she’s just over five years old will it be 64 months or five and a bit?”

It’s official. I do not have the maternal instinct. Make no mistake- I think I am a great caregiver. But I would make a crappy mother. Not only do I not have the desire (which is pretty  EVERYTHING) but also I am wayyyyy to selfish for the job.

I wonder how many women like me ponder the very existence of their “Motherhood Principle”

A study done in Japan in 2008 looked for physiological evidence of the maternal instinct. Tokyo researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (M.R.I.) to study the brain patterns of 13 mothers, each of whom had an infant about 16 months old.

First, the scientists videotaped the babies smiling at their mothers during playtime. Then the women left the room, and the infants were videotaped crying and reaching for their mothers to come back. All of the babies were dressed in the same blue shirt for the video shoot.

M.R.I. scans were taken as each mother watched videos of the babies, including her own, with the sound off. When a woman saw images of her own child smiling or upset, her brain patterns were markedly different than when she watched the other children. There was a particularly pronounced change in brain activity when a mother was shown images of her child in distress.

The scans suggest that particular circuits in the brain are activated when a mother distinguishes the smiles and cries of her own baby from those of other infants. The fact that a woman responds more strongly to a child’s crying than to smiling seems “to be biologically meaningful in terms of adaptation to specific demands associated with successful infant care,” the study authors noted.

This obvious problem with this study was that it did not look at MRI’s of women who did not have children to see if there was a significant difference between them and the “parental controls”.

But I could not help but wonder if my brain was in fact wired differently? I mean aside from my obvious quirks and eccentricities (yes, I realize I am a bit special that way) was my brain hard wired against a motherhood principle?

This issue became all too evident when after boarding the entire plan, the flight attendant informed me that the isle behind me was free and should I like to move from my window seat I could in fact have an entire row to myself.

“She’s really good on planes”, Claire’s mother reassured me, “But I understand if you want to move. “

A hush fell over the plane. Everyone looked my way. Was I going to make a mother who had spent the last 10 minutes getting settled get up out of her seat with child in hand and move aside so that I could vacate?

Damn right I was. It was a free isle for God’s sake- one without a child in it…. Farewell, Claire-Bear. It was lovely to make your acquaintance but I am one of the childfree in this country. As such, I am entitled to die alone and fly in peace. I blame my brain…. My brain made me do it. Amen. 

Merry and happy my sisters….and as for the year ahead? Long may we reign….

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh Come all Yee Faithful

Oh my sisters…. Here I sit trying to compose for you the ultimate witty banter to enrich the week and help me keep up my end of the bargain. We’ve been together a while, my sisters and I like to take this time to look back on the years gone by. 

Forgive me my girlfriends if I deviate a bit from the science this week and just ponder on the past....

Is that not what this holiday season brings? A time for reflection? A time for gratitude? A time to look through your closet and ponder what possessed you to think those purple Capri pants would look good on you?

The holidays are always an interesting time. There are those who stress over the search for perfection-
-The perfect gift for so-and-so
-The perfect turkey dinner
-The perfect date for New Year’s
-The perfect sale price on that Mary Katrantzou cape that I have been lusting after since August….

Then there are those of us who just resign ourselves to the madness and try and put our heads downs and make it through….
-Dinner with relatives who insist on judging us for our life choices
-Work parties with paper cups that leave us feeling as empty as the buffet table
-A credit card bill that demands we sell a kidney in order to meet its needs.

I wonder if we might take a moment between the hunt and the hurt to just pause and smile at our good fortunes. Can we turn this time of year around and just laugh it all off as a time we spend with the people we love in the hopes of having more time to spend with the people we love?

When I was a kid Christmas was a time to envy other kids. You see we did not celebrate Christmas. (for once I can Identify with Michael Jackson). I remember watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special with a sense of longing. Why couldn’t we have the whole presents under the tree thing? The whole thing was just so pretty… so festive. There I was dreaming of a white Christmas with a longing the likes of which I only feel when I’m watching Paris Fashion week.

I remember one December when I was about five or six years old. My father took me to the mall. We lived in Winnipeg and it was winter in 1977. If you wanted to go for a walk you went to a mall. There was no global warming. It was minus 80 degreees. You walked outside and your face fell off. Besides…. they had a Laura Secord candy store and they gave out free samples.

I would prance around in my 17 layers of winter gear (we lived on the praires afterall) sheltered from the minus 40 windchill as I shed one layer after another between stores trying desperately not to lose my latest pair of mittens.

We walked from store to store- my father and me looking for whatever. I would try not to sweat to death in long underwear and he would try not to lose me amidst the pre-Christmas shopping madness.

And that’s when I saw him…. The man in the red suit.
There in the mall he sat all shiny and new with a bunch of elves and a castle. You sat on his lap and asked for shit and it was delivered to you a few weeks later. Santa was my first glimpse of what online shopping would be like many years later….. And he gave out candy.

Shit. This dude was good.

“Dad”, I asked wiping the sweat from my face and removing another turtleneck, “Can we get a Christmas tree? Can I make a list and you give me some presents on Christmas?”

“Sorry Alphonse. We don’t celebrate Christmas.”

You see, I’m Jewish. Jews don’t celebrate Christmas. At least most of us don’t. Some of us put up a tree and call it a Channukah bush and give presents for 8 days but really? In my opinion that’s like buying a knock-off Chanel and saying its real.

I should say. My Dad was really good guy.

He sat me down in the mall and we had a talk about how we were of a different religion and Christmas was off the menu. It wasn’t a bad thing- it was just very matter-of-fact. He did not try to make me feel better- like I was missing out on something and he had to make up for it- he was plain and simple- unapologetic.

I tried to get it…. Really I did. My Dad was very kind and tried to let me down easy. It’s not like he pulled me aside and said plainly, “we’re Jewish kid…. Get over it”. But he also did not try to patronize me into thinking that our Channukah would just be enough for me….

You see Channukah really can’t compete. One little menorah and 8 candles can not in any way shape or form compare to the two month long holiday of chocolate covered red and green- let’s light up the joint and set it to music- that is Christmas. Not a hope in hell.

And that is okay. At least now it is. Now that I only have to buy Christmas gifts for a select few and now that as a Jewish doctor I am the hottest commodity in town around the holidays. (You see- my colleagues all want someone to work for them and ever so gracious when I give up my Chinese Food Dinner/Movie night to do so)

And it it was never so bad growing up without the whole Christmas thing- In fact now as I’m older and wiser I understand really don’t know what I was missing…. Partly because I really don’t know what I was missing.

But there was a sense of loss back there in that mall in ’77 when my Dad let me sit on Santa’s lap anyways and I wished for gifts I knew would never come….

Last year I bought myself my first Christmas present. I was, afterall a grown woman…. I figured it had been 41 years and I had gone without for too long. I have a complicated relationship with religion at the best of times and I knew that this gesture was an empty one at best…. But I did it ayways.

I bought myself a fabulous John Hardy necklace wrapped it up and everything. I was working in the ICU in Lethbridge at the time and I put the present under the bedside table in my hotel room before I went to bed on Christmas eve. That morning like eight year olds everywhere I awoke to the wonder of a wrapped present. I unwrapped the necklace, put it on (it was perfect) and went into work.

And life went on….

So here we are another year down. It more than 35 years since my Dad broke it to me gently that Santa was not mine to have or to hold and that sure- I could always wish big for a present- but only on my birthday.

I’ve spent the last twenty something Christmases in a hospital somewhere ringing in the day as if it was any other.

Do I really feel like I am missing out you ask? Do I long for a Channukah bush of my own? Don’t pitty me my sisters…. This girlfriend grew up just fine. Afterall…. I have my own memories to keep me warm. And if ever I feel like  I need a pick me up…. The Room has my Katrantzou cape on sale…. Happy holidays to me

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Step by Step

Aloha my girlfriends. That, for those of you who are not familiar with the Don Ho phenomenon is hello (and Goodbye) in Hawaiian. As I write this week’s post I am sitting pretty poolside in Honolulu.

Nothing quite does a body good as a little weekend jet-set getaway to the Islands. That is unless you are here to run a marathon. As my cybersisters will recall tropical storm Sandy ripped through my NYC 26.2 mile dreams. There I was perfectly trained for a marathon but apart from my day spent at Bergdorf Goodman, I left New York feeling unfulfilled in a sporting way. If only my American Express could have said the same.

And so my sisters I spent the last month searching for another marathon that would meet my needs. After a few clicks on the interweb, Mahalo to the goddess and there came the perfect weekend for my beloved and I to race for glory at the 40th annual Honolulu marathon.

Off we went in search of sun and running satisfaction from a Friday to a Monday. Yes, my sisters- we should have stayed longer but I am afterall a work-a-holic and the idea of a week on a beach- may appeal to some. For me- a week on a beach just means that I have to spend more time washing the sand out of my hair. Yes, I am aware, I have issues…. Feel free to discuss them amongst yourselves.

But this past Sunday well before dawn, I set out to work on my predicament through the thrill of sport. Allow me if I may to take you through the process….

3:30 am-  after 8 hours of blissful sleep that was preceded by a day I will affectionately call “eat anything I want- I am running a marathon tomorrow”- I woke, washed my face, did my business and promptly realized that nothing says challenge like running a marathon an hour after you begin your menstrual cycle.

One Aleve tablet and a  half litre of water later and I was dressed in a fabulous pair of running tights, a perfect royal blue tank top that really was my colour and my coolest running shades. If you are going to be “out there” for 42.2 km one really must look one’s best, no?

Fast forward to the start line and I placed my earphones firmly in my ears and began to listen to my newly created playlist entitled “HonoluluMarathon2012”. I should say that this playlist was previously called “NYCMarahton2012” but given the circumstances, I felt that a name change was in order. That and I added three new songs by Phillip Phillips and the Plain White T’s.

Twenty minutes later I was raring to go. As the starting gun sounded, fireworks lit up the night sky. It was 5 am Hawaii time and we were going to make history.

My first 3 miles were spent listening to Bob Dylan and looking for a place to pee. I had easily drank a litre of water for fear of dehydrating and had clearly overshot the whole hydration curve.

After a quick pit stop at a Jack-in-the-Box a lovely police officer named Rick let me cut in front of him in men’s line at the washroom and order was restored. Mahalo to officer Rick if he indeed stumbles upon this post.

The ensuing three miles were spent in a false sense of security. I had songs like Alicia Keys, “Superwoman” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Shine” lulling me into a girl power serenity. As the first 6 miles (10km) lay behind me it was indeed still dark in Honolulu but my heart was filled with light.  I was running a marathon and I was feeling great. My bladder was empty but my soul was full.

And then somewhere around mile 9 the sun rose on this great city and well…. My dream? My dream it went to shit. Here’s how it went down….

Mile 9- The sun rises and 2000 Japanese tourists stop to take a photo. This is not an exaggeration. Half of the 33,000 runners in this race are from Japan. 75% of them are faster than me.

Note to self- ever want to test how good you feel about your body? Run a race with 16,000 Japanese runners. No one is bigger than a size 2. When you are a size 8 among them- you are a giant.

Ironically Natasha Beddingfield’s “Weightless” streams through my earphones. Thanks Natasha- I needed that.

Mile 10- The leader number 6 passes us on the return for the “Out and Back” course. He is at mile 25. We all cheer for him as he runs by. The time is 2 hours. I recognize him as Wilson Kipsang the man who won Bronze in London. Yah, he’s a rockstar. I am now the slowest person alive.

I stop to pee. I am pleased that my fluid status suggest I am not going to die of dehydration. I wait in line for about 10 minutes only to find the Porta-potty does not have toilet paper. Little do I realize that this moment is a foreshadow of the next 3 hours. My low point is just beginning.

Mile 11- I know realize that I have not been listening to my body for the last 2.5 hours. I just thought I was feeling great. Turns out I was mislead. My lower back begins to ache. Just below my kidneys. No, it is not my kidneys. I should say I hate pain. I know some woman think it’s a right of passage… the whole child birth thing….

I have never had a child. If I had wanted one- I would have had it surgically removed… with lots of drugs on board. Being in touch with the pain- it’s not my thing. I have enough trouble listening to the voice in my head- let alone the rest of me. My ass hurts too but that is  another story. It dawns on me that Kipsang Has likely showered and changed by now. I smell of urine.

Mile 12- A man dressed in a full on swan costume runs past me. He looks like Bjork at the Oscars. I realize I have no Bjork in my playlist. Was never a fan. Maybe I am not deep enough.  Sinead O’Connor’s “Old Lady” plays in my ears. Perhaps I indeed have depth. I wonder if her head is still shaved?

Mile 13- A lovely young kid (maybe all of 15) hands me a glass of water. She smiles and tells me I am half way there.  I have another 3 hours of hell ahead of me. David Guertta’s “Titanium” begins to play on my marathon mix and I realize that my Ileotibial Bands are slowly turning to concrete.

Miles 14-16 – Brandon Flowers, Coldplay even U2 could not get me out of the 45 minutes of self doubt that ensued. I contemplated taking a cab. I thought of Rosie Ruiz the woman who in 1980 took a Subway to the finish line of the NYC marathon. Could I be Honolulu’s Rosie? Why had I been so hard on the bitch when I had watched the story in a Marathon Documentary?

Mile 17- There are bags of ice at each water station. I am putting fistfuls in my bra at each stop. I proceed to run while pulling ice cubes from my bra to chew on them. I am amazed that chewing ice does not bother my teeth. Normally I can not chew ice. The sound is like nails on a chalk board to me. 17 miles into a marathon I can easily chew ice from my bra without a care in the world.  It is 27 degrees celcius and 75% humidity. There is no chalk board for miles.

Mile 18- The Killers “Flesh and Bone” plays on my mix… My left butt cheek feels like someone has stabbed me with an ice pick. I continue to chew ice from my bra in protest, elated with my new skill.

Mile 19- I hit a new low point as I realize I have 7miles to go. This is 12 more kilometers. I would like a nap and peanut butter sandwich. Instead a woman holding a sign that say “You are Hot” hands me a coffee crisp. I am elated at the kindness of others. A brief flash of vanity comes over me… Do I really look hot? Must remember to eat all ice from my bra before the finish line photos…

Mile 20-“We are Young” by Fun chimes into my ears and I ponder my own mortality. The average age of most marathoners is mid 30’s. I am nearing 42. That and right now I feel like I need a hip replacement and a walker. I briefly mourn my youth and help myself to electrolyte enriched Jelly Beans.

Mile 21- A lady is sitting on her lawn with a Tibetan Spaniel. Her dog is wearing a Hawaiian shirt. She is holding a sign that says, “Go Joe!!!” I want to be Joe for just a minute. Not because of the sign or the encouragement. But because that is one seriously cute dog.  And although I can not condone putting a dog in a Hawaiian shirt under any circumstances, I would still name the dog Flossy.

Mile 22- “The Smile Has left your Eyes” is next on my playlist. No Shit.

Mile 23- I realize that unless I hitch a ride on the back of a motorcycle- I will not be making my targeted finish time. I have 12 minutes of self pity. I realize that rhe beauty of running is that one only competes against oneself. The Pogues play on my playlist. Very appropriate pity music. I should be in a pub in Ireland right now and not baking in Oahu. I suck ice from my bra in silence.

Mile 24- Screw it. I am running a marathon. I have the pain to prove it. Noone will care about my time. Well, my running friends will- but who needs running friends? I prefer to run alone anyway. When I tell non-runners that I ran a marathon they always ask- “How far is that?” not “What was your time?”. Besides… according to some random stranger 5 miles ago- I looked Hot. Fuck it…. Let’s finish this bad boy.

Mile 25- There is a hill. Who the hell put this here? 25 miles down and someone decides this is where the hill should be? I am going to need to speak to someone. Triumph is singing “Magic Power”. I have healthy rage, 1.2 miles to go and 1980’s rock music to cheer me on. Between that and a bra full of ice- I am unstoppable. My left nipple in frozen.

Mile 26- I can see the finish line. I do what I always do at every race when I am close to the line. I take my earphones out and listen to the crowd. I am emotional and I begin to cry. Perhaps it’s that time of the month, perhaps it is that I just ran a marathon. Likely it is because I just ran a marathon at that time of the month.

A woman runs by me dressed like Minnie Mouse. No way is Minnie crossing the line before me. I don’t care if she ran a marathon in costume. Bitch is going down. Ever not a Disney fan- I “put the Hammer down” as they say and speed past her across the finish line.

My heart pounds, my legs have nothing left. I have left it all out on the course and ran quite possibly my worst race yet. But a bad marathon is like pizza baby- even when it’s bad… it’s still pizza.

A marathon is a marathon and even a bad one is one for the books. Everyone gets a medal and unless you are first- there is no prize money. We are all 31,999 of us going home with just a medal and some Robaxacet.

A Study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January of 2012 shows that running marathons- as attractive as I have made them sound- will indeed not kill you. 

The study showed that 42 people died during marathons and half marathons in the USA between 2000 and 2010. This was out of a total of 10.9 million runners. 59 runners suffered cardiac arrests during this time and 42 of them died as a result. This works out to one death for every 259,000 runners. That is half the death rate from cardiac arrest in the general population. 

Incidentally the death rate among triathletes is one per every 52,620 participants. 

This is good for me to focus on given that I have signed up for a Half Iron Man Triathlon this summer. 

Clearly, my playlist and my time in Hawaii taught me nothing. 

For just like a woman who gives birth forgets the pain the moment she looks into her baby's eyes.....

I spent the afternoon after the race at Prada safe in the knowledge that this marathon thing would not kill me. And suddenly the pain magically vanished as I found the perfect outfit to go with my new medal. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fight the Good Fight

Heads up girlfriends, I realize among my strengths, I make a good argument. This is not about anything in particular, it is merely an observation of my character, which is to say, that when it comes to confrontation, I am as comfortable in conflict as I am in any Saks Fifth Avenue in the world.

My beloved, however has taken years to rise to the task. When we first met, he faced any dispute with eyes drawn to the ground for fear of opening his mouth lest I shove my proverbial fist in it. In his defense, I do believe this is both a common and a safe response for a man having a verbal Tet a Tet with the opposite sex.

Not to be sexist, my sister, but women as a rule- are good in a fight. We mastered the language early on and we are not afraid to use it.

Scientifically girls learn language before boys and form sentences well before their male counterparts. Studies show that little girlfriends love to talk- first to ourselves and then to one another.

Let’s take me for example? Here I go, using my own experience in the name of science….
I lay in bed each night for most of the 70’s in my pink and silver disco room lit with the token night light.  I had full on conversations only an eight year old can have about what I would wear to school in the morning and who I would be when I grew up.

Over the years that followed and the room has changed but the music remains the same.

I have spent much of my life talking to things in succession that cannot answer back. First were my Barbie dolls that bore an immense amount of optimistic responsibility. I played both parts answering them as my imaginary muscles flexed with vigour.  From there, I moved on to a variety of animals… first the fish, then the hamsters, now the dogs. Their little heads cock to the side as if they “get me” and somewhere I do acknowledge this unreasonable argument to be true.  How many of us have whispered in a dog’s ear at one point in life…. “You understand Spotty, you love me.”

I have moved on through life to talking to ads in magazines- cursing the skinny blond that lies across the pages eating whatever she likes. I have had full discussions with television programs in order to cultivate my debating skills. I am the Bill Maher of my own living room.  I have had full on conversations with my girlfriend’s baby daughter who stares up at me smiling as a result of gas and not out of comprehension.

I have had one too many midnight talks with unconscious patients on life support in Intensive Care Units across this country.  These eerily one-sided discussions are shamefully reminiscent of a tacky movie scene. The lights are dim a lifeless hand is in mine as I will a perfect stranger to overcome a disease that is far bigger than the treatment I have to offer.

Many of these conversations end with ones we have all at the gravestones of parents and friends with long discussions of how things have become and what should have been.

So after millions of words have passed my lips, it is no surprise that I can kick my husband’s ass in an argument. Or at least I used to. After 18 years together, I must say… in the argument Olympics… he’s a gold medal contender.

I say this with pride as though I am training an athlete. When we first got together his eyes looked at the floor and I could sense there was an internal voice that just wanted to know when the fight would be over.

Now, many years later…. He gets his point across with a respect for both me and for the English language. There is no yelling, there is a discussion- eyes are met, minds are met and yes, I am sometimes wrong. It is very grown up and quite frankly, kind of hot. But I had to ask…. Is it healthy?

Several studies have looked at marital discord and health related indices.

In 1994, a study published in the Journal of Biobehavioural Medicine examined certain hormones in newlyweds. The study showed significant rises in the Growth Hormones  and Epinephrine and Norepinephrine (hormones linked to the “fight or flight response) in couples who were arguing. Furthermore there were sex-based differences in these fluctuations. Naturally our body physiologically responds to an argument by adjusting our neurohormonal make up to accommodate. What was most remarkable was that these fluctuations were statistically different between men and women.

Another study published in Health Psychology in 1991 examined the impact of normal family arguments on 24 females and 19 males (aged 32–73 yrs) with high blood pressure. Patients and their partners discussed a threatening disagreement for 10 min while blood pressure (BP) and conversation were recorded. Discussing problems increased BP, but the causal pathways differed by sex. In women, hostile interaction and marital dissatisfaction were associated with increased BP; supportive or neutral exchanges were unrelated to BP. In men, BP fluctuations were related only to the patient's speech rate.

These findings are consistent with other research on sex differences in communication and social problem-solving styles and implicate different mechanisms involved among the sexes.

Now, I do not have high blood pressure and I do believe Jason’s also runs a cool 120/80. Perhaps as we get older and continue to settle in discussing and debating with each other our physiology will adapt as much as our discussions have. Until then, I will continue to challenge and be challenged in the hopes that like my sisters everywhere- I will have the last word. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Run Lola Run

Oh my girlfriends…. May I say that as I write this it is in fact Sunday and I find myself in bed. No, I am not unwell. No, there was no sale on 8000 thread count sheets and no, I am not suffering the ill effects of one too many cocktails. Truth be told- I had one Chinese margarita on Saturday at my favourite fusion bistro but ONE was my limit.

Please my sisters- don’t judge although I am in training for my glory day in Honolulu,  every girl needs a cocktail once in a while.

But something in this get up and go girl, just got up and went. Here I am laying like broccoli in my 600 thread counts on a perfect Sunday morning. My schedule demands I recover from the 32km pain fest of running/insanity that took place the day before. While my head says get out of bed, my body suggests I should lay here for another 6-8 hours and watch every episode of the Real Housewives of New York City. This of course is not appropriate marathon training behaviour but somehow my heart just won’t budge.

Well, my sisters… the heart wants what the heart wants.

This brings me to a rather new concept for me… THE REST DAY.

I am rather unfamiliar with the concept of rest day. And yes, like every misstep of my personality…. I blame my mother.

Mama is a woman who can’t sit still. God love the little energetic woman who gave me life but truly- I blame her for not being able to rest for a given period of time.

Let’s be clear- my mama is a pretty amazing lady. She raised two kids while working full time and she has a “no-nonsense” way of going about things. To this day she is 72 years old and still walks on a  treadmill every morning for an hour…. With a knee brace. The broad (and I say broad with the highest of honours) is unstoppable.

Some of my best conversations with my mother were held with her back to me. Yes, my sisters- she was doing the dishes and I was sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework. Now as an adult- our best conversations are held by telephone. She is on the other end of the line walking on a treadmill and I am on my Bluetooth biking over the Lion’s Gate Bridge.

Yes, Mama taught me many a great things- chief among them was that an object in motion stays in motion.

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about my relative inability to sit still. Sure there are the odd days where I do indeed lay like broccoli but for the most part, I am a woman who does not like to take a load off on a regular basis. Perhaps I’m afraid that once I sit down, I may never get back up again, or perhaps it’s a clinical thing that I chose to ignore in order to get things done.

But every once in a while I take what I call a “pajama day”. This si a day where I schedule to stay in my pajamas and not move an inch. Make no mistake- Pajama days occur maybe once every 6-9 months but they do act to restore my sense of self.

On these the holiest of holies, I lie in bed with two fuzzy monsters, a laptop and a PVR stocked full of reality television and HBO dramas. I watch TV, surf the net and wait for my bed sores to develop.

On once such pajama day I could not help but lay there and wonder about the effect of my lazy day on my overall well being.

According to a WHO Health and Work Performance Questionnaire that assesses sick days, depression was cited as the number one reason for absenteeism on the job. And a February 2010 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter found that depression and anxiety were among the top five reasons for absenteeism.

Americans are clearly suffering. According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, about 26% of American adults aged 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.

Eighty-two percent of employees admit to taking "mental health days" to recover or recharge, according to a 2008 poll by ComPsych, a provider of employee assistance programs.

The poll asked employees: "What would most likely cause you to take a 'mental health day' (unplanned day off to recover or recharge)?"

30 percent said family/relationship issues
20 percent said work stress/workload
15 percent said personal issues (financial, legal, other)
12 percent said lack of physical energy/well being
5 percent said boredom/lack of motivation

The survey included responses from 1,036 employees of ComPsych client companies nationwide.

According to a study published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior, taking advantage of mental health days can help reduce job demands and extend the positive effects of vacation. In the study, individuals who took a full summer off from work returned with increased productivity and less burn-out. However, within a month of working a full-time schedule they reported feeling as though they had not even had a break.

Those workers who planned for and took advantage of regular mental health days to focus on leisure time, relaxing activities reported significantly less stress and burnout than co-workers who envisioned another year before vacation rolled around again.

And so my Sundays in the bed indeed do fuel my Attention Deficit Soul. Unfortunately due to my relative inability to be still, I am unable to indulge more than once in a half dozen moons.

Although infrequent, they are evidence based. Now if you will excuse me my sisters, I must roll over, take a Robaxacet and catch up on season 3 of Boardwalk Empire. It’s tough work girlfriends…. But someone must take one for the team.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

She Nailed It

I bite my nails in a way that is truly offensive.  Truth be told, I come by it honestly. My mother bites her nails as well. I can remember as a child her perfect long finger, with elegant fingernails polished to perfection. She sat in the front of the 1975 Oldsmobile cutlass while my father drove. She chewed on her cuticles as if she was manicurist on a mission.

And now more than 30 years later, I chew my hands with a vengeance. It used to be a nervous habit and now it is just routine. I have tried everything. I have tried bitter nail polish and gloves, acrylic overlays and weekly manicure. I have bitten through it all like a fanatical rodent.

My nails have born the brunt of every nail fad known to women. In the 1980’s I wore Lee Press on Nails. They were plastic nails that were self-adhesive and pre-polished. They came in a variety of colours and sizes and promised in a half an hour to transform any hands into movie stars.

My Press On’s were not available in Canada and were thus bought typically on trips to the United States with my family. We drove from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Fargo, North Dakota (it was 1983- there was little else to do for fun) and there in a Target I was introduced to the fabulous world of fake nails. I could bite my fingers to my heart’s content and within 30 minutes in the safety of my hotel room, my nails could instantly be polished and perfect again.

There I sat in the Holiday Inn in Fargo packet of LEE PRESS ON’s in hand anticipating the magic. I looked down at my stubby, bitten nails and imagined my long perfectly polished future.

Make no mistake; my future was perfectly polished, but lasted only 12-14 hours. The nails rarely stayed on for longer than THAT day and were no match for the chlorine content at the Holiday Inn pool. I loved my nails, but I loved the water slide even more.

In the 1990’s I fell victim to the craze of the Acrylic French Manicure. These fake nails are now popular among the adult film industry stars and Intensive Care Nurses in Alberta. This is not an association but merely an observation.

I spent most of my 20’s in the hands of various women of Vietnamese descent as they painted my nail beds with acrylic based products in pink and white in order to mimic a French manicure. They then took what can only be described as miniature bench saw to may nails and sculpted them into my own Sally Hansen advertisement.
My chewed up nail stubs were replaced by perfect long nail beds that smelled like acetone and looked like a dream.  I was on a contact high from the chemical fumes and deliriously happy from the visual effects.

But when the look and the fumes wore off, my sober self bit through the acrylic and the pain like a beaver from hell. Ten days and ten fingers later and I was back where I started. 

Now another decade has passed. Chanel comes out with a new nail polish every season that is the “must have” of the moment. Each winter I paint my nails a dark blue or black or red and promise to stop biting. I last a week perhaps two or three and the polish is gnawed upon over and over again. I make resolution after resolution and each one is broken as I bite back my promises... one finger at a time.

In spring I paint my nails a pale pink or pearl or nude colour and at $20 per bottle; the promise is renewed.  I have paid for Karl Lagerfeld’s car with the amount of Chanel nail polish that has been purchased in an attempt to banish my bad habit and to no avail.

A study published in 1971 in the Journal Of Child Development and Neurology showed that there may be a genetic component to nail biting.  According to the authors, nail biting is a frequent habit in children. It usually appears between 4 and 6 years of age.  About 35% of children bite their until puberty when the rates increase to 40-45% of adolescents. The majority of nail-biters give up the habit during their teens and it is only occasionally observed in adults.

The habit is markedly familial. In a large percentage of cases a history of nail biting during childhood by one or both of the parents can be obtained. It has been suggested that the children learn to bite the nails by imitating the parents, but this cannot be the case since parents usually stop the habit before their children are born.

The study in the journal looked at identical and fraternal twins and found that identical twins were twice as concordant for the habit of nail biting (both twins biting) compared to fraternal twins. In severe nail biters, identical twins were more than four times more likely to be concordant for the habit than fraternal twins.

This points to more than a learned behaviour because logic would argue that fraternal twins would both learn the same behaviour.

Winter  has come once again. I have bought Chanel’s now sold out colour (it is a puke brown but apparently fabulous) and have piled on the paint and the promises once more. My genetics will conspire against me as soon as I finish typing and I will stare at my fingernails with wanton abandonment in preparation for my next chew….

And now, I only have my mother to blame….

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Out Of Order

Oh my girlfriends- life is full of disappointments. I will never be a size 2 as hard as  try and my shoe closet of my dreams continues to elude me.

We've been together almost 3 years my sister and I am sad to report that I am taking the week off. My brain hurts and I just don't have it.

Every once in a while a girl needs a week off and well, this is mine.

Sorry to disappoint my sisters but hey- it happens.

Spend the week reading some of my older postings and reminiscing about the days gone by.

Fret not my sisters- I'll be back next week with wit and wisdom. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Unfinished Business

Good morning my sisters. Welcome to the weekday after.

Yes, my sisters have likely heard that the New York Marathon was cancelled. I had spent 5 months training for a race that never was.

Make no mistake, I am not a heartless cow- I strongly believe that this race should NOT have gone ahead.

Perhaps it would have been a statement about the triumph of a city in the face of adversity, however- it really was not the time to celebrate.

New Yorkers were suffering and now was not the time to run their streets. My marathon moment would have to wait for another year.

I can not but help to admit my sisters that I was indeed a bit sad about the cancellation. I am human afterall. Yes, I know I should feel fortunate that I have my health and my home- but it was indeed sad to train so hard and not have something happen as planned.

Of course such is life.

I have always maintained that we must rise to the occasion. Life hands us challenges and we must endure.

And so I did.

On Sunday morning having raised almost $2000 for the American Red Cross, I put on my runner’s finest and along with thousand of my closest friends- ran through Central Park.

24km later the voices in my head had ceased. I realized that I indeed could have run the remaining 18 km when the time came due.

There was not the ceremony I was looking forward to. There was no parade and the only one who knew my mileage was me.

It was indeed a personal run and not a public race. In a time when my favourite city was suffering- I ran through its streets in a moment of defiance. It was just another day and just another run but it was my New York moment for THAT moment. I did not get my life changing race but I had my health and my home and a sense of perspective.

No, this past Sunday, I did not get my marathon as planned. Hurricane Sandy (that iotch) came and went and ruined a great deal more than just my marathon dreams.

She stole so much from so many and my little run seems immaterial now.

No evidence this week my sisters- just a week of reflection on a storm in the east and in my heart.

Fret not, dear sisters- I have no doubt NYC will rise above as she has done in the past and she’ll be more resilient than ever.

And make no mistake dear girlfriends, I too will learn the right place to put this experience. At this moment there is still mixed emotions for a challenge not yet completed.

But life is indeed about the challenges and how we face each of them in stride.

Speaking of strides- Heads up NYC- get well soon, my ultimate sister- I’ll be back next November to run your famed streets- for we- have some serious memories to make.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Going Viral

Sisters- Be warned, I’ve gone viral. No, we are not talking some weird U-Tube video of me singing eighties remix (although I am sure there is video out there- it is most certainly not for public consumption). When I say viral I don’t mean internet- I mean virus as in- I have one- in my upper respiratory tract.

Perhaps it is the insanity of my work hours- yes, my girlfriends, I’m aware of my issues- sell it somewhere else sisters- I’m a workaholic and proud of it.

But somewhere between the 12-hour workdays and the marathon training, my superpowers were eclipsed and I developed the flu.

Perhaps it is the 35 km run I did last weekend in the pouring rain? Perhaps it is the fact that I shamelessly let my dogs lick my face? Perhaps it is the fact that cold season is upon us and my patients present themselves daily with a viral smorgasbord.

Regardless of the case my immune system as always has been working overtime and yes, “she works hard for the money”. This time- I did not treat her right.

It began on Thursday morning when the back of my throat felt like I had swallowed razor blades overnight. No amount of coffee, tea or sympathy could break it up and by the end of the day my head was ready to explode.

I spent the evening lying on the couch watching the Bachelor Canada that of course had been conveniently taped the night before.

Now my girlfriends- I have never felt the need to defend my life choices- neither in the closet nor in the TV room and I will not begin it here. Let me just say that nothing says good medicine like lying on your couch in a great pair of pajamas watching (and judging) other women come completely unglued all from the comfort of your living room. Hot tea and Nyquil is included.

Let’s talk Nyquil for a moment, Shall we? This shit is good. Now this is not a medical endorsement. Sure I’m a doctor but don’t take my medical word for it. Nyquil however is on my list of honorable mention drugs. This green liquid (yes it comes in pill form as well) takes my head pounding, throat aching, nose running death version and knocks me unconscious for a full 9 hours. It’s bliss. Combined with my fluid and my reality television and yes, I was willing to accept this rose.

Friday morning came the dawn and despite the night sweats and a Nyquil hangover I took on the day at 11 am armed with Nyquil’s sister wife, Dayquil. Thanks be to the goddess for good pharmaceuticals because my weekend was spent on call at the hospital.

Let’s just say- if you are sick there is no better place to be than a healthcare facility.

I know what you are thinking my sisters, “Won’t you get your patients sick?”


Firstly, no disrespect, but my hospital patients aren’t in the hospital for shits and giggles- they are already sick. Secondly- I wash my hands pretty religiously so infections won’t spread in the best of times and thirdly- most of my hospital patients are on some pretty serious antibiotics- my little cold is bullshit compared to the bilateral pneumonia they are sporting. 

Sure- it would be nice to stay home, and not expose the world, but life is not like healthcare insurance- you can’t just opt out anymore.

Thus began my flu of the season. Dayquil followed Nyquil. I sampled a variety of sugar free cough drops to the point of exhaustion. I know that the only thing that will cure my real ills here is time. This is a virus. The only thing that will fix my current state of illness is to allow this bastard of a virus to run its course.

And so like a good Project Runway contestant- I prayed for immunity to kick in.

A small part of me wondered if chicken soup would indeed do the deed. Of course the point is mute because I no longer eat meat, but could I sacrifice some principles for the sake of my immune system?

Turns out, I don’t have to…  

A study published in CHEST magazine in 2000 showed that chicken soup may in fact inhibit the activity of white blood cells during infection causing an “anti-inflammatory effect”. The study was spear headed by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Using the blood from healthy volunteers, Dr. Rannard looked at the activity of neutrophils. the most common type of white blood cells, after being exposed to chicken soup from the Rannard’s wife’s family recipe. Dr. Rennard theorizes that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.

The researchers couldn’t identify the exact ingredient or ingredients in the soup that made it effective against colds.

In another study published in 1978 in CHEST magazine, researchers in Miami at Mount Sinai looked at how chicken soup affected airflow and mucus in the noses of 15 volunteers who drank cold water, hot water or chicken soup. In general, the hot fluids helped increase the movement of nasal mucus, but chicken soup did a better job than just the hot water. The thought was that some of the proteins in the chicken soup might improve the function of protective cilia, the tiny hair like projections in the nose.

Turns out- I don’t have to through the vegetables out with the bath water…. I can have my tofu and eat it too. Warm fluids of any kind will likely do and the evidence for a boiled chicken is weak at best. For now- I’ll just have to have a little patience my sisters….

If I can wait 3-5 business days for Net-a-Porter to deliver that fabulous Miu Miu suit that I ordered on line, I can wait 5 days for this shitty little virus to get its ass kicked by my bad-ass immune system.

Now if you’ll excuse me dear girlfriends I’ve got a Dayquil to take and a job to get done- that suit (as magnificent as it is) will not pay for itself.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This time, it's personal

Oh my girlfriends. After more than three years together I do feel that we have established enough of a rapport together for me to tell you that as I write this I am in full high colonic mode.

Yes I have spent my last two days off drinking clear fluids and taking Pico-Silax in preparation for my Tuesday morning colonoscopy.

And might I say, that I was the perfect patient. I have no doubt that as you read this, Dr. Carl Brown will be navigating my splenic flexure with his all star colonoscopy skills in awe of the cleanliness that is my large bowel.

After 48 hours and a strict following of instructions I must say that yes, my bowels are immaculate. I would argue that even a first year resident could navigate my twisty turny insides without a care in the world.

Needless to say the last 48 hours have been an exercise in adjusting one’s perceptions. For those of you ever having a colonoscopy- here’s a few tips.

You will need to spend the day before the scope evacuating your bowels. This is really a full time job. There are a few key pointers that I will outline below in order to make the situation as ideal as possible.

STEP 1: Location:
Make sure your bathroom is more like a spa. Get some fancy candles and the Sunday New York Times. Bring in an Ipad with a series of television shows you may want to see. You will inevitably spend a good 8-hour there- best it be productive and enjoyable. I like to set up the ambiance of it being a bit of a spa with stuff do. But make no mistake- do not skip on the smelly candles- these are definitely a game changer.

STEP 2: The Supplies:
You will be on a clear fluids diet. This includes broths, teas, Jell-O (only in green and orange) It’s bullshit and I am hard pressed to make it fabulous only to tell you that I spend the day drinking diet Mountain Dew out of martini glass and am now a professional chamomile tea maker. As for the broths- I bought mine at Granville Island.

Yes I had to wade through the isles of vegetables and fruit to get to the liquid but hey- small price to pay.

STEP 3: What to avoid-
I had to spend the weekend off fruits and vegetables and I am a vegetarian who occasionally eats fish– food wise- it was not good. I ate brown rice and the odd bit of salmon. It was culinary hell.

Throughout the whole procedure I could not help but reflect upon the fact that as a doctor I had undoubtedly and rather flippantly at times order this test for others without a care in the world. Should they have complained to me about the prep and the clear fluids I would have brushed it off rather rather non-shalontly while the voice in my head made a judgement call about their whimpiness.

But here I was in my own whimpy fresh hell. This clear fluid cleanse is pretty crappy. (excuse pun). I am 18 shades of hungry and trying to make the best of it.

Why go through all this torture, my sisters? A cleanse perhaps? Hell no. As my sisters will know from a previous post- I am not a girlfriend who believes in cleanses.

My colon is spotless- for one reason- my colonoscopy is indeed my dear father’s legacy to me. Having a family history for Colon Cancer puts me in line for a colonoscopy every 5 years and wonders of wonders- my date is due.

And so here I am passed out on some serious drugs (yes, I put in some special requests) so that I can ride the pharmaceutical high while a dear friend and the only man I would indeed trust to my large bowel- is taking a peak.

According to the American National Cancer Institute, for the great majority of people, the major factor that increases a person’s risk for colorectal cancer (CRC) is increasing age.

Risk increases dramatically after age 50 years; 90% of all CRCs are diagnosed after this age. The history of CRC in a first-degree relative, especially if before the age of 55 years, roughly doubles the risk.

Other risk factors are weaker than age and family history. People with inflammatory bowel disease have a much higher risk of CRC.

Screening should be done with a colonoscopy in higher risk individuals (those with family history) one decade before the individual receive the disease. For the rest of us- it’s not a bad idea to be screened (and colonoscopy is not the only way).

I know I make the process sound ever so glamourous but relative to the big C, some Jell-O and 36 hour bowel purge is small change.

So get out there girlfriends and know your colon risk- get it checked and report back. You too could find yourself with an HDTV version of the dark side of yourself sometime soon- but of course make sure by all means- you get the good drugs.