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Why Tuesday?

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

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. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thanks Ma'am

Oh my girlfriends, here it is the day after Thanksgiving and I am still glowing in the after math of it all. As some of my sisters may know- I love me a grand Thanksgiving dinner almost as much as I love me a good four in each heel. 

There I was shopping for my wares for what would undoubtedly be an epic feast with fabulous friends when a lovely salesperson at Whole Foods did the unthinkable while bagging my organics .....

He called me Ma'am. 

It's bad enough I was shelling out a mortgage payment for a free range turkey that had an amazing life but here I was subjected to the worst of all name calling. 

I ask you dear girlfriends, and answer me honestly…. Do I look like a Ma’am? You’ve seen the footage… me on a mountain, on a bike, at the beach, hell in a wetsuit…. You’ve seen me with and without a good blow out…. Does this face make you want to call it Ma’am?

Sure, I could stomach “Miss”, or “My Lady” or “Your Highness”, but really, “Ma’am”. It’s truly a kiss of death in the female nomenclature. In fact I’ll go out on a limb here and say, that I would rather be called “Yo, Bitch”, than “Ma’am”.

“Ma’am” is a shitty, shitty way to refer to a woman. “Ma’am” is a an old school librarian with flesh coloured pantyhose, reinforced at the toe and a sweater that smells like a storage closet. “Ma’am” is your music teacher who used to smack your knuckles while you played the piano in the event that a note was performed incorrectly. “Ma’am” smells like rotten gardenias and yesterday’s lunch meat.
“Ma’am” is bullshit.

And so my dear girlfriends, on this the morning after the day we are to be most thankful- I have no science but indeed the need for a new calling… down with the “Ma’am”. We must find a new address.

In the last decade alone, the English language has undergone significant additions and subtractions. Words come and go like wildfires. Facebook is now a verb, as in to “Facebook me”, while Tweeting is more than just the sound a bird makes.

Equally certain words have been removed from our cultural repertoire. I won’t give you too many examples… but you know what I mean…. Words like Jeggings and Stirrup Pants and Ballet Flats and small pox to name a few.

SO why can’t we banish the “Ma’am”. When will someone come up with a proper taxonomy for a 40 something woman who has a healthy sense of self-esteem and a really good sense of fashion?

Perhaps I should move to a French speaking part of the world, if only to be referred to as “MADAM”. Why should men have all the fun? “Sir” is quite a lovely characterization. “To Sir, with Love”, “They called him Sir”, “Please Sir, May I have some more?”. Why can’t we, my dear girlfriends claim a name of our own? One that does not make us cringe at the thought. One that empowers us to be all that we are and not reach for our walkers and our denture cream in a wave of self-loathing.

As far as the science goes… I have nothing. No there does not exist a study regarding the use of Ma’am and the decline of the female persuasion…. Give me time, girlfriends, give me time.

I hate it when THEY call me “Ma’am”. I know they are just trying to be polite, but it is a knife of hot buttered bullshit that goes straight to my psyche.

I wanna a new name, God damn it…. Get to work my cybersisters… I’ve given you months and months of Tuesdays filled with creative quips and witty repartees…. You get me a new name and we’ll call it even.

Thank you my sisters and Goodnight. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Worth the Wait?

Picture it my girlfriends- or rather let me set the scene. There I was just another material girl on a Saturday night in Vancouver. This time, however, I was among 10,000 of my closest material friends. For indeed on this night I was at the Madonna MDNA concert.

It was around 8 pm and I was of course dressed in my concert appropriate attire. My shoes were 7 inches but there was a platform so as to allow for both the ability to see over the person in front of me while still allowing me to stand “confortably” for the next 4 hours. Finally my servitude to fashion would come in handy. The person in front of me was 5’6 and I easily cleared him by a good four inches thanks to a pair of Louboutin stilts that to this day continue to be a valued investment. (no Judgement my sister- she works hard for the money).

The hours ticked on. I checked my email. Watched the crowds and picked my cuticles. Finally at 10:30 ish- Madge showed her biceps.

Now may I rant on a fellow sister- Ms. Ciccone if you are indeed reading this- can we talk about the fact that although I’ve been a fan since the Lucky Star days, I find myself needed to Justify my Love over the fact that you made me wait for almost 3 hours with only a DJ for an opening act. Yes I know Martin Skolveck (Madonna’s opening act) won a  Juno- but really? He’s a DJ. No dissing the DJ- I do love me a human hat can spin an i-tunes track or three and look funcky doing it. But I love me this when I’m at a club…. Not a concert.

FYI- I’m not a big club fan to begin with so heads up- Martin’s musical stylings were likely lost on me. I’m sure he’s fabulous and his parents are pretty proud- but as my girlfriends know- I am shall we say- a bit old school. When I go to a concert- I like, well…. A concert.

SO there I was, sitting 23rd row floor (yes I am name dropping my seat- they were after all very good seats) when the queen of Pop came on in a  flash and a flurry or Roman Catholic/Kabbalah fabulous and I did what any self respecting 41 year old woman would do now 60 minutes past her bedtime…. I put my earplugs in.

Yes,  I did indeed buy earplugs for the Madonna concert. Truth be told, I had learned my lesson some years ago when U2 came to town. There I was in the Mosh pit, Bono singing to me for God and Country and my ears were bleeding. I loved the concert and left all aglow in Bono’s light, but could not hear properly for days.

When part of your job is to listen to the sounds the body makes, it’s important to keep your ear canals in tact.

And so although  Miss Madge made me wait tow and a half hours to hear the sound of her voice (was it live or has it lip synced?) I refused to lose my upper decibels in the process.  

The human ear is divided into 3 parts -- the external, middle and inner ear. The inner ear is located inside the skull and is quite frankly the ear’s “business end”. It is the most complex part of the ear. The soft tissue of the inner ear is made of different types of cells and nerves, all arranged in a pattern on a thin sheet of tissue. Noise induced hearing loss results from damage over time to the nerves and cells of the inner ear.  Piss the inner ear off too much and you will get permanent hearing loss.

Whether noise harms your hearing depends on the loudness, the pitch and the length of time you are exposed to the noise. The loudness of a sound (measured in decibels, or dB) and the length of exposure are related. The louder the sound, the shorter the exposure can be before damage occurs. For example, 8 hours of exposure to 85-dB noise on a daily basis can begin to damage a person's ears over time. Using power tools (at about 100 dB), listening to loud stereo headsets (at about 110 dB), attending a rock concert (at about l20 dB) or hearing a gunshot (at 140 to 170 dB) may damage the hearing of some people after only a few times.

According to the Centre for Disease Control an estimated 17% of people ages 16-60 have experienced some form of permanent noise induced hearing loss. How many of them experienced said loss at the hand of a car stereo remains one of life great mysteries.

A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine showed that the average sound level in a music club (or a bar) was 95-107 decibels well in the range for permanent hearing loss. 76% of club employees tested at 8 different clubs experienced some form of noise induced hearing loss.

A further study published in the Journal of the Canadian Family Physician in 1993 took 22 volunteers to a rock concert. Their hearing was tested before and after the concert and at 10-minute interval throughout to determine how long an exposure would be dangerous.

The study also looked placed the participants at different locations throughout the arena to determine where the “danger zones” would be. Interestingly it was NOT the group closest to the stage that received the highest exposure to noise. The study does not site where this group was sitting. However all participants in the arena received at least twice the accepted dose of noise (at least 240 decibels). The study went on to show that after 7 minutes of exposure the participants hearing began to decline with 12% experiencing residual effects to hearing loss 14 days later.

There you have it my cybersisters- another week of real world science. The concert was indeed a wonderful thing. Yes, I am aware that the reviews were mixed but hey, it’s a big world with ever so many opinions and you can never keep all the girlfriends happy. This sister has put her vote in and I do indeed feel that a good time was had by all. The concert was dark in places perhaps and no I did not need to see Madonnas’ ass in a G-String and fishnets but overall Miss Madge put on a good show indeed.

And so sometime after midnight when all was sung and done- I took out my earplugs, And sure enough my ears were as fresh as the day they were born. No ringing, no pain, and no decrease in function whatsoever.

And so I sauntered home sometime near 1 in the morning listening to the sights and sounds of my city knowing all too well that thanks to my earplugs my ears were indeed- touched for the very first time.