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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.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Foot Note


As far as body parts go, safe to say my girlfriends that my feet are not my best feature. Great hair, yes and a descent brain but my feet? No, it is safe to say that I was not blessed in this department.

Might I pause for a moment my sisters and ponder the fact that most of us do not have great feet. As a doctor I have the opportunity to see a lot of fingers and toes and let me tell you- a good pair of feet is not a common sight.

I bring this to light my girlfriends for just this past weekend, I had my first pedicure in easily 5 years.

Let me say that I am not a fan of the spa experience. I realize this surprises people when they hear this about me. One would think that a girlfriend such as myself would love the whole pamper and primping. Yes, I have been known to be a bit of a diva, shall we say? But here’s the thing…. I am high maintenenacen…. But I am happiest when maintaining myself.

Sure I love a good day of champagne and shopping. But stick me in a robe and put shit on my face and I am in a word- in hell.

Firstly there is the whole zen environment of the spa. I inevitably get in there and think of the million other things I could be doing with my time.

But there I was at the Ritz Carlton in Toronto with a $200 hotel credit and toes that looked like they had been through a war. What could it hurt to have some perfect stranger pumice my callouses for an hour or so….

That and they offered me champagne during the procedure.

Let me set the scene….

I arrived for my pedicure the recommended 10 minutes early to be handed a special form to fill out. The form asked my name, date of birth and my entire medical history. No joke. It asked for the name and address of my family doctor and a list of all my previous surgeries and medical information.

Like any good client…. I lied. It was a pedicure for heaven’s sake. I had no communicable disease. Hell, I’d never even had a cold sore. My family doctor was leaving her practice anyways and I reasoned that as a doctor myself- I knew what was medically relevant for a good foot soak. So I wrote down my name, my date of birth and left the rest blank..

It was then that I was called aside by one of the attendants and asked if my form was indeed complete.

“Are you sure we have everything accurate?”
“Yes” I smiled back confidently. This was a pedicure after all- not a pap smear, COME ON.

And then I waited. I sat on a lovely bench and read my New York Times and I waited.

Half way through the style section, Nadia, my lovely pedicurist arrived with a glass of bubbly and steered me towards what she called,  my “THRONE”. This is a large Barker like lounger with a bunch on buttons and an attached tub at the bottom where you put your feet for soaking and slothing.  

“Do you want to change into a robe?” she asked.
“No, I’m good,” I replied, “I’ll just take off my shoes and my tights.

Lets talk about the whole robe thing for a minute my sisters. I was not putting on a robe and some slippers all to have my feet done. I was in a perfectly good dress that would easily allow for access. Make no mistake- I love a good costume change- but I was NOT getting undressed for a robe and rubber slippers.

There’s the Basic pedicure, the Champagne Pedicure and the Spa Pedicure. Mine was clearly the Reluctant Pedicure.

And so it began. I stuck my newly naked feet in the tub at the end of my “THRONE” and let Nadia do her damnedest.

For the next 60 minutes she pushed cuticles around and pumiced callouses and lathered and massaged until my ugly ass feet looked a bit less ugly.

Here’s the thing about feet- mine in particular but most in general- they are indeed pretty nasty looking.

Years of running and wearing high heels and running in high heels has pretty much taken their toll on my little piggies.

On the toe nail front- I’ve lost every toe nail I own at one time or another. I like to think of them as badges of honour. I lost the big ones on Kili and the others in various races. As I describe this right now I see myself as a bit of a war veteran talking about the scars of battle.

I have a small benign tumour on my big toe- that can apparently be removed for cosmetic reasons should I find the time. Unfortunately the surgery involves not being able to wear heels or cycling shoes for at least 4 weeks so I will live with this tumor forever. Fret not- it’s benign. My addiction to four inch stilettos or a good bike ride is not.

So as I sat there in that “THRONE” looking up from my NY Times at my feet in the soapy water, Natalia reached for a cuticle cutter and I wondered about what kind of risk I was indeed taking putting my best foot forward. Perhaps I should have filled out that medical form in better detail? Could this pedicure really be a risky business?

According to the Toronto Public Health website- there are a variety of health issues associated with a pedicure. The website itself warns against contracting everything from a bad ass bacterial infection to Hepatitis C.

No I should say that I am anything but neurotic about the whole germ issue. As a doctor who spends their days around bodily fluids- I have no time to be neurotic. Yes, I wash my hands repeatedly and without fail- but no, I don’t obsess about the risk of various pathogens around me.

As such, I did not ask Natalia if the items she was using to gouge at my feet were indeed sterilized before use. I just assumed. And then I went to the medical literature to see if indeed I was at risk of contracting Hepatitis C from my Ritz Carlton Champagne pedicure.

Turns out…. I’m pretty much safe. As far as the literature goes, there was a small outbreak of Hep C in Turkey- associated with nail salons. In North America- we have bacteria infections to worry about far more than viral hepatitis.

According to an article published in Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal in 2011, Mycobacterium infections are quite commonly associated with pedicures. These of course are the NON-Tuberculosis variety.

It turns out that non-tuberculous Mycobacterium species colonize water systems and that exposure to them is quite common. The risk of infections, however from these bacteria is not so common. A recent outbreak in North Carolina saw 110 cases of bacterial infection from Mycobacterium fortuitum. This little sucker also called an outbreak in Oregon and California. People present with boils on their legs called furuncles.

The risk is much higher in people who have just shaved their legs prior to the pedicure. The problem is that the bacteria live in the water system and then infect the water being used for soaking. If you’ve shaved your legs recently you have microscopic cuts in the skin that allow the bacteria to get in.

Overall the risk of these types of infections is about 1 case in 100,000.

Safe to say- I have been remiss in the leg shaving department for a little bit. I was after all wearing tights that day, so lay off with the lecture. At one case in 100,000, I felt pretty safe indeed.

Nadia finished up her shaping and trimming and sure enough after a couple of coats of polish, my feet were indeed a new set of limbs.

Before saying good bye she suggested that I have a “touch up” of my feet in the next 4 weeks. Will I return, I thought? Will I, once back in Vancouver, find my own little salon to go to every few weeks to soothe my barking dogs?

The jury is still out my sisters as far as my need to primp my toes. I am safe in the knowledge that I’m not risking my infectious health to a great deal should I decide to add pedicures to my grooming regimen.

Has this recent pedicure changed my life, you ask? Not so much. Except to say that I have had an extra “foot confidence” this past week, that had indeed previously eluded me…. I have spent the last week wearing open toed shoes whenever possible. Far be it from me to hide Nadia’s hard work from the world. 

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