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, September 24, 2013

My Own Business

I’ve been thinking a lot about privacy these days. As the world shifts towards an ever expanding definition of seclusion and confidentiality I am struck by the ever pressing question, “when someone asks you to Mind your own business, what exactly does that mean?”

Allow me to explain my sisters.

We live in a world where I can see what someone looks like just by entering their name into a search engine. No longer is there a sense of exclusivity when it comes to entertainment or fashion or news.

Did I miss Milan fashion week due to work requirements? Hell no. I downloaded the shows live streaming between patients. Can my patients Google me before their doctor’s appointment to find out my back story? Of course they can. How we navigate this kind of exposure in life and in life lessons remains an ever pressing paradigm shift.

Which brings me to my latest observation on the subject of BUSY BODIES. I would argue that I myself am somewhat of a busy body. I don’t necessarily meddle in other people’s affairs but I certainly offer an opinion or two, often in an unsolicited manner.

Some see it as an unwanted, invasive contribution to another person’s life. I see it as my own personal input into making the world a better place.

Perhaps I might elaborate with an example.

I buy my coffee every morning at the same café in Vancouver. At 6:30am I indeed can be found forking over five dollars or more on a grande Americano (with an extra shot) for moi and a double machiatto for the boy. I love my little café. They know me, they know my drink order and even from time to time will begin making it for me before I even order so that its ready right when I pay. In a world of ever expanding uncertainties, I praise the familiar in the hopes that we all might someday be understood.

There I was in line in front of a harmless young man who was placing his order. He was a bit gruff in his mannerism but it was indeed before 7am. I gave his rudeness the benefit of the doubt until he placed his order with an authoritative huff,

“Give me a latte and a cheese muffin.” He barked.
“That’ll be $6.56.” the cashier said.
The interaction was about to proceed on schedule when I piped in,
“What’s the magic word?” I asked
“Huh,” said the oaf.
“The magic word?” I smiled cheekily.
“Oh, yah, Thanks.”

Forget that the magic word was indeed PLEASE, I understand that I was overstepping my boundaries in the name of manners everywhere.

As we waited for our coffees together, my fellow patron turned to me and suggested,
“you know you could just mind your own business.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “I could. But what’s the point of that?”

When I relayed this story to my beloved, he laughed with the observation, “You’re lucky you are charming, sweetie- otherwise he might have let you have it.”

This is indeed true. This is not the first time in my life, let alone that week, that I have not “minded my own business”, in the name of mainstream civility.

Yesterday, I suggested that a smoker on a bike in my bike lane put out his cigarette while he was riding. We were both stopped at a light on our bikes. He was smoking and I was staring at him smoking.

“Is it bothering you?” he asked, waiting for the light to change. I took a sip of my water, he took a drag off his Marlboro.

“A bit,” I mused, “and it certainly does not go with what you are wearing.  Doesn’t the whole bike thing really clash with the cigarette?” I suggested.

And sure enough he stubbed the cigarette out.

I did not mind my own business and indeed my world became a better place. How was this any different than me suggesting to Mr. Grumpy that he develop a sense of colloquial decorum while ordering a latte?

I’m not suggesting we all put in our “two cents” wherever we feel like it. But isn’t it a bit naïve of us to ask someone to “mind their own business” when a perfect stranger can friend you on Facebook or follow your every move on Twitter? What is “your own business” anymore?

As the lines of privacy continue to blur perhaps we should be more selective on where we add our opinions, perhaps not. Perhaps the world needs more people minding less of their own business.

I can’t help but turn on the news every day and wonder what this planet would look like if more of us minded LESS of our own business?

Would this indeed be a kinder, safer place to live if we had a little more BUSY BODY in the water?

No evidence this week, my sisters- just a ponder for you to ponder. Go ahead, discuss among yourselves and get back to me. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fashionably Late

Hello sweet sisters and welcome to another week. Indeed this is not JUST another week, for here we are mid-September smack dab in the middle of the month to remember. And by this I mean Fashion Week. Last week New York, this week London. Next week is Milan (shall we play favourites?) , followed by Paris. I’m jet-setting through the closet of my dreams all from the safety of my internet feed.

I realize, my sisters- that I have been more sporty of late with my Tuesdays this summer. What with the marathons and triathlons and training and such, one might thing my “Sporty Spice” routine a bit extreme. Rest assured, I can indeed lace up my Louboutins as well as my Asics and yes, the diva returns.

And so I spent the morning watching lives streams from the London Week all from the comfort/discomfort of my treadmill. Underweight 12 year olds walked the catwalks “across the pond”, while I strutted my stuff down a RUNway of my own for queen and country.

I do love me a good fashion week. Each day feels like the style equivalent of Christmas morning as I search STYLE.COM for the latest shows. Given that London, Milan and Paris show in different time zones, I can always be guaranteed to wake up to something magical on the interweb; a new look, a new show, a new opportunity for ridicule or redemption for one of my favourite designers.

And so was this morning from one runway to another I celebrated  in the name of all things pretty.

I realize some might say that my love for fashion is indeed a bit unusual. I don’t work in the industry and never have. Aside form a part time job at Warehouse One selling jeans one summer- I’ve never been employed by a fashion house of any kind. (I realize Warehouse One is not a fashion house by any stretch of the imagination but indeed it was a good job. They let me style the mannequins in the window and I got 20% of all denim- including Levis 501’s. It was 1987 . I was a chubby kid with SUN IN orange hair. As far as fashion went- this was a moment.)

Now as a doctor who practices medicine in 4 inch heals, I am considered a bit unconventional. My profession has an unspoken uniform to which I have never subscribed. My clothing prescription has always been a bit outside the proverbial box.

I like things that are a true expression of oneself. I look to the art of the fashion world and try and find my own expressions in it. And that’s when I make my move. Whether it’s THE little black dress, the perfect motorcycle jacket or a 3 piece something that makes it all complete- I look to the cut and completeness of it all; the movement and silhouette and the emotional expression that encapsulates more than just a dress and that’s when I make my move.

As someone who spends their days observing people professionally, I am indeed a student of humanity. I watch how people relate and react. How moments indeed define them and defeat them. And amidst all that I can’t help but reflect upon what is it that make us all unique.

Bill Cunningham once said, “fashion is the armour we wear against the world”.

I’m not suggesting that the perfect suit makes the pain go away or that a dress can cure cancer. But I often wonder about the impact that beauty, of any kind, has on a  life less ordinary?

Could it be that my love of fashion is my way to bring art into my world and in so doing my way to temper the daily societal swings the world throws my way?

I have often maintained that patients look forward to the outfits. Make no mistake- I indeed dress FOR ME, (I’m a selfish bitch when it comes to fashion, my sisters) but if being a snappy dresser means something in the clinical realm as well- then strike up the AMEX…. It’s for the good of medicine, afterall.

A study published in the British Journal of General Practice in 1991 looked at this very issue. The study enrolled 475 patients. It showed them pictures of male and female physicians in various different outfits. Each photo was indeed of them same “doctor” but dressed differently each time. The men wore everything from suits with and without white coats to jeans. The women wore both pant suits and skirts both with and without white coats.

The patients in the study were asked to rate their confidence level in the doctors based purely on the photos of what they were wearing.

Of the 475 patients surveyed, the results were different for opinions of proper dress based on the gender of the physician.

Sixty-seven percent of patients believed male doctors should wear a tie, 44% should wear a suit and only 15% should wear a white coat. 59% of patients objected to male doctors wearing jeans.

Of female physicians, 57% believed their doctor should wear a skirt instead of pants and 34% thought their female doctor should wear a white coat. 63% of respondents objected to their female doctors wearing jeans.

There was a greater push among older respondents in the study (over age 65) towards formal dress by their doctors. The older the patients the more likely they were to trust a doctor in formal dress versus someone in casual wear.

I was indeed surprised by the disparity between men and women regarding white coat usage and the preference of patients to have their female physicians wear a skirt instead of a pair of pants.

I rationalize these results in my own mind with the fact that this study was done in England and well…. The British? They have issues. Brtis love their ceremony. They like their tea time and their queen and country and they love a female doctor in a skirt. It’s who they are. As a member of the commonwealth- I can accept that. The fact that I love wearing skirts to work has nothing to do with my open mindedness….

And so another week ends, a fashion week in fact with a reflection on the armour that we present against the world. Whether I’m a doctor in a skirt or a girl with a style dream, I maintain it now as I have before and always…. Good clothes open all doors.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Equal Opportunity

Ah sweet sisters (and yes, my brothers too). It has indeed come to my attention that the odd Y chromosome reads this blog and therefore moving forward let me say…. Welcome my cyber brothers, make yourselves comfortable and let the sisterhood wash over you. Allow me offer a heartfelt bienvenue as only a good Canadian girlfriend can. May you find our weekly witty banters as emotionally stimulating as my previous cyber sisters before you.

Will I, you ask, find a more gender neutral term for the GGTH?

Hell no.

Make no mistake, I am thrilled to have you en blog, if you will, but hey, a girlfriend has got to do what a girlfriend has got to do.

Rest assured my cyber brothers- I will endeavor to broaden the scope of the topics included here every Tuesday and try and meet a little bit of your needs as well.

Sure, we can discuss Testerone replacement every once in a while and yes, I may drop the word PROSTATE into polite conversation, but you will forgive me, dear boyfriends (and by that I mean platonic of course) if we keep some things sacred in the name of sisterhood?

And so in the spirit of a relatively brave new world that attempts at times to appeal to genders far and wide, I write this Tuesdays post from the seat of my bike. Rest assured I am not perched on said Cervelo pedaling for God and country. In fact at this moment I am seated on the floor of my walk in allowing the inspiration to wash over me.

But in reality this post was written this past Saturday while I rode for glory from Vancouver to Whistler in the Gran Fondo.

Make no mistake, the Fondo is by no means a man’s race. Cycling is very much a  female sport despite the fact that the Tour de France still does not include women.

Yeh, I went political. And I took the passive aggressive route. There. But really, mes soeurs? What the F? Remember when marathons were “men only” sports? In fact back in the 1960’s was it not a thought among medicine men that women running marathons would bang the hell out of their uteruses too much so as to prevent them from having babies?

Weren’t we in the dark ages…. Sure enough when Katherine Switzer ran the Boston marathon in 1967 as the first woman ever to register for the race and complete it. Sure enough 5 years later the Boston Marathon was open to women. It took some time but yes, indeed it is a man’s prerogative to change his mind.

And so this brings me to the world of cycling. I could not help but dream of the day when a female Tour de France will be a part of the cycling landscape as I found myself on top of my sweet Celia (yes, I name my bikes) in my second Gran Fondo Whistler.

Truth be told, when I completed the race 2 years ago, I vowed NEVER to do it again. Turns out, I am full of shit. For there I was with a bib on my chest, race number on my helmet and a song in my heart at the start line.

The Gran Fondo Whistler is 122 kilometre cycling race that begins in Downtown Vancouver and ends in Downtown Whistler. For those of you unfamiliar with the route…. Let me talk you through it.

It’s 6:35 in the morning in Vancouver. I have lined up along with 6000 other lunatics on wheels on West Georgia Street. I find myself in the 6 hour plus pace group. I was indeed built for comfort and not for speed.

Those of you who take issue with my time of cycling uphill for 122km in 6 hours or more, please allow me to invite you to go screw yourselves. I’m in pretty great shape- but I’m no cycling champ. I’ve got stamina for days but speed is not my strength. Besides, I have 3 full time jobs and I make dinner every night for my family. I am a loving wife, a pretty decent doctor and an occasionally reliable friend. I have a mouth on me that is pretty respectable and I can indeed shop for Canada (should it ever be recognized by the IOC as a sport). If you can do all that, in four inch heels and cycle to Whistler in less than 6 hours- have at me sister (or brother)… I’m all yours.

But enough with my rant…. Back to my race on Saturday morning….

We riders are all asked to remove our helmets and the national anthem begins. Of course, true to form, I start to cry. Yes, I cry when I hear my national anthem (I’m not a wuss- I’m a patriot, thank you very much) and I cry during racing events. Oh Canada at a racing event and I’m reduced to an emotional puddle.

The anthem ends, I dry my face and on goes my helmet. The starting gun goes off and the race begins.

The Fondo indeed is a rite of passage for any cyclist living in Vancouver. Not only is it a chance for the meek on wheels to inherit the road, so to speak, it’s a true test of endurance.

After a coordinated wave of starts geared toward each groups’ expected finish time, it was indeed my turn.

Ah the rush of it all as I cycled through the Stanley Park causeway…. ON THE ROAD. Sisters, I have ridden the causeway twice a day every day on my way to work- but always on the side of the bike path. THIS time, I was front and centre down the yellow line of the of the roadway as I made my way across the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Safe to say, Nobody puts baby in the corner. Truth be told, I had another 120km ahead of me, but it was indeed a small price to pay for a moment of glory. There we were, 5000 plus riders cycling over the Lion’s Gate Bridge on Saturday morning without a car in sight. Regardless of what happened over the next coming hours- I had THIS moment….

And then came the 10% hill grade that is Taylor Way. This was indeed the prologue for my day to come. For yes my sisters as I rode up that Motherfunhouse it dawned on me that there would be more to come…. A great deal more.

And sure enough as if on cue, Kate Busch started singing on my playlist….. RUNNING UP THAT HILL.

Yes, I rode the Fondo with a single ear bud in my right ear and a play list on my phone. Truth be told, I usually ride with a single ear bud in my right ear. I am never distracted and the music helps me pace. And so on that glorious Saturday morning, Kate Busch was singing me up that hill and the 75 more or so to follow.

Over the next 120 km I listened to Bruno Mars lament his relationships lost. I hummed along to Matchbox 20 as I made my way to Squamish. This indeed was the lovely part of the ride. The Ocean to my left and an entire lane of the Sea to Sky Highway before me.

I hit Squamish (KM 60 or so) with the Dunwells in my ear and a skip in my cycling stride.

And then came the Alice Lake Hill. This was of course followed by Daisy Lake Hill and a variety of other hills named after women and lakes. I have a variety of conspiracy theories on this one but I will spare you them all.

Safe to say that it is my estimation that men indeed name bad acts of nature after women. Want to dispute my claim? Hurricane Katrina. Boom. Nuff said.

And so it went up and up with 700metres to climb and 122km behind me as I ascended into Whistler, across yet another finish line and a moment of glory.

I was indeed a cyclist and regardless of time when the rubber hit the road, I was indeed good enough. The question was…. Was I too much?

A recent study presented at the European College of Cardiology Meeting on September 3, 2013 was a glimpse into that question. How much intense endurance exercise is indeed too much?

Researchers gathered vital statistics on Tour de France cyclists who road the legendary road race between 1947 and 2012. They looked at death rates and compared them to age matched French men (or controls) from a  similar time period.

The results showed a 41% lower death rate in Tour cyclists. There was a lower mortality rate from both cancer and vascular disease over time. On average Tour cyclists lived 6 years longer than the regular French male population.

Is the study a true scientific pillar on which to build my life? Hell no. Firstly, I’m not a Tour de France cyclist. I never will be. I was not built for that stuff. I don’t have the legs and I don’t have a penis. The Tour is still men only…. For now.

But the study does reassure those of us that transient endurance sports may indeed be beneficial. The key message, I think from this study is the word…. Transient. We all need some time off from intense exercise. That does not mean we ride 300km one day and then take the year off. In fact other studies point to the significant benefits of long terms constant exercise.

I like to think of exercise like any medicine…. There is indeed a dose response and sometimes, like a good platform heel, you can indeed have too much of a good thing.

So my brothers and sisters…. On this glorious Tuesday and on all others…. Ride safe, ride often and of course…. Ride strong.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ruby Tuesday

I’ve been thinking a lot about that which matters to us; the people in our lives, our relationships, our perfect winter footwear. Not to worries, my sisters- I won’t get too philosophical, but lately, I’ve been wondering about the series of connections we have to the world and how as humans (and girlfriends) we really are the sum of our parts.

This leads me of course to the realization, I fear, that I become one of THOSE PEOPLE.

Allow me to explain.

Many years ago, when I first started practice I had a patient who cancelled her appointment because her dog died. I remember thinking at the time, “come on, it a dog.”

And then I got a dog.

Back then I could not have imagined the loss of a dog and how it might affect someone. Those of you reading this who have never had a furry creature lick your face in the morning are surely thinking that I have indeed lost both my credibility and my perspective by just letting you in on this little secret.

(fret not…. I will earn it back)

But yes, almost 10 years ago I let a dog into my life and it has pretty much screwed up my sense of things. Nine years ago, I let another puppy into my life and safe to say- the bottom has fallen out of the proverbial barrel.

Make no mistake- I’m not one of those owners who dresses up her dogs in fancy clothes (no judgment). I don’t paint their toenails and I don’t call them my babies. I realize they are indeed dogs.

I leave them at home alone for periods of time and yes, there has been an occasion where I forgot to feed them.

I do, however ensure that they have a lovely “dog nanny” who takes care of them when I am out of town. I often buy them a special dog treat for no reason. I make sure that they are walked, fed and watered twice daily. I let them like my face with reckless abandonment and I do rub their tummies when called for.

In short- I am not a bad owner. I’m actually a loving dog owner with a reasonable sense of canine responsibilities.

I know that one day, my Lola and Ruby will die. Lola is 10, Ruby is nine. If my math skills are correct and Wikipedia knows its shit, I have another 5 or so good years with these fluffy monsters.

I’m somewhat sensible about this. I have even thought about what would happen should my pups need more intense medical attention than the usual vaccinations and check ups they have had in the past.

In my head I played the usual “what if” game. Would I give them insulin if they were diabetic? A simple pill every day for a chronic treatable disease?  If for example, Lola was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis would I manage her care like I would a human, or, (hypothetically of course) would I call it quits and start over with a new, Tibetan spaniel called Flossie?

In my head, I was clear on a few things and fuzzy (no pun intended) on most others. I vowed that there was no way in hell my dog was getting chemo. Should either of my fuzzy monsters get cancer- I’d be sad and it would be hard but I draw the line at chemo.

And then Ruby got caught in an escalator.

Yes, that is correct…. An escalator.

Sure she rides the escalator all the time without incident but on this day- there was an incident.

Let me not go through the details, only to say- think Beverly Hills Chihuahua meets The Saw and you have a rough idea of what went down at Chapters Bookstore on Robson last week.

Incidentally- I will be buying books online for the next few months until the staff there forgets who I am.

Safe to say, I remained calm and as for Ruby? She was indeed in shock. Because after the horror wore off, the dog was surprisingly calm as I held a Starbuck’s napkins around her paw and walked her the 6 blocks to the Vet’s office.

A moment of shout out to the staff at the Veterinarian’s office who were awesome. They took Ruby right away and cleaned her up and informed me that she would indeed need surgery on her paw to remove the broken finger.

Given that I had a sense of responsibility I did not think twice. RUBY NEEDED SURGERY? SURE THING! Did I ask how much or what were the alternatives? Did I ask if a dog can indeed live without a finger? Hell no! RUBY NEEDED SURGERY.

I whipped out my Amex card like it was a Barneys shoe sale and sure enough…. 24 hours later- Ruby had her toe safely removed while under anaesthetic.

Ruby’s toe surgery cost me as much as a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Yes, I sound really shallow when I say that…. But somewhere, someone is thinking the same thing and its important for me to provide some sort of emotional weather vein to heartless among us.

According to a poll published in USA Today in 2011, 80% of pet owners took their animals to the vet annually. The cost on average was $500. One in six owners spent more than $1000 annually on vet bills for their animal.


No, it isn’t bad and no I do not judge. Ruby is a really sweet dog and yes she enriches my life in ways that a pair of Manolos never could.

The dust has settled and Ruby is healing well. The trauma of the moment is but a memory and in the next few months I will return to Chapters (without my dog) to buy my books once more.

I have become a statistic, my sisters…. The lesson is clear. I think back to the time when I passed quick judgment on the patient who failed to show for her appointment only to completely understand her point of view once I had a dog of my own.

The lesson is clear my sisters… never judge a girlfriend until you’ve walked a mile in her Manolos. As for Miss Ruby, my 9 fingered dog? I still draw the line at chemo.