The ugly truth in beauty magazines

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Dr Google

“I’ve got a tumour,” said one of my best friends, bursting through my front door, clearly dispensing with the preamble.

“A what?” I tried to feign interest, never diverting my eyes from the television screen.

“A tumour, in my head, my whole head. I’ve probably head cancer.”

“You’ve got what?” I asked, this time hitting the pause button on my dvd and going to the fridge for wine. I felt it was the least I could do.

“I’ve got this thing in my mouth,” he said, getting out two wine glasses, “and it’s been there for ages but I’ve been ignoring it.

“My head feels funny, I feel a bit weird, it’s my throat, there’s a growth…” the words came tumbling out as fast as the wine tumbled out of the bottle.

So I asked the logical question.

“Did you go to the doctor today and is this what she told you?”

“No,” he replied, “I’m going to the doctor tonight. But I researched all my symptoms on the internet and it looks like mouth cancer.”

The World Wide Web has made doctors of us all. We can diagnose every symptom. All we need is the training on how to make people wait around for ages in their underwear, and then we’d all be medical practitioners.

I’m no better. A few years ago, I noticed that every time I got out of bed, or stood up too quickly, I would get a dizzy spell. Or if someone called my name, and I spun my head around to see who it was. Once it happened when I was wearing heels, but to be fair, they were ridiculous high.

It was around the time that this story was being emailed to all and sundry about some poor fellow who, after seeking extensive medical treatment for his constant headaches, discovered he had a brain full of maggots. They said it had something to do with eating too much sushi. Urban legend? I don’t know.

But the story stuck.

And I like sushi. And I had a weird head. So naturally, I concluded that I, too, had been afflicted with the same condition.

Without even consulting a GP, I rang my nearest hospital and booked an MRI. It was just as I was getting in my car to go to the appointment, that a very dear friend gently suggested that perhaps a little visit to her friendly GP (“gorgeous woman, you’ll just love her”) might be the better course of action.

It was. I had an inner ear infection. Not a filthy disgusting maggot in sight.

Another time, the tip of my left index finger went numb. Stone cold motherless numb. It freaked me out a bit. I was a smoker at the time, and it scared me more because I had to hold my fag in the other hand. For anyone who has ever smoked, you’ll know what I mean.

So I did the only logical thing and hopped on the internet and typed in my symptoms.

According to Dr Google, I was having a stroke.

Oh great, I thought, and I’m not even 40!

Google helpfully directed me to a site where I could conduct some basic checks to see whether or not the stroke diagnosis was correct.

First I had to read aloud some sentence that scrolled across my screen. Then I had to throw both my arms above my head and expel air. There were a couple of other checks, which I can’t remember but they involved something to do with eyesight and reflex.

What I can remember is being able to do all these exercises easily. Ah, I thought, with the wisdom you get from watching Grey’s Anatomy and ER, it’s still a stroke, it’s just not fully happening yet. But it will.

Did I call a doctor or a friend? Or even an ambulance? No, I just sat miserably in my home and waited for the inevitable.

Which of course, never came. My finger went numb because I had squashed some nerves by carrying too many plastic grocery bags loaded with food. And after about a week, it went back to normal.

And my friend? No, he doesn’t have cancer. Or a tumour. Or anything serious. A couple of wisdom teeth needed extracting. He’s fine.

Which, of course, was another great reason to crack open some wine!

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Mission aborted

I’ve never completely understood why males train to become obstetricians and gynaecologists. Isn’t that like females giving boys instructions on how to stand up to pee?

Instructions on how to put the toilet seat down, now that I would get.

And so what I don’t quite understand is why men become involved in issues of supreme sensitivity like abortion.

For centuries, women have always been left holding the baby. And the reason we’re left holding it is because sometimes we’re the only one left to do so. I mean, someone has to hold the dear little mite.

Passion will usually have its way. We’re active sexual humans, and we are blessed with all the body parts necessary to enjoy sex, to feel sexual, to love, to feel attraction. To want to rip the clothes off him (or her) and submit to that primal animal instinct.

And it can be jolly good fun too.

Years before contraception. And by that I mean, years before indoor plumbing, antiseptic and dental floss, babies were being born all over the place. And left all over the place to perish.

That’s because there was no social structure to assist an unwed mother, or the family with far too many mouths to feed already. The father could well have been some duke or land baron. The girl may very well have been in love, but love doesn’t buy you security. Or a home for your baby.

Home abortions, with tragic and fatal consequences, were the act of desperate girls more fearful of their father’s rage or family shame than their own health and survival.

The advent of the pill, and certainly widespread acceptance and availability of contraception, has made a woman’s lot in life a fair swag easier. We can now control our bodies, control our decisions, and control our timelines.

Which means we’ve got less chance of ending up like the old woman who lived in her shoe.

But accidents happen. Surprises, if you will. Nothing is 100% foolproof. So somewhere along the way, women, even intelligent, educated, wealthy women, are going to find themselves preggers and think “Oh no!!”

In today’s civilised society — a society of options and choices, expert medical assistance and family support — if a woman makes a measured decision to not go ahead with her pregnancy, she should not have to justify or explain that decision.

Until technology takes us to a place where the men are having the babies… where they come to the realisation that they are pregnant and alone because of one moment. Or where they are simply not ready to become a mother.

Where they throw up non-stop for three months. Where they have to rush out of business meetings to hurl into the work toilets. Where their boobs ache and their stomachs stretch and their hormones make them want to stab people in the heart. Often repeatedly.

Where their vagina is put through so much trauma that they feel they’ll never pee again, let alone have sex. Where their size 10 jeans remain on the shelf for years because their bodies didn’t bounce back as the books said it would.

And where what they were doing before they got pregnant becomes no where near as significant after the pregnancy…

Then, and only then, should they become involved in decisions about abortion.

And the naysayer women, well, my only comment is this. If the woman doesn’t want the baby, then it is her body and she, and she alone, will need to live with that decision for the rest of her life.

I don’t know a single woman who, having gone through a termination, has be able to wipe it from her mind. She may very well wipe the memory of a huge credit card bill or the time she backed her car into a light pole in front of a new boyfriend. But she will never wipe the memory of her decision.

So why that poor couple in Cairns had to endure the humiliation and public shaming of a court trial for taking a very safe option to end a pregnancy is just awful.

In Queensland, we’ve been told we can’t change archaic abortion laws because it is felt that the changes wouldn’t get the full support of all MPs.

Most of who are male.

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Colonoscopy journal (reprinted from Dave Barry)

It’s just gorgeous what you find when you’re trawling around the net late at night, sipping a wine, having a laugh. Or if there’s no one on Facebook to chat to. Have a read of this, it is really genuinely funny. Thanks Dave Barry.

Dave Barry’s colonoscopy journal:

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.

A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.

Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner.

I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn’t really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, ‘HE’S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!’

I left Andy’s office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called ‘MoviPrep,’ which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven.

I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America ‘s enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous.

Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation.

In accordance with my instructions, I didn’t eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor.

Then, in the evening , I took the MoviPrep.  You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water.  (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons). Then you have to drink the whole jug.  This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes – and here I am being kind – like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, ‘a loose, watery bowel movement may result’.

This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative.  I don’t want to be too graphic, here, but:  have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch?  This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle.  There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt.  You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently.  You eliminate everything.  And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep.

The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic.  I was very nervous.  Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage.  I was thinking, ‘What if I spurt on Andy?’  How do you apologize to a friend for something like that?  Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said.  Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts; the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand.  Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down.  Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep.

At first I was ticked off that I hadn’t thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode.  You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist  I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere.  I was seriously nervous at this point.

Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand.

There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA.  I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, ‘Dancing Queen’ had to be the least appropriate.

‘You want me to turn it up?’ said Andy, from somewhere behind me.

‘Ha ha,’ I said.  And then it was time; the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade.  If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea!  Really!  I slept through it!  One moment, ABBA was yelling, ‘Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,’ and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood.

Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt.  I felt excellent.  I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that It was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors.  I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist for the Miami Herald.

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Gym jams

It is well documented that for every mile that you jog, you add one minute to your life. This enables you, at age 85, to spend an additional five months in a nursing home at $5,000 per month.

That’s ok by me. I don’t jog, it makes the ice jump right out of my glass. In fact, I don’t exercise much at all. Exercise wouldn’t be a problem for me if I had a different body to do it with. And if God meant us to touch our toes, he would have put them further up our body. If it wasn’t for car parks, I don’t think I’d walk at all.

Books on exercise sell by the thousands. And there’s a reason for this. It’s a lot easier to read than it is to exercise.

But I know I need to exercise. So I got together with some girlfriends to lament my platitudes over a restorative plate of gnocchi boscaiola (extra cream in the sauce thanks), garlic bread (double serve, do you mind?), house red (actually we’ll just get a bottle, much easier), and lattes (do you do them in a mug?)

Jane started. “I’ve got to exercise. I rang up yesterday to hire a treadmill. Great idea, doncha think? I was going to put it right in front of the television. That way I can watch The Biggest Loser and exercise! The one I saw advertised even had a drink holder. I don’t think it was for a wine glass, I think it was for a bottle of water, but you can’t be too sure. I’ll get them to confirm that.

“Anyway, get this, I rang them up, and they don’t have any left. None. No exercise bikes either. No cross trainers, whatever the hell that is, a float for the Mardi Gras in Sydney perhaps? I could get a fitball but I’d have to inflate it myself,” she said as she drew back on her cigarette.

Collective panic set in around the table. Clearly we weren’t the only ones desperately seeking absolution for our orange-peel thighs. The questions started. Did she ring other hire places? Were they out of stock too? What about going on a waiting list? How much are they to buy? Have you checked eBay?

“What if we join a gym?” I ventured, adding yet more Parmesan to my meal whilst deliberating whether I’d have caramel or butterscotch sauce on my sticky date pudding. “You know, ask for a corporate membership, government levy discount, personal trainers, stuff like that? Thanks doll, I’d love some more red.”

Sounded fab, except for one problem – commitment. I can’t commit to a dinner service pattern. Or a long distance mobile phone carrier. Or a man. How am I supposed to commit to a gym?

Gyms across Australia make their annual budget from women like me. They join a gym, sign up for a year and elect the premium membership package.

Then they forget to go. Forget that the key factor is actually visiting the establishment and moving about in some form on the equipment. These people are known as gym-donors. The bread and full-fat butter of the gym industry. They hand over money without setting foot in the place. They keep the wheels turning but never get on the bike.

“I know, we’ll just go walking. It’s free, it’s available 24/7, and we can go for as long or as short as we want.” Sighs could collectively be heard. Easy solution to a complex problem.

Ok,” I said, feeling very zealous and motivated. “We’ll start tomorrow at lunch time. We’ll meet outside my building at 12 and walk around the City Gardens.”

“Lunch tomorrow’s no good for me,” said one of the group. “I’m meeting my mother for coffee.”

“And I’ve got a meeting that will go till 2,” said another.

“No worries,” I said, steadfastly holding on to a mental picture of me in togs once winter was over. “What about after work?”

I’m meeting someone for drinks.”

“I’ve got to pick up the kids early

And so it goes.

I can’t say for sure whether that walking group will ever convene, or if any of us will ever get to that gym, but I can say one thing for sure. Come this time next year, we’ll still be talking about it. How do I know? I’ve already booked the table and asked the restaurant to open a bottle of red.

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Natural childbirth – the ultimate oxymoron?

Once upon a time, I used to live next door to this gorgeous young mum. Late 20s, pretty as a picture. With hair that does this amazing flowing billowing thing, very infrequently experienced by my own locks.

This young mum used cloth nappies, grew her own vegetables, never touched alcohol and recycled the bath water. She walked to the corner shop, hung her washing on a clothes line and I never saw a Dominos delivery car in her drive way.

Mind you, if I wasn’t joining the daily derby to find my way unarmed and unharmed into the city each week day to masquerade about, I’d grow vegetables. Probably even in the dirt.

(Me, August 1991, about 30 minutes before giving birth, great hair)

This gorgeous mum had just had her third baby. A little girl, called Katherine. Well, it’s pronounced Katherine, that’s how they introduced me. But I’ve noticed that it starts with a “Z” and ends with a “C” and there’s no “TH” in the midst. Perhaps it’s a name from some remote Slovakian village? Or they found it inscribed on the upper reach of a minor pyramid in Egypt? Or maybe Mum and Dad failed Year 10 English?

The baby is gorgeous too. All eight pound two of her (I’ve no idea what that is in Fahrenheit). And she was delivered naturally. As you would assume a child of such an earth mother would be, I was proudly told by the lovely mum.

But what constitutes natural childbirth?

I know she bravely squeezed her eight pound princess from her half ounce aperture, but she’d had her baby manually turned from the breach position two weeks prior. She’d received pain killers throughout labour and was the recipient of some vaginal cross-stitch post birth thanks to a generous episiotomy. Is this natural?

(Me, one minute after I’d given birth, via c-section)

Natural to me is the stories of the Chinese ladies on the rice fields who work under the beating sun whilst nine months pregnant and then excuse themselves from their work mates in the same manner I would apply if I was racing to the bar to get another double scotch before happy hour finished. Courteous but hurried.

From all accounts they turn their back, squat a bit (miraculously without the aid of Pilates classes) and effortlessly bring a new life into the world. They pop bub on their shoulder and go back to picking rice without so much as a Huggie in sight. Let alone a pastel shaded Babygro. Edged in some fabulous white piping. With matching jacket.

I’m a mum. I did the birth thing. Once. So maybe that doesn’t make me the oracle of childbirth. Then again, most opinions on birth that I hear are from childless women in their 30s and elder men. So really, I hold superior qualifications.

My daughter was a caesarean birth and whilst not a planned caesarean, I was certainly not unhappy about it. I guess I worked off the naïve principle that I was pregnant to have a baby, not a birth. I never felt less complete, I never felt that I hadn’t honoured my child’s world entry, I never felt that I failed. But plenty of other people felt I had. Comments ranged from, “Oh darling, what a disappointment.” (This from my then mother-in-law as she stood holding her first grandchild. Clearly her diplomacy ran in the family hence the “then mother-in-law” reference.)

(Me, 3 hours after giving birth, content but looking for a drink)

“Do you feel like a proper woman?” (This from a cousin who had no children and resolutely no short to medium term intentions of having any either.) Well sweetie, I murmured, if they’d let me give birth in a pair of high heels, perhaps I would?

“Do you think you’ll still be able to bond with your daughter?” Well, if I gave birth and then moved to the northern end of Greenland for the best part of 10 years, I might have a problem bonding.

To me, these were just dumb, insensitive ramblings. That aside, I couldn’t understand why I was being held up for comment. But if I’d had a vaginal birth with major medical intervention, I would be regarded as a modern-day Wonder Woman.

A girlfriend of mine laboured dreadfully for 18 hours and steadfastly ignored the advice of her doctor to have a caesarean delivery. It took 34 hours, epidurals, forceps, episiotomies, the suction cap and enough pain killers to keep Amy Winehouse happy to bring her child into the world.

Yet her birth is still classified as natural…

I’ve started a new vocabulary for childbirth. You have a vaginal birth or you have a vaginal by-pass. Sometimes I call it the sun-roof option.

To me, it’s about mum and bub. She’s the one who has been incubating the little blighter since dad got the whole thing started and she can be the one to choose what feels right for her body and her mind.

And if choice goes out the window and she has to follow doctor’s orders, that makes her smart for wanting the best for her child.

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