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Posts tagged ‘neighborhood women’

Turning Taboo Topics into an Open Dialogue for Women (Article)


Three medical experts address topics most women are too embarrassed to discuss


by Heidi Lading
Well Community Contributor

You probably know people who’ve thrown out their back or pulled a hamstring, but did you know it’s possible to throw out your pelvic floor muscle?

That little nugget was one of the many fascinating facts gleamed by attendees at a Girl Talk: Shhhh! Ten Taboo Topics event on Thursday night, where participants had the opportunity to bring up health concerns they may otherwise keep to themselves. The women wrote down anonymous questions that were answered by a panel of medical experts. The event was part of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s Wise Woman Week and took place at Flourish Studios.

The discussions about pelvic health didn’t stop at muscle pulls; the women—most of whom were meeting for the first time—delved into details about incontinence, bowel control, sexual function and beyond. The evening’s panelists, women’s health physicians and specialists, fielded the questions with ease and not so much as a blush.

“It’s just like any other muscle,” said Dr. Shameem Abbasy a urogynecologist at Swedish Covenant Hospital who specializes in pelvic floor disorders. “If you injure it or have problems, like leaking urine, there are pelvic floor physical therapists who can help.”

She explained to the group that three sets of 12 Kegel exercises daily may help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. But she warned that it is very important to work the right muscles during the exercises.

“I often see patients who are pushing and straining when doing a Kegel, and that’s not what you want to do,” Dr. Abbasy said.

For more advanced pelvic floor muscle training or help activating the right muscles, she recommended the Total Control class at Galter LifeCenter or making an appointment with a urogynecologist or pelvic floor physical therapist.

From there, the group’s conversation transitioned to digestion concerns and periods.

Dr. Kavita Singh, a gastroenterologist at Swedish Covenant Hospital, fielded questions about Celiac Disease, colonics, colonoscopies, constipation, hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and functional bowel disorders. She explained that all of these conditions are very common among women and nothing to be embarrassed about.

For people worried about discomfort during a colonoscopy, she emphasized that this life-saving procedure is worth a few hours (or days) of possible cramping afterward. The procedure is an examination of the colon and the opportunity for polyps growing in the colon to be removed.

“One-third of the population makes polyps, but there are no symptoms,” she said. “You can have a large polyp in early or advanced stage cancer and never feel it.”

She recommends a first colonoscopy at age 50 unless there is a immediate family history (parent, grand-parent, or sibling) of colon cancer, in which case you should begin at age 40 or 10 years earlier than when your relative was diagnosed—whichever comes first.

Regarding the increasingly trendy colonic procedure, Dr. Singh recommended staying away from them. “I don’t recommend colonics because the body already has a natural method for cleaning itself in one specific direction.”

When asked about methods to lessen or control heavy bleeding during a period, Dr. Abbasy discussed endometrial ablation, a procedure where the uterus lining is thinned.

“It’s a good option for people who don’t want to undergo a full hysterectomy,” said Dr. Abbasy.

Treating the Mind and Changing Behaviors
With many bodily functions and concerns covered, the conversation switched to a topic that women too often ignore: mental health.

Dr. Julia Rahn, a psychologist and owner of Flourish Studios, addressed questioned about Bipolar disorder, “crazy thoughts,” depression and the therapy process.

She encourages people feeling anxious or experiencing insomnia to start with a few minutes of writing and deep breathing.

“Take a journal, don’t edit yourself, get it all out,” she said. “Most people immediately feel better once they’ve done that.”

If a person wants to explore counseling or therapy, Dr. Julia recommended looking for a therapist who will “listen and recommend changes,” and not one that insists on “telling you what to do.”

Missed the Event? No problem.
Dr. Abbasy and Dr. Singh host talks like this two-to-three times a year to grateful crowds, so watch for updates about future Taboo Topic events.

Participant Danielle Washington of Lakeview appreciated the “free forum to ask anything and not feel judged.”

Her friend Jasmine Sayeh of Lakeview said she was leaving the event with “lots of good information.”

Flourish Studios is a multi-faceted learning gallery in Lincoln Park, which motivates and prepares adults, teenagers, and children to bring about significant, self-selected life changes.

Heidi Lading is a freelance writer in Chicago. 

Photo credit to Heidi Lading

Dining & Dishing on Health in Your 50s & 60s (Article)


Well Community was an online news magazine and discussion forum specifically focused on health and wellness in several North side of Chicago neighborhoods. It ceased publication in 2014.

Dining & Dishing about Health

A Chicago family medicine physician serves up advice on women’s health issues that may arise in your 50s and 60s
Heidi Lading
Well Community Contributor
The heavy downpour on Monday night didn’t dampen anyone’s spirit at the Wise Woman Week event “My Generation Dinner: 50s & 60s” at Bread & Wine on Irving Park Road in Chicago. The event —part of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s week-long celebration of wise women— welcomed more than a dozen women in their 50s and 60s who came to socialize and listen to health advice from Dr. Nanajan Yakoub, a family medicine physician at Swedish Covenant Hospital, while dining on a three-course meal.
“Women in their early 30s to 40s are busy raising their kids and taking care of their family and their career and they forget about their health,” Dr. Yakoub said. “But their 50s is the time to really take it seriously, especially if they haven’t before.”
The Heart of the Matter
Situated at two intimate tables nestled among shelves of wine, chocolates and artisanal goodies, attendees at the event listened as Dr. Yakoub discussed the number one, two and three killers of U.S. Women: heart disease, lung cancer and breast cancer, respectively. She explained that most women tend to worry about breast cancer when they think about their health, and neglect their hearts, which are at even higher risk.
Dr. Yakoub pointed out that talk show host Rosie O’Donnell put a spotlight on heart disease —the number one killer of women— this summer when she delayed seeking medical attention for what turned out to be a heart attack. Fortunately, being vigilant about overall health is the first and the easiest step that women can take to protect their hearts.
While certain indicators of heart disease such as family history and age cannot be helped, other factors such as weight, cholesterol and Body Mass Index (BMI) are within a woman’s ability to control. A healthy woman’s BMIs should range between 18 to 24.5 kg/m2. Dr. Yakoub said a BMI of 26 may still be healthy for some women, but no higher. She also stressed that a woman’s waist measurement is more important than weight. Taller women, and women of European descent, should have a waist size of 35 inches or lower to be in the healthy range. Shorter women, and those of Latin descent, should have a waist size of 32 inches or less.
Controlling Cholesterol
To keep cholesterol in check, Dr. Yakoub recommended that women in their 50s and 60s incorporate weight-bearing exercises, like walking with small dumbbells, into their workouts. She also recommends that women keep their portions of meats, grains and nuts no larger than the size of their palm. “A handful of almonds keeps the cardiologist away,” is Dr. Yakoub’s take on the old adage about an apple a day.
Chris Ryan, 51, couldn’t agree more. During the event, she shared with the group that earlier this year she joined Galter LifeCenter and participated in the 3-month Nutrifitness program. She lost 13 pounds and 13 inches (5 from her waist) in just 90 days. Ryan said she attended the dinner event with Dr. Yakoub because despite her gains, she is still unsure about what will happen to her body as she ages and she wanted to hear from an expert. She left feeling “more hopeful and positive” and now believes, “if I keep making changes, I can feel better.”
Prevention for life
Dr. Yakoub’s last take-home point stressed the importance of preventive screenings for women age 40 and older. She informed the attendees that starting this October, Swedish Covenant Hospital will be the second hospital in Chicago, and only the third in Illinois, to offer women 3-D digital mammograms. The innovative technology provides physicians with higher quality, more detailed images to identify abnormalities or suspicious lumps, which may have been overlooked in the past. She recommended that women get a mammogram every year, as things can change quickly and the faster you can identify a possible lump, the better.
Dr. Yakoub also encouraged women to get a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50, and women between age 50 and 60 should get a pap smear every three years. She said if you haven’t had any issues by age 65, you don’t need any more paps. The evening, topped off with a raffle for a gift certificate to Bread & Wine, saw women leaving with satiated appetites, increased health knowledge and the phone numbers of new found friends in their cell phones.
To make an appointment with Dr. Yakoub, call (773) 907-0978 or visit
Bread & Wine is a neighborhood American Bistro, wine bar, and wine market focused on farm to table fare. 

Heidi Lading is a freelance writer in Chicago.  Photo credit to Heidi Lading

The Heroines (of Lincoln Square)

January 22, 2012

Heidi Lading Kiec

This week I read The Heroines by Eileen Favorite. I started reading it on Tuesday and finished it Saturday afternoon. I wish I finished before 7pm Thursday because I attended a book club for The Heroines and Eileen was there. Eileen lives in my old neighborhood and she and I know each other through a neighborhood women’s networking group I started with another former neighbor of mine, Emily.

The book club meeting this week wasn’t a regular book club. It was a one time meeting that Emily put together to encourage more people to read Eileen’s book. It worked. Twelve people came, maybe fifteen. The neighborhood independent book store, The Book Cellar, benefitted from this event by selling several copies of the book.

I’ve been in a regular book club since March 2011 and on a couple occasions I came without finishing the book. Inevitably, the ending is spoiled. But, that’s my own fault for not having read the book in the allotted amount of time. I’d rather talk about the part of the book I’ve read (and learn the ending) than not talk about the book at all. Of course the ultimate scenario involves reading the entire book before meeting with my friends and experiencing the surprising twists and turns of the book as I’m reading. In second grade a friend of mine educated me on the truth about Santa Claus, so I suppose I’m used to people pulling back the curtain on the mysteries of life (and literature), rather than discovering them myself.

But the book club this week was different. It was epic. The author was coming. And I’m one of the cool people who knew her. I’m also one of the douchebags who didn’t finish the book before Thursday. Still, I got to sit in a room and listen to a published author speak about her work and her process, and hear her read from her latest novel-in-progress. Inspiration tingled through my veins. People asked questions. Some prattled on more than others. There was tea. There was wine. There, to my right, was a woman with her own ISBN number. My hero. Or, should I say, my heroine.

The Heroines is an adventure, a look back on the life of 13-year-old Penny Entwhistle and the heroines from literature who (took a break from their stories and) stayed at Penny’s mother’s bed-and-breakfast. Rapunzel, Deirdre of the Sorrows, Emma Bovary, Franny Glass, Ophelia, Blanche DuBois, Scarlett O’Hara, Hester Prynne and Pearl, and Catherine Ernshaw all board for a spell at the Homestead. The weaving of classic  fictional characters into a modern piece of fiction is ingenious. It crosses literary fiction with young adult and a splash of romance. It’s a delight to read and I am its newest advocate.

But I must confess…I walked away feeling dumber after reading it than when I started. Why? Because the majority of the classics from whence the characters are plucked are works I’ve never read. I’m sure they are all on a reading list for high school or college students. There’s no excuse for my ignorance. I read Hamlet and The Scarlet Letter (and saw movies adaptations of both books), but twenty years later my memory of Hester is vague at best. Ophelia offered the only familiar face to me in this literary fête.

This gross lack of knowledge on works of classic fiction plagues me. It tortures me with wet willies when I’m trying to write, encourages me to give up and watch shows like The Bachelor, makes me think I’m not smarter than a fifth grader (or at least not a college freshman). How am I supposed to be taken seriously as a writer if I can’t recount the classics in a cocktail party conversation? What’s more troubling is knowing I’ve read several of the “recommended reading” novels/short stories, but I can’t remember them. How is it I recall minutia from my boyfriend’s anecdotes but I don’t remember anything by Hemingway? If I have to start all over and reread the books my memory abandoned and then read all the others I’ll never write another word again. It’s a daunting thought trying to play catch up to people ten, twenty years my junior with literary knowledge at the ready. And how do people ten, twenty years my senior retain these plots? I haven’t even had children, so pregnancy or parent brain isn’t a factor. What gives?

I’m able to support myself, but I’m not yet able to support myself as a writer. That day may never come. Corporate communications, copywriting and public relations projects supplement my income. Who am I kidding, they are my income. Lately, the thought of teaching entered my subconscious. A lot of writers are professors. Then I read this book and imagined a scenario where 18-year-olds laughed me out of the lecture hall for not knowing Hamlet from Green Eggs and Ham. It’s terrifying. The problem is that most writers are professors of writing and/or literature. My degree is in Communications with a minor in Marketing. Yes, I took English and Irish Literature classes in college, but that’s a far cry from an MFA in creative writing or English or something important indicating you are qualified to teach at the college level. I haven’t even been published anywhere. What could I possibly teach these kids, these kids who already know about books, these kids ready to stone me in public like The Lottery by Shirley Jackson?

Then I take a deep breath, collect myself and think about two real life Heroines inspiring me. Eileen: for loving books, rereading certain ones every year, never giving up on publishing (or having her own family), writing every day, bringing wine to her own book club reading, and always offering me advice on the writing life when I ask her (which isn’t often for fear of revealing myself as a total amateur). And Emily: for daring to wear a sundress and espadrilles on the back of her husband’s motorcycle, knowing every man, woman, child and canine in the neighborhood, auditing corporate telecom bills like a rockstar and growing a business around this special skill, living in the city and teaching her children food comes from the ground, and being the first follower of my blog.

You two are the Heroines of Lincoln Square.