WP Staff


Moan like you mean it

Jen Kirsch is a pint-sized, blonde, bronzed, twentysomething from Toronto.

If I had you at the title, wait until you get to the material. Today, my fellow femme fatales, I thought I’d tap into the category of moaning. The moan to which I’m referring ranges from a) a sigh of delight, to b) a sigh of excursion. I am woman hear me roar. Well actually, I’d prefer not to thank you very much.

Because as you are there moaning and moaning and moaning, unbeknownst to you, I am sitting there – and by there I mean at the other end of the wall, at the next table, on the yoga mat next to you, etc. – hoping/begging/praying-to-god-promising-that-i’ll-never-watch-another-Bachelor-episode-again if you would just please stop moaning. Like now.

What’s my issue with the moan? Probably the same as yours, you deep-breathing-avoiders you. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me (against my will) imagine you being intimate. It is sexual – even though you’re moaning over a deep-fried-bean dip – and I just can’t save face long enough to pretend I’m comfortable with it.

I have always been uncomfortable with the public moan. What you do behind closed doors, ladies, is fine by me – so long as I’m not on the other end of the door. But the whole ‘letting it out in public’ thing is just too much. And I know it can be controlled with a bit of will (and self-dignity).

It goes back to high school when I was cast as the lead in a play, where I basically had to do an off-stage ‘moan into the mic’ kind of thing to insinuate that me and the male lead were being intimate.

The plot was similar that of The Truman Show. I played the role of the loving, sweet, innocent girlfriend, but really I was an actress and the whole plan was for me to kill my boyfriend on his 21st birthday over a cup of Pepsi as we cheers’d to our future together. In this play, we see the crew watching in on a television (which the audience doesn’t see) at my character and her boyfriend having sex. Knowing this was a high school show, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of my parents, family, friends (oh and grandparents) hearing my O-moan. I stood up to the director at the risk of losing my role, and in the end I got to keep it and we used a pre-recorded porn recording. Classy, right?

But my prudish nature with the moan still persists in my twentysomethings. Yesterday I was at a Yoga class and the woman on the mat next to me moaned after each and every pose. Now the yoga studio isn’t a place to judge, so I instead tried to focus on my breathing and my own experience, but I was almost surprised with her comfort level with the public moan. It also made me question whether or not she knew she was doing it?

Here is a short little list of places women moan, and how – in my humble opinion – I think it can be toned down; even just a notch.

1) When we eat good food: “Mmmmm, this is so good,” we say with a bigger than life smile on our face.  We bite in again, “Mmmm. So good.” This “mmm” and “ohh” and “ahh” continues until our plate is empty and we are full. We finish off, fulfilled saying, “Wow. That was good.”  I’ll admit, I’ve done it. I am a foodie through and through and nothing does me as good as a good meal, but I think that you can see (as indicated in the above dialogue) how this resembles a sac session: the increase in pleasure, to the climax, to fulfillment. Think: Meg Ryan’s infamous scene in When Harry Met Sallywhere she moans over a sandwich and the woman next to her says “I’ll have what she’s having.”

2) When we are active, in an athletic kind-of way: “Umph,” we let out as we strike the tennis ball with our racquet with all our might. It comes back to us, this time; we put our backs into it “Ammphhh,” we say as the ball is hit with more force. “Uhhh,” we say as we hit it out of reach of our partner and face victory. A sigh of relief is had. Again, whether it be moaning each time we hit a tennis ball, or each time we are held in a challenging yoga pose, we are replicating a bedroom scene most men can only fantasize about. Subtlety is the name of the game sister.

3) When we smell something good: Isn’t it funny when your florist has heard you moan more this month than your bed buddy? Now yes, I know it’s summer and you go to the florist once a week girlie, but well, that’s exactly my point. Not a good thing. Those flowers really smell lovely, don’t get me wrong. I know that, you know that, every person in the flower shop knows you think that. But how about you allow yourself a little inhalation to tempt your senses, take it in and leave it at that? Same goes for the cologne counter at Holt’s. If you don’t plan on buying the cologne, then you need to step away lady. Because rest assured, the nicely dressed man behind the counter is currently playing an image of ditching his wife for you in his naughty-little-head.

4) When we are getting it on: Though I’ve been ripping on the moan since you set eyes on the article, I have to tell you, I am perfectly OK with the moan in the bedroom. In fact, I encourage it. This is the time when the moan is appreciated. You’re with a partner who is being alerted by your telltale moan that he is the man of your kingdom. Let loose, give in to your impulses in the moan-department. However, there are of course times when the moan in the bedroom should be watered down, including: If your partner has a roommate who is home (or if anyone else is in the house/apartment etc.); if you’ve ever heard the neighbours before (if you’ve heard them, they can hear you pretty lady); and if you’re expecting company (nothing says ‘welcome’ like the sounds of you screaming out in pleasure).

Just a side note about the ‘in the bedroom’ moan: I would try to bite your tongue if you’re playing with a new guy. The early on moan only leads to future disappointment on his end, because you’re setting the bar high. He will create an expectation that that will always occur and will inevitably feel like a failure when it doesn’t remain consistent over time.

RELATIONSHIPS: Maintaining perspective

By Karyn Robinson-Renaud

He’s driving you nuts.

After a long day at work, you just forced yourself to clean up the living room. He comes in and plops himself in front of the TV – with chips. Somehow not every chip makes it into his mouth. Aside from the fact that he didn’t help with the cleaning, he now adds insult to injury by making a mess. No surprise here that you’re having some trouble remembering why you love him at all. You want to explode. What can you do to keep perspective? Take some notes during the good times.

As women we tend to be very good at remembering all the less-than-ideal things our partners do. And when we’re mad – at them – it all comes rushing to the surface. I’m not talking about deal breakers. I’m referring to things like forgetting to take out the recycling…again, or stepping over that big pile of laundry that needs to be done. If you are in a healthy relationship, he can’t be all bad. This just means you need to put some effort into noticing the small things he does to make your life easier, or to show you that he loves you. When you are able to recall the helpful things he does do, it helps soften how you talk to him when he’s annoying. In the long run this helps your relationship stay healthy.

Sometimes women have trouble recalling the thoughtful things their partners do because it doesn’t come in the form they expect. Some men show their love in very practical ways that go unnoticed at times. Other times, women can get caught up with the frustrations of daily life and forget the sweet things their partners have done in the past. Either way it’s time to take notes.

Get yourself a journal. Start by filling it in with things like how you first met, your favourite moments and what you admire most about him. Then keep it up-to-date with recent things he has done to put a smile on your face. Did he sing your favourite song? Did he clean the snow off your car? Did he bring home something unexpected? Whatever it is, if it put a smile on your face, jot it down.

Then pick a time to share it with him. He may be surprised at the small things that mean a lot to you. He may also be surprised at things that are not on the list, but he thought would be seen as helpful. Hopefully, this will open the door to both of you having a better understanding of what’s important to you and how you show your love. At the very least, making notes on the sweet things about him will make it easier to remember why you love him, especially when he’s driving you nuts.

The cupcake renaissance

Erin Christie is a freelance writer with an adventurous spirt and lust for life.

Who could have predicted that the major food trend and dessert du jour of 2010 would be something as simple as a cupcake. Let’s face it, these are the same tiny treats our moms used to fulfill their girl guide/fundraiser/or PTA obligation, with Rice Krispie squares in a close second, of course. Rarely does food transcend all generations to actually become a trend itself. And yet these moist morsels have resurfaced to storm mainstream culture. A fact that was reiterated with the launch of the W networks’ new show Cupcake Girls, a 13-week docu-series that follows entrepreneurs and best friends Heather White and Lori Joyce on their hectic journey to build their cupcake empire.

But these aren’t your mom’s cupcakes. The mouth-watering miniature miracles of our childhoods have transformed into gourmet goodies. Now served as tiny works of art in trendy shops across the nation, they are the new ‘it’ item to be seen buying and consuming. A popular request at corporate events, showers and weddings, they have become thelittle black dress of desserts. Perhaps their appeal is in their simplicity. Those fluffy little cakes covered in creamy icing and a rainbow of sprinkles…who could resist? Perhaps they serve our three dollar need to revisit our childhoods or possibly just our three dollar need to convince ourselves that due to their size, their calorie content is low, so in that case, have two.

In the midst of this cupcake renaissance, one has to wonder where or when they made their first appearance. As it turns out, these pocket-sized pleasures have been around for over a century, having made their debut in an American cookbook in 1826. Though the actual concept had been used as early as the 1700s, the term “cupcake” was used later in reference to the volume of measuring system. Prior to that they were referred to as Queen Cakes.

“Cupcakes have been around for hundreds of years, but I think cupcakes have become a big hit over the past few years due to their personal appeal,” explains Suzanne Cooper, owner/operator of theCupcake Shoppe, located on Yonge Street. “People can choose their own individual flavours and designs. I think people like to feel a certain individuality.”

“We do a lot of mini-cupcakes. I find they’re extremely popular for bridal and baby showers. I’ve also been getting a lot of orders for fundraisers and business functions. You don’t have to deal with cutting the cake or passing it out, it’s that grab and go factor. People seem to like to keep it simple,” adds Glendene Szymanksi, owner/operator of Cupcake Carousel, in Windsor, Ontario.

“I think nostalgia is also a major factor,” says Lynda Paul,  the owner/operator of It’s the Icing on the Cake Bakery. “Cupcakes are a comfort food as well.” Paul has carried cupcakes in her Queen Street shop since opening five years ago. She noticed a significant increase in both large and walk in orders. “They are more practical than cake, they have the grab and go appeal and you don’t have to deal with plating fees which can add up at a reception venue.”

Paul is not the only business owner to take note of the return of these demi-desserts. From cupcake cookbooks to cupcake-only blogs and websites, the internet is busting at the seems with all things cupcake.

More recently, major coffee and dessert franchises such as Starbucks and Cinnabon have added the tasty treats to their already thriving chains. “The cupcake has everything you could want in a dessert. They are well-known and well-loved, they were a good fit for our current product,” says Cinnabon president Gary Bales.

Toronto resident Jenn Gill was inspired to open her shop, the Cupcakery, located on St. Clair Avenue West, while working as a corporate event planner. “A few years ago I noticed an increased trend in brides ordering cupcakes instead of wedding cakes and my mother was a cake decorator so I saw that as an opportunity to combine my expertise in catering and event planning while doing something that I enjoy. So, I decided to leave my job and start a new career,” says Gill.

It was through her event planning experience that she invented the Cupcake Girl. “The Cupcake Girl is sort of our mascot. There have been a few,” says Courtney Douglas, a cake decorator/baker and the current incarnation. “Basically it’s something Jenn came up with. Right now, it’s usually me. TheCupcake Girl wears a really cute costume and goes to some of the corporate events, trade shows, and birthdays that we cater and hands out cupcakes on a little antique cigarette tray. I like doing it. I get recognized sometimes, which is always nice and I think it’s good for the store.”

Lovely reading

By Danielle Christopher

How to Raise A Boyfriend by Rebecca Eckler

Rebecca Eckler shows women everywhere that while they’re busy offering not-so-casual advice and reprimands to the men in their life, they’ve lost sight of an important fact: they’re not dating a boyfriend, they’re raising a boyfriend. She covers personal accounts (such as the guy who dashed away from her to cross a busy intersection without so much as a backward glance) in addition to sharing stories from friends. One friend shares how she was left at a grocery checkout, having to cope with an overwhelming shopping cart to pack in the car. Another depicts how her boyfriend forgot to meet her at the airport after a trip, prompting me to thank mymemory-of-an-elephant husband.

Then, an inescapable truth sets in: Rebecca Eckler already had a six-year-old daughter, so what was she doing with a boyfriend who was acting like a child?

As she writes, “If I can raise a child who is smart, kind and polite, surely I can raise a boyfriend, too.”

Rebecca Eckler’s work has appeared in The Globe and MailNational,Chatelaine and many publications. She has penned many popular books including Toddlers Gone Wild,The Mischievous Mom at the Art Gallery (co-authored with Erica Ehm), and Apple’s Angst.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I read this book in the early years of my marriage. It is a terrific read for anyone wanting to help nurture their relationship. With more than 30 years of experience as a marriage counsellor, Dr. Chapman noticed a pattern: everyone he had ever counselled had a “love language,” a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. He also discovered that, for whatever reason, people are usually drawn to those who speak a different love language than their own.

Of the countless ways we can show love to one another, five key categories, or five love languages, proved to be universal and comprehensive. Everyone has a love language, and we all identify primarily with one of the five: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

The book has helped countless couples identify practical and powerful ways to express love, simply by using the appropriate love language. Many husbands and wives, who spent years struggling through marriages they thought were loveless, discovered one or both spouses had long been showing love through messages that weren’t getting through. By recognizing their different love languages, they witnessed the rebirth of the love they thought had been gone for good.

Back to the grind (Part 2)

Women’s Post Contributor Liesl Jurock is a writer, a career educator, and a mama.  

Many moms are surprised by what they find when they return to work. Although your life has completely changed while you’ve been away, your workplace may seem much the same as when you left. What stressed you out before is now not as important and the work itself may seem easier after being responsible for a new human being. Despite this, it can be quite a stressful time getting back into the swing of things. Here are some tips on readjusting back to office life:

Re-introduce yourself. Unless they are also parents, your colleagues probably don’t expect that you’ve changed much and your boss may be unsympathetic to your new priorities. Make time to reconnect with the people you work closest with and rebuild those relationships. Give them a sense of the new you, but also refrain from only talking about your kid. You may prefer to put blinders on and get straight to work, but making time for those around you will garner you support when you need it.

Be sensitive to time. Remember that woman who used to annoy everyone because she booted out of the office at 5:00 on the dot to pick up her kid from daycare? This is now you. The need to control your time becomes critical now that you are juggling work with parenting. While you may want to set new boundaries, you don’t want to alienate yourself either. Find ways to strategically display your commitment: send e-mails when you are the first one in the office or working over your lunch time, offer to do research for the team that you can tackle after your kid is in bed, or do extra prep for meetings that will save time for everyone.

Find allies. Seek out the other working parents around you. You can recognize them by the bags under their eyes and the encouraging smile they now give you when you arrive frazzled and milk-stained. They can be great support and offer advice about surviving this readjustment period, may know about policies that impact parents in your workplace, and might actually enjoy hearing about your child.

Be present where you are. Of course you are thinking of your little one while you’re at work, but if it’s a guilty pull that distracts you from getting anything done, then what’s the point of being there? If at all possible, try and compartmentalize your focus so that you are present where you are. Work at work, and mommy at home, and try not to waste your valuable energy reserves feeling guilty about the other.

There’s no question that heading back to work is full of mixed emotions as you negotiate how to make things work best for your baby and your family. But in the craziness of it all, don’t forget about yourself as well. The old adage is true: You can’t take care of anyone if you don’t take care of yourself. Find a few minutes a day or a couple of hours here and there that are just yours so you can recharge before the juggling act begins again.

RECIPE: Judging the perfect pie

By Mary Luz Mejia

Pie. For me, the very word conjures up images of warmth, comfort and the most delicious way to end a cool weather meal. Given my love of pie, you can imagine my delight when I was asked to be a judge at the Chudleigh’s first annual Apple Piefest Baking Competition in Halton Hills, Ont.

I was joined by fellow writers, bloggers and magazine editors on a rainy, cold autumn day. Our task? To taste-test and judge over 20 pies. We were wisely split into two teams of three, with each team picking the top three pies in their section. In the final round,all six judges congregated to taste the top six pies.

The competition was stiff and we were charged with awarding points for creativity, texture, appearance and presentation, flavour and consistency. The only fruit allowed was apple, but no apple crisps or crumbles were admissible – they had to be pies with a pastry bottom.

The winning pie was what you’d imagine grandma lovingly prepare for her brood: flake-perfect crust and a sweet, cinnamon-nuanced filling that was juicy without being liquid logged like some of the varieties we sampled.

But my personal all-round favourite was the cheese-speckled crust pie containing Chudleigh’s Wealthy and Cortland apples, a hint of cinnamon, vanilla and raw sugar. To my palate, it was the perfect marriage of savoury and sweet. It was also the most creative, delicious pie on the block with pastry apple cut-outs glistening on top.

The most amazing part is that Alex Rundle and her friend Cailin had never made pie before they entered this beauty. I wish I had that kind of “beginners luck”. My pastry just isn’t up to scratch. But the girls have shared their recipe with me so that we can all savour their second place winning entry!

Alex and Cailin’s Wealthy Cortland Cheddar Pie Recipe

Pie Crust:

2 ½ Cups Flour
½ Tsp. Salt
½ Cup Cold Butter, Cubed
½ Cup Cold Lard, Cubed
¼ Cup Ice Water
3 Tbsp. Sour Cream
1 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese

Whisk flour with salt in large bowl. Cut in butter and lard until only a few large pieces remain. In a separate bowl, combine water and sour cream. Pour over the flour mixture and mix. Divide in half, refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight. Immediately before using crust, mix in the cheddar cheese.

Pie Filling:

4 large Chudleigh’s Wealthy Apples
4 large Chudleigh’s Cortland Apples
¾ Cups Sugar
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
1 egg yolk
3 Tbsp. Coarse Raw Sugar

Peel and core apples and cut into slices. In a small bowl combine sugarcornstarchcinnamon andsalt. Toss apples with vanilla, then coat with sugar mixture.


1 Egg Yolk
3 Tbsp. Coarse Raw Sugar
1 Chudleigh’s Apple Shaped Cookie Cutter

Roll out half of pastry on floured surface. Fit to pie plate. Make ventilation holes with fork.  Add apple filling mixture. Roll out remaining dough. Whisk egg yolk. Brush over pastry rim. Use cookie cutterto cut apple shapes in pie crust. Fit crust over pie and brush with remaining egg yolk. Add more holes with fork. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 10 minutes on bottom rack of oven at 450F degrees. Reduce heat to 350F degrees, cover pie with tin foil and bake for 60 minutes.


Back to the grind

Women’s Post Contributor Liesl Jurock is a writer, a career educator, and a mama.  

You’ve spent the last year devoted to your new little one. Maybe you’ve been in maternal bliss, enjoying every moment of the dreamy rhythm of motherhood. Or maybe you’d welcome some intellectual challenges again. Either way, your maternity leave is up and you’re not sure how to get ready for the grind. Here are some tips to prep for the big change:

Start transitioning early.Whether it’s daycare, your in-laws, or Daddy who’s going to take on caregiving while you’re at work, it’s a good idea to start practicing for both your sakes. Your child will certainly need to adjust to changes to routine, care, and being without you, but so will you. Leaving your child for a short time and building up over a period of two weeks to a month will allow you to focus on their transition before having to deal with your own.

Prep for the power struggles. If you’ve been the primary caretaker over the past year, letting go of all the decision-making and responsibilities may not be easy. Although you might feel like you know how to take care of your child best and want to coordinate every detail, you have no choice but to allow others to figure out what will work for them. While power struggles may ensue, you likely all have your child’s best interest at heart, so try to establish some open communication around their care that can continue once you are back at work.

Outsource responsibilities. You don’t have to be supermom and do it all. Whether it’s calling a maid service to clean your bathrooms or arranging for Grandma to cook dinner once a week, it’s okay to get a little help if you can. Your free time is limited now and it’s reasonable to want to spend whenever you have with your little one. You may prefer being in control of everything, but if you can get or pay for support once in a while so you don’t burn out, do it.

Explore your options. If you really can’t imagine being away from Junior as much as you used to, see what you can do about it. Some organizations will allow mothers to take additional unpaid leaves as they already have a trained staff person in place to cover the position. Flexible schedules, working-from-home partially, or taking a pay cut for fewer hours or less responsibilities are also possibilities.

Of course, you may feel conflicting thoughts and a great deal of anxiety about the upcoming transition because your life is very different now than when you left. Do what you can to minimize the worry and prepare ahead of time, but realize that you won’t truly be able to imagine what it will feel like or how it will all work until you are doing it. So, enjoy the final days of maternity leave and then give yourself and your family time to adjust.

RECIPE: Easy sipping with Spanish sangria

By Mary Luz Mejia

Living in Madrid and visiting Spain subsequently really jolted my taste buds out of their slumber. I discovered dishes throughout Spain that, while simple to prepare, insist on being made with the very best and freshest ingredients. The trick to making great food, no matter where it’s from is simply that: Using what’s in season – fresh and flavourful – to let ingredients shine.

Spain is blessed with a terrain that gives its cuisine the option of just-fished seafood, acorn-fed pigs, sun-ripened produce, and some of the world’s finest olive oils and wines. The Spanish are a gastronomically fortunate lot, and they know it.

Luckily for us here in Canada, there’s a lot to celebrate come summertime, too. There’s nothing better than gathering your favourite people to celebrate warm, long summer days and nights on your patio, dock, cottage, dining room table, or in a park with the Mediterranean flavours of tapas.

Cities like Toronto have a history of “tapa-ifying” everything from fusion fare to food that’s just over-priced for what you get. So in the generous spirit of Spain, I offer you some simple Spanish recipes I learned in the country of my mother’s ancestors. I hope they bring you as much fun as a tapas bar crawl through Barcelona.


If you’ve ever been to Spain– or most of Europe for that matter – you’ll know that they’re by and large traditionalists who don’t like to add extra ingredients to dishes that have stood the test of time. Adding red pepper to a Spanish tortilla? Never, if you ask a Spaniard, and the same principle holds for Sangria. I’ve tasted recipes where pineapple juice and fruit punch were added. I find them too sweet and my Spanish friends would just say “That’s not Sangria!”

Here’s a version that’s refreshing, not too sweet, and perfect for quaffing with tapas. It goes down very easy – just be forewarned.


1 bottle (750 ml) chilled, dry, medium to full bodied, preferably Spanish red wine with fruity characteristics (for example, a decent bottle from the Rioja region such as  Tempranillo or Garnacha would work – and don’t spend a fortune on a bottle because you’re making punch, after all).

2 ½ tablespoons sugar

¼ cup brandy

¾ cup of good quality orange juice, with or without pulp – your choice)

1 medium pear, diced (a sturdy Bosc Pear works well here)

1 orange, washed and thinly sliced

2 Ontariopeaches, cut into wedges

1 small lemon or lime, sliced cross-wise

Handful of green, seedless grapes

2 cups of Ginger Ale

1 cup of soda water

Block of ice to put in your punch bowl


Add the sugar and brandy into a large punch bowl. Stir to combine until sugar is dissolved. Add the red wine and the fruit. You can let fruit macerate for an hour or so.

Add all of the other ingredients and chill. If you have guests coming over ASAP, pre-freeze a block of ice (use a small, shallow bowl for example) and use that instead of ice cubes. The melting ice mass won’t water down your punch as quickly and, according to mixologists, “softens” the tones of the punch more steadily than individual ice cubes.

Ladle into cups and garnish with a fruit wedge if you’re so inclined.


Let’s call this Spanish Guacamole with a twist. Popular in Toledo, the creaminess of the avocado paired with the toasted cumin seeds gives this a modern update. Perfect for unexpected guests or a tasty tapas option in a hurry. This recipe serves 10.


1 egg

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 ripe avocado (Haas does the job)

3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ teaspoon of lemon zest

½ cup of fruity Spanish olive oil, plus some for drizzling at the end (Tip: I recommend an Arbequina olive oil ideally – like Gasull or the coupage-blend – in Dauro, which contains Arbequina olives for example)

½ teaspoon of sea salt

Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons of cumin seeds

1 good quality baguette – you’ll need 20-30 slices

Chopped chives


Use a blender or food processor to whirl the egg and garlic together. Peel, seed, and then cut the avocado into chunks and add it to the blender or food processor along with lemon juice and zest. Pulse until smooth.

With the motor running, slowly drizzle in ½ cup of olive oil, salt, and both peppers. You can cover and refrigerate until ready to serve for a few hours maximum (avocado mix starts to oxidize so don’t wait too long).

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a hot, dry skillet toast cumin seeds over high heat until they start to jump across pan. Put in bowl and set aside. Thinly slice baguette, arrange on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.

You can make these individually portioned by spreading some of the avocado cream on each slice of bread and top with cumin seeds and chives or arrange rounds around a bowl full of the cream that’s been topped with cumin seeds and chives for dipping.

Living a breathy life

By Jelena Djurkic

When I sat down with Mary Walsh recently, I was expecting to find the same bubbly comedian we’ve all seen tackling down politicians on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. But the 58-year-old got serious when it came to talking about her family’s experience with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

COPD, which includes diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is a long-term lung disease. It damages your airways; the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs, making it harder to breathe. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue and frequent chest infections.

As the Canadian Lung Association’s spokesperson on COPD, Walsh had been up since 3 a.m. when we spoke Wednesday, hoping to raise awareness of this little-known disease. It was also World COPD Day.

A recent study found that 90 per cent of Canadians have never heard of spirometry, a simple breathing test used to diagnose COPD. Some people aren’t even aware of the disease. But while the average Canadian may not know about it, many are affected. About 1.5 million Canadians are living with COPD.

Why should you care? There is an increased prevalence of COPD in women, says Carole Madeley, a respiratory therapist and director of respiratory health programs at the Ontario Lung Association.

“It’s a matter of encouraging people to get tested for the first time. People just aren’t aware,” said Madeley. If diagnosed, COPD is treatable. “You could live a very normal life or you could have a very disabled life.”

Walsh has three family members who have been affected by the disease. Her sister Laura has a mild case, but lives a relatively normal life. Her cousin Mary’s COPD, on the other hand, is more severe. At a recent family wedding, her cousin had to bring four oxygen tanks along with her in order to attend the wedding.

“She’s enslaved to an oxygen tank,” said Walsh, who has had her own respiratory problems over the years including episodes of pneumonia. “People need to know about this (disease).”

People over 40 and who smoke or live with smokers are at a greater risk for COPD and should be tested. A spirometry test can take from 10 to 30 minutes. Patients blow into a machine to measure how much air they can blow out of their lungs and how fast they can do it.

“You should be able to live your life and make enough changes to live a long, reasonable and breathy life,” said Walsh.

For more information on COPD or to find a local spirometry clinic, visit or call 1-866-717-COPD (2673). In Quebec, call 1-866-717-MPOC (6762).