Healthy Living in the North

Staff profile: Donna Anderson

Woman in belly dancing outfit posing in front of mural.

Donna’s passion for music and dance have been a great way to stay healthy and see the world! How do you stay active?

A mother of two and grandmother of four, Donna Anderson currently lives and works in Dawson Creek. Donna’s passion for music and dance has taken her around the world and helps her to create a healthier workplace at Dawson Creek and District Hospital.

For the most recent issue of A Healthier You magazine, I asked Donna a few questions about her role at Northern Health, her love of dance, and how northern B.C. supports her health and wellness.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role at Northern Health.

For the last nine years, I’ve worked in several clerking positions at Dawson Creek and District Hospital. I was hired as an admitting clerk/switchboard operator, but also worked in diagnostic imaging and as a medical/surgical unit clerk. I have loved every department that I’ve worked in! I’m back as an admitting clerk now and am happy meeting the constant flow of people this position involves!

My passion is music in all its forms – and moving to that music! Music has always been more than just a part of my life – it’s a huge part of who I am. As a child, I marched with baton in parades and took tap and ballet lessons along with voice, piano and guitar. Music brings such great opportunities! My grandfather was an original member of the North West Mounted Police Musical Ride and, in July 1902, his Musical Ride went to England to represent Canada at the coronation of King Edward VII. I, too, have had the great fortune of having my musical involvement take me to many places across Canada and the world! As a teen, for example, I was part of a program to entertain throughout Europe and Russia, including our Canadian troops in Germany.

Woman standing in canola field

The beautiful colors of one of Donna’s belly dancing costumes is especially striking against Dawson Creek’s yellow canola fields. Donna’s dancers, Troupe Shalize, take part in many community events in Dawson Creek.

I try to create a healthy and fun workplace by sharing my passion for moving to music with my colleagues. Some of the ladies I work with come to belly dance sessions when they can, even if it’s just dropping in when their shifts allow. Also, some of us were taking a companion hula hooping class. On our lunch breaks, we would go to the gym and hoop to music for a half-hour!

What do you do to live a healthy life?

Belly dancing is a perfect fit for me! It’s different from most other physical activities and is perfect for all ages, sizes and abilities!

The core of belly dance is posture and the isolation of specific muscle movements. By repeating and alternating various movements and putting in a little footwork, you get a pretty good cardio workout with no impact! Add in a mesmerizing costume topped off with a beautiful smile and you have a belly dancer who connects to her mysterious and ancient past!

I’ve had the privilege of taking belly dancing lessons and workshops and performing at various places across Western Canada and elsewhere. Can you imagine taking a belly dance cruise? I’ve been on two!

As a belly dancer, I also dance with various props, including candles, swords, veils, Isis wings and shamadan (chandelier worn on the head) so I get an extra workout from the balance and extensive arm work! Middle Eastern music is so different from the music I grew up with – I love the varied rhythms and instruments – so it’s a good exercise for the brain, as well! For another physical and mental challenge, I’ve added Egyptian and Iranian folk dances recently.

Two dancers standing in front of Dawson Creek sign.

Dawson Creek has it all – an active performing arts community, jaw-dropping scenery, wildlife, outdoor activities, and more!

What do you enjoy about living in Dawson Creek that supports your personal health and wellness?

The performing arts community here is one of Dawson Creek’s worst-kept secrets! I’m thrilled to be working with an amazing and fun group of dancers. My dancers, called Troupe Shalize, are proud to be invited to participate in many community events.

Want something besides dancing? There’s so much to explore in the Peace Country! The scenery is jaw-dropping, the sky is endless blue, and the fields are a gorgeous patchwork. It’s all here and you never know what you’ll see or find! I found a fossil while exploring the banks of the Kiskatinaw River, I’ve seen moose, bear, coyotes and swans while quadding and horseback riding, and the flyover of geese each spring and autumn remains a thrill! You’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t come to Dawson Creek!


A version of this story first appeared in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You.

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Learning to listen to your body

Balance Rock

Just outside of Skidegate, Balance Rock is one of the pictures that might say it all …Finding balance. (photo credit Tony Carter)

For years, I had used exercise, in particular running, as a way to relieve stress, get calm and refocused. I welcomed seasonal changes: running past shrubs laden with hoar frost on icy roads, running on muddy trails, or trying to dodge mosquitoes in the early morning; these runs were my time. Before long, I was training for my first marathon. Then I started in on the V series, traveling to cities that started with a V, like Vancouver and Victoria in BC, or Vienna in Austria. Yes, this does sound a bit obsessive compulsive. If running one marathon per year seemed like a reasonable goal to me, running two or three per year seemed even better. Acquaintances would often ask me about my knees, but my knees were fine. What eventually did give me grief was the area around my Achilles tendon. Taking a week off did not result in lasting improvements, and I knew that I had to dial back my efforts. A few physiotherapy appointments provided me with exercise suggestions, and I set right to them, but there was no way that I was about to hit the pavement any time soon.

As a healthcare worker whose job involves a fair amount of deep listening, I seemed to have been doing a poor job of listening to my body. Luckily, I had also taken yoga over the years, and its subtle message helped me to deal with the restlessness and irritability that came with having to slow down. Initially, I couldn’t even do any of the standing yoga poses. Once the Achilles was healed, bursitis of the Trochanter dogged my efforts for another year and a half.

I am not unfamiliar with grief and loss; once I had reached acceptance of my physical state, I was able to recall what else gave me joy in life. I didn’t have to look far as our living room was built around a piano. A lot of people’s effort went into getting it there, but it hadn’t been played in years. An itinerant piano tuner gave it some love and attention, and I was able to coax a few sounds from it. Research on the aging brain suggests that important lifestyle changes can help us to keep ourselves in the best possible cognitive shape. Learning to dance, a new language, or playing an instrument all are fun ways of challenging your brain. Your local Alzheimer Society has a host of tips.

Once again, acceptance was critical. Beginner’s mistakes help me learn; and my partner, who has a solid musical background but no longer plays the trombone, remains remarkably tolerant. Now that I am back on the road, I can go for a short run, come home and play myself a lullaby.

“By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.”

-Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. humorist, writer, and lecturer

Astrid Egger

About Astrid Egger

Astrid Egger has been working with Northern Health since 2002 and is currently Team Leader for Haida Gwaii mental health and addiction services. She is active in the Haida Gwaii Arts Council and enjoys the changing wind and wave patterns on the inlet.

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