By Allison Flynn
To say that Dr. Marla Shapiro is a busy woman is a colossal understatement. She’s a national medical consultant for CTV News and Canada AM; editor of Parents Canada; bestselling author; newspaper columnist; Associate Professor at the University of Toronto; Family physician; mother and wife; fundraiser and inspirational speaker. And yet, Shapiro nonetheless found time to answer The Reporter’s Four Burning Questions this week.
On Monday, May 16, Shapiro will be back in Montreal to share her personal story and talk about surviving cancer as a chronic disease at The Goodman Cancer Research Centre’s Public Forum.
For details and ticket info on The GCRC Public Forum on Cancer Survivorship: With, Through and Beyond, contact Annette Novak at 514-398-4970 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: You dedicate so much time to breast-cancer outreach – sharing your story and inspiring those who are going through similar life-threatening situations. What drives you?
As a physician who works with patients, I was shocked at how much I didn’t know about the journey, the family impact and the emotional roller coaster we would all be on. When I appeared on the Vicki Gabereau show bald, the public response was so overwhelming. As I began to speak, I constantly met women who knew nothing about reconstructive breast cancer surgery and lacked knowledge and support. In sharing our stories – all of our stories – we can raise awareness on prevention, early detection and screening as well as treatment options.
What’s it like being so public and frank about a very personal struggle?
In part, it comes with the territory and in part, it is who I am. I had a choice to make. Would I allow the message to be in the hands of someone other than me or would I use the privileged platform I have to use this experience as an opportunity to do what I do best-promote health and health-prevention strategies? It can be intrusive, but I do have boundaries. I have never involved my family publicly without their permission. Frankly, I consider my media role a privilege and I take that responsibility very seriously.
How does being a physician colour your approach in the fight against cancer?
It is a double-edged sword. What I do is who I am, so it is difficult to answer this. I recognize the importance of evidence-based medicine, but [my experience] has certainly reinforced the importance of the entire family and community. I am fortunate to be on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. I believe in the importance of a national strategy and am proud of this pan-Canadian approach to cancer control.
What’s next for Dr. Shapiro?
Mindfulness. Living my life as mindfully as I can. The moment we are in is important. I realize that we don’t always get to pick our journey, but we do decide how well we keep to the road of our personal values.