by Dr. Shireen Mansouri
I recently celebrated what I’ve decided to call my “Tamoxifree” Day. Ten years after starting Tamoxifen, I was able to stop my treatment. This entire year, in fact, has been a set of anniversaries: Ten years from finding the lump, 10 years from starting treatment, 10 years from having surgery.
It’s also 10 years since I met some of my truest friends —the people who came into my life during my hardest year. Instead of turning away from someone going through a difficult time (as, quite honestly, several of my then friends did), these people leaned in and took time to know and sit with me. These were friends who took me as I was—broken, bald and bawling.
It’s also 10 years since I started to practice yoga and, then, meditation. Knowing that I’d lose my normal coping strategy of exercise, I learned to appreciate contemplative practices. This led me to the study of contemplative caregiving and, eventually, Compassion Cultivation Training.
Ten years since, I’ve learned that I was more than my profession; that I was a human being and had other qualities that the world appreciated that weren’t completely wrapped up in my identity as a physician.
Ten years since, I’ve learned to “just be”, as my dear friend, Rosie, calls it—to be in the present moment without the guilt that I wasn’t achieving anything.
Ten years later, I’m truly a different person; not just physically, as pieces of me were surgically removed and millions of my cells were obliterated with the chemotherapy, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. (And really, is there truly any difference between these?)
No mud, no lotus.Thich Nhat Hahn
Early in my treatment, I watched an enlightening TED talk about Post Traumatic Growth. Until then, I’d only thought of trauma leading to distress. Learning that it could lead to growth completely changed my lens and experience.
Along with that growth, I have gratitude. It’s hard to say that without sounding trite or cliché, but I’m truly grateful for the relationships that became so much stronger from sitting in the mud together. Gratitude for the skills I learned that now allow me to sit with others in their mud. Gratitude for what has allowed me to be the person I am now.
Would I have rather not had to sit in the mud? Absolutely! But given that the mud wasn’t avoidable, I’m grateful to those who were willing to sit in it with me.
- “The game that can give you 10 extra years of life”, a TED Talk by Jane McGonigal
- “Growth after trauma”, an article written by Richard G. Tedeschi in Harvard Business Review
About Dr. Shireen Mansouri
Shireen Mansouri is a family physician who lives in Calgary and works in Yellowknife, NWT, as a family physician and GP Oncologist. She came to Compassion Cultivation in 2014 and found it transformative in her practice. She is now a certified Compassion Cultivation Teacher and passionate about ensuring physicians have the skills to thrive in medicine