In adversity, there’s also opportunity, says Dr. Marla Shapiro, a physician, author, columnist and television personality.
Dr. Marla Shapiro
Speaking last month at the Canadian Friends of Laniado Hospital Ontario region’s 16th annual Dr. Joseph Weil memorial lecture, sponsored by Steeles Memorial Chapel, Shapiro said she learned that lesson after her 5-1/2-month-old son died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in 1993.
“When my son died, I was totally unprepared [for the grief], but as time went on, I knew I had to do something positive with Jason’s death.”
She said that a year later, Back to Sleep, a campaign that began in 1994 as a way to educate parents, caregivers, and health-care providers about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, asked her to tell her story and be the face of the campaign.
“[Jason’s] death created the opportunity for me to educate thousands of parents. When one door closed, another was waiting to be opened. I recognized that we could do something as a result of his death.”
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, she said, she had her battle documented by camera crews and wrote the bestseller Life in Balance.
“The crew moved in for 12 months, and we told our story in the form of a documentary. I did not hear what my daughter said until the final cut, but she said that breast cancer changed our relationship. In this moment of adversity, breast cancer kept me in the house, and it changed the nature of our relationship.”
Shapiro said that throughout her surgeries and chemotherapy, she knew it was important to keep laughing. “Don’t allow yourself to suspend life, waiting to get back to normal. This is your new normal.”
Breast cancer gave her the opportunity to re-examine life, she said. “I learned that you cannot lose your voice, and you cannot give your power away. The only power you have is self-knowledge and self control.
“When you make a decision, make sure it is a priority. Every time you say ‘no’ to something, you’re saying ‘yes’ to something else.”
As a physician, she said, she recognized that she had never asked her patients how they really felt. “This too was a door that opened.”
Shapiro said that no matter what your challenges, “you get to pick how you respond, and what you do with it. Self-knowledge is empowerment, and whatever adversity you face, you have the power to keep well the road.”