"Courage Finds You When You Least Expect It"

Published: January 25th 2010

Dr. Marla Shapiro
Pic: CanadaValuesHealth.ca


Shalom Life chats with Dr. Marla Shapiro about living with cancer, Yoga in Motion, and all the projects keeping her busy.



You have been very open about your experience with cancer since diagnosis in 2004 (and continue to speak at various centres/hospitals). What made you decide to be open about it?


My career has in many ways informed who I am. As a result, life for me is a series of teachable moments. The last thing I wanted as a recognizable female physician was to give the message that breast cancer is something that we don't talk about. Our uptake in Canada for mammograms is well below what it should be. I am not different than more than 22,000 Canadian women who will be diagnosed on an annual basis. Early detection and surveillance is critical. Prevention and a cure even more so.....but admittedly I did not think I would be as public as ultimately I came to be. The journey itself and the experiences we were having as a family ultimately encouraged me to do the documentary and the book. 


What kind of reaction did you receive?


I was overwhelmed by the reaction. Initially I wanted to simply put out a press release and be in charge of the message, but I did not think that I would receive so much support and acts of kindness from the public. I simply thought it would be acknowledged and I would move on in my own battle against breast cancer. After I appeared on Vicki Gabereau bald, I was overwhelmed with letters and calls. 


You documented your courageous battle with breast cancer with camera crews and eventually a best-selling book, Life in Balance. You are very brave – how did you fare through it all? What was it that kept you strong and focused?


I am not brave at all. What choice do you have other than to go forward and fight? As I tell people, courage finds you when you least expect it. My family ultimately and my friends kept me strong and focused. They forced me to see that they were battling breast cancer too. 


In your talks about cancer, what is your primary message?


My message is about mindfulness in all aspects of our life. It is important to be an active participant and not let life happen to you. 


You are an Ambassador of Yoga in Motion. How did this come about? What sets this event apart from other fundraisers?


Yoga in Motion is a double fitness marathon of Yoga and Zumba in support of life-saving breast cancer research. It has four Zumba classes, four yoga classes, vendors, healthy food, breast cancer screening information, gift bags, prizes, and is an inspiring and motivating day. I am grateful to Mount Sinai and my caregivers. I am grateful for the help and support it gave me and so many of my patients. Yoga in Motion reminds us about the importance of lifestyle and exercise as primary prevention for cancers of all kinds. 


What other projects are you working on?


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