“With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come. And let my liver heat with wine than my heart cool with mortifying groans.” –William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice
At age 44, as a practicing internist Dr. Heather Thompson is diagnosed with breast cancer, and must abruptly enter the healthcare system for the first time as a patient. Her experiences, observations, and process of growth and transformation are outlined in her first book, “Mirth is God’s Medicine.” A continuation of the story, “With Mirth and Laughter” now moves beyond the early days of breast cancer treatment, including surgery, medication, and physical therapy, and further describes how a cancer diagnosis impacts her friendships, family dynamics, and teaching and mentoring roles. More importantly, it changes her practice style and view of what it means to provide patient centered care. This book includes story after story of patient interactions, some ironic, many humorous, but all poignant and compelling; they serve to illustrate how being in one role ultimately benefits the other. Dr. Thompson also chronicles how becoming a patient changes her approach in how she teaches and trains future physicians. Those in academic medicine or in a teaching role of any kind can relate. Cancer survivors as well as health care providers will appreciate the observations and shift in perspective as she moves from doctor as patient to patient as doctor. All the while, Dr. Thompson maintains her keen sense of humor, sharing many amusing stories about primary care, academic medicine, and even the somewhat harrowing process of becoming a writer.
From the Author:
I’ve often been asked, “What is the difference between Book 1 and Book 2? Which one should I read?” My elevator speech reply to that question is this: “Book 1 is about ‘Doctor as Patient’ and what that experience is like. Book 2 is about ‘Patient as Doctor’, and how that changes my practice style and approach to patient care going forward.”
In essence, they are two halves of the same story. They are roughly chronological, though I took creative license at times to make it a more cohesive read. Each is fashioned to be a stand alone read; one can understand and appreciate the second book without having read the first. The target audiences might be the same or similar, or could perhaps be different; patients experiencing a cancer diagnosis might resonate more with Book #1, while doctors and nurses as well as general readers would find Book #2 expanding on themes of academic medicine, patient communication, mentorship and so on.
As any author will probably tell you, I also feel my writing style was developing and solidifying as I kept at it; as a result, Book 2 is likely reflecting my personal voice even more so than Book 1. But just as a parent you are not supposed to pick favorites, this might be true of an author and their books as well. It is my sincere hope that readers who enjoyed Mirth is God’s Medicine will find With Mirth and Laughter a compelling read and a glimpse into “what happens next” after the dust settles from a cancer diagnosis.
“From her own encounter with breast cancer, Dr. Thompson fashions a heartfelt, sharply-observed account of how her life changed for the better. She’s a beacon to her practice, her students, and her family. A vibrant, touching, honest work. “
–Samuel Shem, M.D., Professor of Medicine at NYU Medical School, author of The House of God and the sequel, Man’s 4th Best Hospital
“This book presents an opportunity to learn the arduous task of being a physician while wrestling with cancer, and reminds us to lend compassion. I highly recommend to all people whose world has been interrupted by cancer. You will be enlightened, encouraged and comforted.”
–Teresa E. Nelson, breast cancer survivor and author, Tender Mercies for Tough Moments
“Empathy is not sympathy, nor ‘niceness’, nor even clinical excellence. It is, rather, the knowledge that whatever the patient is suffering can be recognized in a short sentence: ‘It could be me’ because, in fact, it was her. This book is well worth reading, not just for doctors and patients, but for all who care about the suffering of others.”
–Faith Fitzgerald, MD, MACP, Professor of Medicine at UC-Davis and frequent contributor to On Being a Doctor in the Annals of Internal Medicine
“With Mirth and Laughter is an amazing story that celebrates life with cancer as both patient and physician. The author, Dr. Heather Thompson Buum, retells her own remarkable story as a breast cancer patient and survivor in a way that appeals to anyone who faces the stress and uncertainty that cancer may cause.
She transforms her own journey into practice with many examples along with way to recovery: “So in the very same calendar day, I have shared at least part of my story with a group of medical students, then a patient of mine; and each time, it is met with a very positive response” (p. 22). She continues: “We are taught [in medical school] in general not to reveal too much about ourselves. We don’t want to compromise the doctor-patient relationship or detract from the objectivity. However, in doing so, we may be missing opportunities to make real connections, to allow authenticity and vulnerability to permeate that relationship” (p. 22).
The book explores the many ways in which medical professionals can open up about their own cancer, or more generally, illness with patients and in doing so transform merely surviving with cancer into thriving. In an engaging way, the book transforms the ups and downs of cancer diagnosis and treatment into a celebration of life we can all relate to. This book is not just for medical professionals; it’s a book for everyone.”
“As a physician, I have seen that one of the most challenging parts of a patient’s journey with cancer, especially one that alters both your body and your soul like breast cancer, is being able to integrate the new you into the rest of your life. Who do you tell? And how? How do you interact with friends, family, and colleagues now that you have been changed mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually? Heather’s follow up book to “Mirth is God’s Medicine” takes us on this next step in her journey with cancer. We hear about how she tackled each of these challenging questions. Her humorous style of writing makes it a fun and easy read and draws you into her ups and downs. This, along with the first book, are my new go-to recommended books for anybody facing a cancer diagnosis.”