Cynthia stars in a documentary about her life called “By your side” due to be screened soon.
What is it that you do?
I work as a Palliative Care Physician at Royal North Shore and Greenwich Hospitals. My job is to improve the quality of life of people with terminal illnesses and relieve them of distressing physical, psychosocial or spiritual symptoms. I work with a team of doctors, nurses and allied health staff to achieve this and we also provide a support system for our patients’ families.
How long have you been doing this work?
I’ve been caring for the dying, predominantly cancer patients, for the last eleven years and before this a lot of my medical training was in cancer wards.
Who has been your inspiration?
Most people ask me if I get depressed at watching the people around me die on a daily basis. I would have to say that in spite of some very sad moments, there is so much that is positive in the way my patients and colleagues deal with adversity. I may see grief and sadness but I also see altruism, humour, bravery, stoicism, resilience, forgiveness, hope and love in the face of death and this restores my faith in all that is good about people. I would have to say that my patients are my driving force and my inspiration.
How do you relax?
It is very important to make sure that I recognize when I am burning out or need a break. I relax by debriefing with other colleagues about difficult cases, taking decent long holidays regularly and balancing work (which I do part-time) with play. I also foster friendships and make it a point to see my family regularly. Exercise is great for unwinding, especially at Northstar where I learnt how to detach myself from emotions, focus and live in the moment. Punching and kicking the pads helped too! Above all, I have the support of my husband to help me through trying times.