Dr. Mitra Ayazifar is an ophthalmologist and oculofacial surgeon and owner of Capital Eye Medical Group in Northern California. She is also a courageous survivor of ovarian cancer, celebrating 7 years.
In part 2 of this riveting 2-part interview, Dr. Ayazifar shares:
Listen to these amazing revelations and more in Dr. Mitra's life changing journey...
Disclaimer: The content of this episode includes the personal experience and medical choices of the podcast guest. The show is not intended to be used as medical advice. For medical advice, listeners should consult with their own physician.
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Resources for Dr. Mitra Ayazifar:
Capital Eye Group in Grass Valley and Roseville, California
Dr. Ayazifar's Social Media Accounts
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Note: This document may have human or computer-generated errors in transcription. Refer to the audio file for the actual conversation.
Disclaimer: The content of this episode includes the personal experience and medical choices of the podcast guest. This podcast content is not intended to be used as medical advice. For medical advice, listeners should consult with their own physician.
Dr. Weili Gray, Host 00:00
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[00:00:48]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Welcome back to another episode of the Dare To Dream Physician podcast. I'm so glad that you're back listening. Last week we had part one of this interview with Dr. Mitra Ayazifar. She is an ophthalmologist and ocular facial surgeon and owner of Capital Eye Medical Group in Northern California. She is also a courageous survivor of ovarian cancers, recently celebrating seven years. I'm just so amazed by her story. I'm so honored to be able to have the chance to share this on my podcast. And if you haven't listened to the last episode, episode 30, Facing The Unexpected. I highly encourage you to add that to your queue so you can listen after this episode. She is just simply an amazing human being and she shares her experiences growing up in Iran, immigrating to the US, becoming a surgeon and facing an unexpected diagnosis at the height of her ophthalmology career.
[00:01:42] And this episode, there is a part where Dr. Mitra shares her experience as a patient and the treatments and medical decisions that she made on her own. I want to make it clear that even though Dr. Mitra and I are both physicians, we are not your physicians. And the information shared here is solely her personal experience and as part of her story and she has an absolutely beautiful story. So, if you are looking for medical advice, we encourage you to seek the expertise of your physician for your individual situation. And we're picking up from where we left off last time. Dr. Mitra just had a surgery that she was hoping would just be at biopsy and the surgeon comes into the room to talk to her as she's coming out of recovery.
[00:02:35] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: And of course it was several hours later when I woke up and I'm in recovery. I'm in the room and the surgeon comes in and all I hear is cancer, ovarian cancer. And then I didn't hear anything else. Everything else is just br br br….. I'm still trying to absorb that. It is so strange that we take history as physicians. We take history, we write down. Oh, okay. So you had breast cancer. So you had colon cancer. So you had that, that, that, and it's just the word, but once you hear it and you know, you realize, oh my God.
[00:03:13] First thing I thought I was like, why me? I take good care of my patients. I take great care of my patients. I know more than what's going on as far as their eyes. I connect with them. I do all of these, why me? I was for lack of a better word pissed, but then I thought, and once I recovered and realized that I was supposed to have recovered from the surgery, it was essentially nothing as compared with, having, having to go through the chemotherapy.
[00:03:47] So I have to go through 18 sessions of chemo and they had decided, my oncologist who is very good with, or has a lot of experience with ovarian cancer. He had decided to do a high dose and the type of chemo was one that could affect, could cause neuropathy. And I thought, Hmm. So as I'm doing these sessions, in the beginning, I'm thinking, okay, what will I be if I can't be a surgeon? Because, we, it's almost I wasn't sure who I would be.
[00:04:27] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: So I had to think a lot and think about, okay, Plan B. First of all, what if I don't make it right? But just going through, getting through the chemo, I didn't want to have the side effects. So I didn't want to lose my ability to operate. I didn't want to, not be able to be useful the way I want to be useful. But the thing that kept me up at night, I remember after I had had the surgery, was worrying about my kids and I think they were, my son, I think was in fifth grade and my daughter was maybe, maybe they were fourth grade and seventh grade just finishing seventh grade. I get thinking, what if I, I'm not here to see them graduate graduate from, from eighth grade, graduated from fifth grade, graduated from high school, watch them get married, watch them graduate college, all of these milestones that I've lived my whole life to try and, be able to be here to do it.
[00:05:37] So that was the hardest thing for me, thinking about that. It wasn't that, oh, you're going to lose your hair. It wasn't, it wasn't those things. It was not being able to be here for the things that give me so much joy, which is them.
[00:05:52]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Hmm. Wow. Wow, and so what was this period of time? So you got, you had the, this biopsy or the surgery that turned into a few hour long surgery, and then you got the diagnosis of ovarian cancer and it sounded like there were many rounds of chemo and going through those things, how long was this process?
[00:06:16] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: So the chemo would be every week, as long as my for 18 sessions. So 18 weeks, if I could do it continuously, but of course, most of the chemos, they either drop your platelets, or drop your white blood cell count. For me, it was the white blood cell count, but I was actually lucky that I was able to go through nine sessions back to back without having to take a break. And I think I took one break between the nine and 10th session and maybe another break between 13 to 14. And then beyond that, I think I was okay. So what I remember, having these infusions that would last three or four hours coming home when I was doing the infusion. So one of my nurses, one of the oncology nurses, told me, you can put your hands in a bucket of water when you're doing the chemo.
[00:07:09] So there's not as much blood flow. And maybe you won't, some people say that you won't get as much neuropathy. And I thought I'm on it. I'm not going to put my feet in it for four hours, but I'll put my hands in it. So that's what I was doing. I was getting chemo and stuff. Of course you can't fall asleep, putting my hands in this bucket of ice, taking it out just to be able to feel it again and putting it back in. That was my routine. And then I would come home. Thankfully, I didn't have a major issue with nausea or things like that. So I was lucky that way, but then I would come home and of course I have no taste buds, but what I did want was sushi, not raw. I knew I couldn't have raw, but I wanted sushi.
[00:07:51] There's a place here called Mikuni, that's what I would want. And so my kids and their dad would go and get me that because I would sleep for two hours on the couch, wake up and that's what I would want. And then I did, my brother was very instrumental in trying to come up with more natural ways of perhaps boosting up the immune system and, and, healing the body from the chemo.
[00:08:17] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: He was very adamant for me to do IV vitamin C. So I was doing mega doses of IV vitamin C in between the chemo sessions. So I would have chemo, I think, on Thursdays, but then I would do IV vitamin C in the beginning. I was doing it three times a week. So Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I would get IV vitamin C through my port. And I did that continuously. I think I slowed down to maybe twice a week towards the end, but I was so afraid to not do everything that I possibly could just to be able to get through it. And then one of the most important things to me was to feel like. I have a normal life. I have some semblance of a normal life.
[00:09:03] So obviously I was not working when I was about to start the chemo. I told my work in Grass Valley that this is what's happened. And they had no idea cause I was operating a week after I had my surgery. And so they said, yeah, take as much time as you need. And so when I was going through chemo, I had the option of resting up. I didn't have to worry. My husband was working at the time. And so I had the choice to take care of myself during that time. And it's amazing how many people that are around you. It's amazing how they are shuffled in your circle because some people that I thought I could count on for whatever. It was not necessarily true.
[00:09:48] They just didn't know what to do or what to say, or you know how to be there for me. And then people that I wouldn't have even expected to do anything, they would bring meals to the house because they knew, obviously I wasn't, I couldn't cook, but it would bring whole meals for us and the kids.
[00:10:07] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: And a couple that I remembered that they're still in this area obviously. And I always, I talk to them constantly and I tell them how thankful I am for both of them, but the husband would make sure, because I want it to continue my spin classes. So he was at the same spin studio. We would go first thing in the morning when there were very few people around and I would tell him, Hey Chris, can you just make sure that while I'm on the bike, if, if you see me wobble, just, straighten me out. So that was his job. And then his wife, Michelle, was so amazing. She, cause I had all this anxiety that I was telling you about almost every single night. And I said, Michelle, can you please, she was great with meditation and yoga and all of that. I said, I'm not doing yoga, but if you can help me with meditation.
[00:10:59] And so she would get the keys to the Kickboxing/ TaeKwonDo studio that we were all a part of. And we would go there like on a Sunday morning when there was nobody around and she would just do this almost like an hour long meditation session for me, just to, for me to be able to do. Do some breathing and just learn how to deal with the anxiety. And I will be forever grateful for them forever, forever.
[00:11:28]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Oh, so you, you found that the meditation to be helpful for dealing with the anxiety, that, that was really the existential anxiety of dealing with a very serious illness.
[00:11:42] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: Yes, yes, absolutely. Because whenever, you, it's interesting because when you, when I was asking about, well, I have, all this anxiety, this and that, and they would, they were nice enough to set up a session with a psychologist to which they had for all the oncology patients. And I think the only thing that I was getting from that is medication. You know that they suggest the medication well at night to take Xanax. And I thought, well, how long am I supposed to take that? Because I have surgical menopause all of a sudden, so now I can't fall asleep. If I take that medication to fall asleep, then how long am I supposed to continue that?
[00:12:25] And I know I'm going to get addicted to it. So that's not a long-term thing. So there's, I think there, I like this whole, almost like a whole life approach to cancer. I think it's so important for meditation to be a part of it for nutrition to be a big part of it. IV Vitamin C to be just a normal part of the treatment for cancer patients. I think it's huge, but I don't think it's well accepted when I started getting neuropathy in my feet, because remember, I wasn't putting that in an ice bucket of water. I said that to my oncology nurse. And she said, I just saw a study about doing acupuncture for neuropathy. That's it. I was on it.
[00:13:14] And I think I did six or seven sessions and thankfully it went away, but all of this should be an approach to, to treatment of, cancer patients for patients in general. So I was very lucky, very, very lucky.
[00:13:34]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Yeah, Wow. I have so many questions for you, as you, one of the things I said in one of my earlier episodes about life planning is how. When something unexpected or something very serious happens in our lives, it gives us so much more clarity about what we want out of life. And maybe the things that we didn't even think about were important, all of a sudden became important. And you know your story and your journey is this, exactly the type of experience that I was thinking of. And I'm so curious to hear about now that you're seven years out of this experience. I just love to hear, your reflections on how this very serious, scary anxiety provoking illness, how that's changed the way you approach life.
[00:14:26] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: So, that's a great question. So I think when I reached out to you, I was listening to your podcast and it was, so I listened to the first one. The second one was about life planning? And you were being, talking to another person, basically interviewed to describe what life planning is. And you went about and talked about it. And at one point you said, it's, it's, I'm amazed that I see this in cancer patients or people who have had a life scare basically or a death scare. And they just have this energy for life, or they look at life in such a way. And I was driving and I thought, Oh my God, that's exactly right. Because if I, my, my outlook on life is obviously extremely my outlook on so many things is so different, but I think what cancer does or something like this, if you're willing to take the lesson.
[00:15:26] Learn the lessons from it. I think what it, what it did for me at least, is it solidified how short my time here is, as a human being, even if I, even if I live many, many years, but our time here is very short and it made me think, how do I want to, how do I want to live this life? How do I want them?
[00:15:52] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: The few days that I have left to be, we always, you're always posed that question when we're younger and we're like, oh, I want to do this. But no, really, when something like this happens, what do I really want to do? How do I want to be remembered? I would always talk to my daughter, especially about leaving a footprint.What kind of a footprint do I want to leave behind? What am I leaving behind? Who's going to miss me. And what difference am I making? And also it's Lets you be a little bit more brave, maybe things that I would not have done before. Maybe things that I would have said, oh, I'll do that next year.
[00:16:29] Oh, I will do that when this happens. Oh, well, joining the EBS School was definitely one of them where I'm like, well, I'm not at a place where I can really take, Yes, you can. Yes. You can, making the decision. As far as who I want to be a life partner for me, how do I want to spend my days? Do I want to spend my days not really being appreciated or appreciating the life that I have, what do I want to do? So that's what kind of shuffled things, shuffled people in my life and shuffled my priorities. I think you and I both agree that, we, we, I want to take care of my mom. Um, my dad passed away years ago, but he passed away in 2008 and he was the social butterfly of the couple. My mom has always, has always been more reserved and not as outgoing, but she is also over years, she has lost her sight.
[00:17:29] So because of macular degeneration and glaucoma, and even though having had surgeries and injections and all kinds of things, she has lost her, lost her sight. And she is one of the most stubborn people. I know one of the most independent people I know. So I have been trying to convince her to come and live with me because I want to take care of her. I want to make sure that everything that she's done for us, not just because of that, but because I want to take care of her because it's my turn, but just making the decision to do those. Make the decision, take a step forward and do all of those things. I think about my relationship with my patients, if I had to put my finger on it, I can't tell you what it is. That's changed because I've always taken care of my patients. My patients have always felt it, but I think now it's on a different level and I'm not on the receiving end, but I can tell you just from the reaction that I get back, I get so much more satisfaction and I get so much more feedback from my patients.
[00:18:41] And I think I'm giving more of myself. I don't know what the difference is, but just from the feedback that I get from them, some of the reviews that they've left for me, I’m like wow, really? You picked up on that. It's not just, she's, she took care of me. She's a great doctor, but they pick up on certain personality traits or things that I would not have thought about. So, it’s unbelievable.
[00:19:14]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Wow. And, and, and you mentioned about how, as a result of going through, a serious life threatening event, how it's sort of like, even your relationships have shifted, like you gave an example of how some people you thought would be there for you. it's not, maybe they wanted to be there, but they just didn't know how to be there and how others, you didn't expect them to be making such an impact on your life and really came in at a time that you needed it.
[00:19:43] I guess I want to learn a little bit more about that. And you also mentioned, you're more brave right? Your, your bolder and how you live. Like you, you make a decision and you say, I'm going to act on this because I may not be able to do it next year. I don't know what next year is going to be like. And I want to understand that a little bit more because I think all of us can learn from that. And I say this all the time, like we don't necessarily need to wait for that life-threatening event to happen to us, to change the way we live. We can learn from other people's stories. And actually the whole process of life planning is to get us more connected with our mortality, get us more connected with what are the things that are really important to us and energize us to take action instead of just wait until something else hits us too, to push us into action. And so I really want to understand, that change that you've described.
[00:20:37] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: So I think, I think just learning time has a different value. Obviously it's, it's irreversible, right? You can't, once you're, you've lived this minute, it's gone. Once you've lived this hour, it's gone. But for me, it's, it's almost like it's a lot more precious. So as far as feeling like wasting my time, whether it be with a practice that is not in tuned with my vision of how I want to take care of my patients, whether it's with people that are friends or acquaintances that are not necessarily, I'm not saying you always have to get something out of a person, but it at least has to be a support.
[00:21:29] It has to be something, it has to be something positive, not in a monetary way, but in some way. And I think I, in the past, maybe I would have taken a lot on, I would have said, well, it's because they're feeling this way. That's why I would've made a lot of excuses for people, but I realized that no, that's not necessarily true.
[00:21:50] And I just feel like I have more, more value for my time. One of the big things that happened, my, during this time when I finished my chemo and I did go back to work, but my, the kids, father and I at the time decided to split. And I think it was one of those decisions where I thought, okay, if I'm here for another six months, are we, and we have done everything we possibly can to stay together.
[00:22:22] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: Is this really how he deserves to live and is this really how I deserve to live or would it just be better for us to be on good terms and yet not be life partners? And I think that was one of the major decisions that we made or I made at that time, because it would have been just as easy. I think if I hadn't had the cancer, I think I would have just gone along until the kids both graduated high school, or God knows what.
[00:22:51] And I think I just decided that I want to have a part, an active part in how my days pass my professional life, my personal life. I want to play an active part. I don't want to be a passive participant. I think that was the. And I think I realized that, you know what? I can, I can do a lot of these things on my own. I don't need to depend on this person. I can buy a house. I can manage my finances. I can get myself out of student loans or whatever debt there is. I can plan for the future. Wow. What a concept. And I think I feel a lot more empowered, whether part of it was more cultural where I decided, okay, I'll just let him handle it.
[00:23:42] But now I feel like, Nope, I'm just going to take this class and I'm going to take EBS and I'm going to do this. I'm going to get as much information as I possibly can. And I'll go to people who do this for a living and just learn, learn, and do it. But just being an active play, an active role in my life. Changing the practice, making these decisions. It feels great. Not great when it was right before the pandemic, but it feels great because it's my decision.
[00:24:12]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: It feels great because it was your decision. Okay. so many great quotes there. One is, I don't want to be an, I don't want to be a passive participant in my life. I want to be an active, active participant and that's such a wonderful concept. And then you said you make some of these decisions and some of them aren't really comfortable. A lot of the ones that you've just cited are not comfortable decisions at all, but yet you felt like it was the right thing. It was right. Even after he made it, even if right afterwards they had some sort of difficult consequences, you still knew that you were doing the right thing.
[00:24:49] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: I think all, all of the decisions that I made or we made, I think they were the, yes, I believe they were the right decisions and just moving forward.My kids or our kids are priority. So making sure that they are okay, making sure that they are, have all the love that they need and that they understand that yes, it's possible for two people to love each other, but not be the right match for each other. And I think they have a healthy outlook on that I believe.
[00:25:26] Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Tell me more about your time and your, your, your relationship with your kids, because you said, one of the things that you were worried about is for example, no, not being there for them when they graduate and when they hit certain milestones and it has been seven years, and I think you told me your, at least your daughter has graduated.
[00:25:46] So what was that like? what was that, was that an amazing moment when you were there for her graduation?
[00:25:51] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: So I think, the most amazing moment was when she graduated from eighth grade and I was there and of course my, my head hair was like, maybe not even an inch long at the time. And I just couldn't believe that I'm seeing her graduate from eighth grade. I couldn't believe it couldn't believe it. And in the beginning I would have these blood tests to check for the tumor marker. I think I was doing it every two months and of course I would do the blood tests. Then for three days I was waiting to hear the results. And then when it was good, it's a great word. Good for another couple of months. And now, obviously I never assume, I never assume, but it's a little bit more comfortable. I don't do it as often, maybe once every six months. And of course seeing her graduate from high school and it was, every single day with them is the most amazing experience.
[00:26:51] Just to know, I don't forget. It's always in the back of my mind that I am thankful that I have this experience with them. I wake up every morning and I don't think I've forgotten, but one day. First thing that I say when I wake up is thank you for another healthy day. I thank God for another healthy day.
[00:27:13] I don't forget it because this is my bonus life. I know it, this is my bonus life. So everything I do with this these days, it's a lot more pressure to do everything I can with these days, but definitely I appreciate it so much.
[00:27:33]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Wow. Yeah, that's so good. I think that, what, what you said about not living passively, living more intentionally, and then just having that gratitude, just waking up and saying. Thank you. I'm here. And just to be joyful when you see, cause I'm just trying to think, my oldest finished fifth grade, last year. It was really anticlimactic and I don't, I don't remember being, jumping up and down with joy, even on the inside, when it's finished, it was mundane and, and, and to have that realization that, well, I'm here.
[00:28:06] I was actually there when he graduated, that's such an amazing, amazing perspective. And I know that I never would wish cancer on anybody ever. My dad is going through cancer right now and it's a never ending thing. And, but yet, I really, I love talking to people who have gone through really trying experiences and, and just to learn the pearls that they've gotten from it.
[00:28:33] Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: It is so inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I really hang on to these words and Why I love doing podcasts is I just learned so much for my guests. As you may have noticed, like the first few episodes, I was just talking to myself on the podcast.
[00:28:50] And then I started interviewing people and I realized I learned so much for interviewing my guests, then just talking to myself into the microphone. And so I'm just so grateful for the opportunity. And thank you so much for reaching out to me. And, you mentioned EBS for our listeners who don't know Dr. Mitra and I are both in Entre MD Business School. And that's an amazing experience. So shout out to Dr. Luna, who is actually Dr. Luna and I, you may or may not know this, but she's the reason why I started this podcast. I was listening to her podcast and there was an episode where she said, if you know that you should start a podcast, you know who you are, just go start it. And I had this moment where I thought, Is she talking to me?
[00:29:38] Yeah, so here, here I am. And if I didn't have a podcast, I wouldn't have this amazing opportunity to speak with you. So yeah. Thank you.
[00:29:46] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: Thank you so much for inviting me to share my story and really appreciate it. I learned a lot just from the questions that you asked me, it makes me think and think about the experience and just verbalizing you know. It is very important. Very important.
[00:30:02]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Thank you so much as always I want for you as our guests to just share with our listeners, where can they find you? And is there anything that we can do to support you're doing?
[00:30:14] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: So my practice name is Capital Eye Medical Group. And the website it's easy to reach, it's www.metramd.com. And my Instagram is under Metra MD Three. So I have some videos there. If anybody is in Northern California, looking for an ophthalmologist to take care of you and your eyes come and reach out.
[00:30:42]Dr. Weilli Gray, Host: Excellent. Thank you so much. I wish you the best in what you do with your private practice and in continuing to live your dream life. You got a kickstart in, in doing that and you're, you're going to be inspiring others to do the same thing.
[00:30:59] Dr. Mitra Ayazifar, Guest: Thank you so much, working on it.
Dr. Weili Gray, Host
Thanks for listening. Make sure you hit subscribe so you don't miss another episode. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend and give us a five star review so we can help more physicians dare to dream and create their most abundant lives. There's also exciting news at the Dare to Dream Physician. For those of you who wish to get clarity on your own why and get energized as you explore, envision and create your dream life. I'm so excited to announce that I'm taking on a limited number of one on one clients for life planning. To get the complete details and sign up for an exploration meeting. Go to my website, daretodreamphysician.com. I really look forward to working with you. And it would be such an honor and privilege for me to be able to help you create your life plan. I truly believe that life planning will transform your life and will give you that energy to pursue your dream life sooner than you ever imagine. See you next week