The Influence of Motherhood: Dr. Kari Wisinski

Dr. Wisinski's children

Medical oncologist, Dr. Kari Wisinski who treats breast cancer patients, shares how motherhood influences how she practices as a physician.


Although most women diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States are postmenopausal, this disease unquestionably affects younger women as well. Every clinic day, I see women in their 20's, 30's or 40's. Many of these women are either considering having children or have already started their family. Yet, suddenly their life has been altered by this diagnosis. This always hits home, as I am not only a medical oncologist, but also a mother of three young children. It is difficult to see a mother worrying about the possibility of not seeing her child grow up, or that she may never be able to have children, or a husband's fear of losing his wife. It makes me pause, and start thinking... what if?


I recognize that my worries cannot compare to the emotional turmoil that individuals diagnosed with cancer undergo. However, the juxtaposition of my life at home, full of the energy and constant growth of two preschoolers and an infant, compared to the constant reminder at work of the fragility of health and life can sometimes become overwhelming. 


Recently, my 3 year old asked me "But, Mom, why do you work?" I responded simply that is my job to help people who are sick. Although perhaps overly simplistic, I think this statement really encompasses the reason I became a physician. I hope the emotional connection I feel with each patient pushes me to be a better oncologist, taking time to listen to questions, recognize fears, and provide guidance and hope. 


Sometimes, I think about how I define myself. This question can be answered in many ways, including through my relationships (a mother, wife, sister, and friend), activities I enjoy (reading, sports, and travel) or by my career.  Yet, these characteristics are not really independent, but instead are constantly interacting. Each day in clinic, I recognize that motherhood influences how I practice as a physician. As for my career as an oncologist, there is no doubt that each day I am reminded to go home and love my kids more and each night to hug and kiss them a little longer.