Surviving and Thriving: A Journey of Courage, Resilience, and Transformative Change – An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Shweta Jaiswal" by Senior Sub Editor of The Holistic Pine' journal Suresh Nair

Exclusive interview of Dr Shweta Jaiswal by Senior Sub Editor of The Holistic Pine' journal Suresh.

Dr.Shweta is a senior Healthcare Professional with over 18 years of experience as an Anaesthetist & Intensivist. She has worked across India in various tertiary care hospitals. Her field of expertise are Cardiac & Neuro Anaesthesia and Cardiac Critical Care & Transplant Critical Care. She has been instrumental in establishing E-ICU in two hospitals in Chhattisgarh. And has also worked with NABH & JCI Committees in several corporate hospitals. She did her MBA in Healthcare from ISB and is currently involved in Research in the field of Healthcare at ISB.

Dr. Shweta Jaiswal has had an incredible journey in her lifespan. A wife, mother, sister, daughter; a Doctor, content writer loves to cook, bake and drive cars.

I have been trying to find a word or a set of words that describe her. I am still searching- few words come to my mind: Kind, dynamic are a few. She has been blessed with the gift of the gab and heart of a poet. Vivacious, easy-going – she lives for the moment. An infectious smile that can put you at ease, she stands out from the crowd.

Here, I share with you an enchanting conversation with her.

Suresh: Hi, Shweta. Welcome to the interview. Thank you for talking to us. I know it's been difficult to take out time from your busy schedule.

I want you to know that your writings have been appreciated by the readers of Holistic Pine.Your writings have been insightful and provocative.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.I felt that it's time that we got to know Doctor Shweta Jaiswal better.

So, Shweta, give me, you know, give me a biography about yourself- let's talk about your life, family, and career.

Shweta: I'm a doctor by profession. I started my career with anesthesia and then moved to critical care. I belong to a family of doctors, so I am carrying out the legacy forward. I am also married to a doctor.

I had been a nerd at school and college, always into academics. By default, I went into medicine, did my postgraduation and worked in different category of healthcare setups across India, right from rural India to corporate world. So been there, done that.

Suresh: How has your profession helped you grow as a person?

Shweta: My reason to choose Anesthesia as a specialization was to alleviate pain in the patients. Having worked in Intensive Care for more than a decade I have seen pain and death very closely. These experiences have always kept me very grounded and humble. The other thing which brought me immense satisfaction was the joy that my patients and their families felt when they went home healthy.

Improving the life of others gave purpose to my life. And now that I have shifted to academics and research it has made me realize the value of good education and its impact on today’s youth. The youth are going to shape the future of the world so we should be very thoughtful while teaching them. Now I comprehend the value that quality education has in the life of the young generation.

Suresh: Many people who suffer from physical issues tend to get affected mentally too.How do you address the psychological well-being of your patients along with their physical health?

Shweta: Family and friends are the biggest support any patient can have. Any illness not only takes a toll on the patient but on the entire family so when treating a patient, I tend to involve the family in the decision making and the treatment so that everyone is prepared. Also having faith in the divine also helps, so I encourage my patients and their families to pursue their way of communicating with the divine for solace.

Suresh: As a writer, what is you inspiration?

Shweta: Most of my writings are inspired from real life events or my observation of the people around me. Also, I am a good listener, so when people share their stories with me, I reflect on them for my writing. The other inspiration that I get is from books, as I am an avid reader. I also draw a lot of inspiration from Nature.

Suresh: Your favorite books?

Shweta: KINTSUGI – a Japanese art which talks about repairing broken things with gold and making them unique and precious,

THE COURAGE TO BE DISLIKED – another book by Japanese writer which talks about a new take on philosophy and dealing with people,


OBSTACLE IS THE WAY – a wonderful book which connects stoicism and day to day life,

ALCHEMIST – which everyone knows about.

Suresh: Ok. Let's talk about an interesting line you shared in your bio. It mentions that you rode a bike when you were sixteen. Yeah, let's talk about that. What was that about?

Shweta: I was a bit of a rebel in my childhood. Still am, I think, to a certain extent. I don't conform to social norms that are imposed in the name of culture, particularly on females. Credit goes to my family for their incredible support. They let me explore and set me free to do whatever I want to do. I have an elder brother who is fond of riding bikes. I got the riding bug from him, and obviously Top Gun and Tom Cruise. From bike riding, I shifted to cars. I have a passion for cars and driving- that continues.

My other hobbies -I'm into cooking and baking. I enjoy it, gives me a sense of satisfaction.

I used to write when I was in school. I gave up on writing because of my studies and work commitments. Now that I took a sabbatical from work last year, I started writing again.

Suresh: Let’s talk about an important and the toughest phase of your life. Let’s talk about the time when you got to know that you had pancreatic cancer. Give me an insight as to what was going through your mind? What was your first reaction when you got to know about your condition?

Shweta:This was 2018. I was at the peak of my career. I was heading a big ICU department in a hospital. I was doing very well in my profession. Life was smooth at that point of time.

Out of the blue, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It’s the deadliest form of abdominal cancer. Everybody, from the oncologist to the surgeons gave me a year to live. That's the standard lifespan that you have once you are diagnosed.

I won’t say that I found it hard to accept. As a medical professional and being into intensive care, I knew it was for real. There was no doubt about the diagnosis. I have a practical and science-oriented mind so I looked at my illness rationally and accepted the medical verdict.

I understood my options. I sat with my doctors - my surgeons, my oncologists and had a clear discussion. I was always present in the discussions for my treatment.

I took the best advice from the best of the people and just followed it through.

So, it was like a rational approach for me to deal with cancer. But there was a part of me who was obviously not happy with the diagnosis.

Suresh: That's rare, isn't it? I mean, I don't think people are able to do that. They can't follow a rational thought when they face problems. Does the fact that you are a professionally qualified doctor make a difference in the way you looked at your illness?

Shweta: Yeah. As an individual, I didn't have any predisposing factors, as we call it -anything that leads to cancer. I had a very healthy lifestyle. I looked at the things that can cause pancreatic cancer, and I had none of those things.

The scientific part of me wouldn't accept how I'm having this diagnosis because I haven't done anything to cause it. And neither did I have a family history of any sort of cancer. So yeah, medically I found it hard to accept.

I'm a firm believer of God's plan. I look at the divine aspects of anything and everything that happens in anyone's life. I took it in my stride.

It’s OK, God has given me this, so must have had a reason for that. That was my thought process. That's how I accepted the fact that I have a deadly cancer and I won't be able to make it for more than a year.

Suresh: In such situations people often lose their faith in God. They question the Almighty. Why? Why did this happen to me? Did such thoughts cross your mind?

Shweta: Surprisingly, they didn’t. I would say, throughout my cancer treatment journey, my belief in God increased. Before my illness, I was more religious than spiritual. But during my cancer journey, I became more spiritual, I realized that God teaches us some lessons the hard way.

Suresh: Let me understand the difference. What does it mean when you say that you became spiritual?

Shweta: My spirituality helped me understand that even if I don’t make it, I wouldn’t have any regrets. I started living in the present moment and accept life and everything around me as it is. Somehow my faith in the one divine power who is behind many unexplainable things in life increased.

Suresh: In such difficult situations, it gets tough for the family. They need to make a lot of changes in their lifestyle, in their lives - to accommodate the person who is ill- it changes their lives too. Your views:

Shweta: Yeah, I agree to that. Cancer happens not just to the person who's suffering from it, it happens to the entire family. And the entire family goes through a harrowing time facing the illness.

I attribute my recovery largely to my family and my family support. My entire family rallied behind me. There were days when I would just give up, when I wanted to give up on treatment, on everything, but my family stood by me, and they never gave up on me.

I think the faith that my family had- that I will get through the illness was helpful in my recovery. A cancer patient does need family support and I don't think without family support anyone can make it. Yeah, it was extremely difficult for my family.

My parents saw their child suffering so much agony while they are hale and hearty, and it was a nightmare for them.

The most difficult part in this situation was to explain to my son that I may or may not be there after a year. He was nine years old when I was diagnosed. How do explain to a nine-year-old that he might lose his mother in a year? That was heart rending for me.

We all gave each other support; and we were able to sail through the storm because of it.

Suresh: You said earlier that you know your doctors gave you a year to live. This was in 2018. Five years have passed since your diagnosis. What would you attribute this to? Is it a medical miracle? Is it God’s miracle? Is it something else?

Shweta: I don't know. I mean, it's a miracle, that's for sure. My oncologist and my surgeons are surprised to see me alive today. Nobody thought that I'll make it. I would say it's a combination of everything. I got the best medical treatment; the doctors treating me were my colleagues, so they were extra caring.

I got the best of spiritual support; I got the best of family support. It's an amalgamation of everything. I will not attribute it to one thing. The most important thing is whatever the outcome, you should have Faith.

Faith is the reason for this miracle. Faith in God that whatever is happening, is happening for a reason, and it may go against your own individual thought process, but God's plan is better than your own plan. I think that's why I'm still here.

Suresh: That’s an interesting perspective. Lot of doctors might disagree with your viewpoint. Doctors are people of science. Many of them believe that the role of science is bigger than anything else in a in a treatment.

Shweta: No. On the contrary, most of the doctors today believe that they know science can only do so much. You need to have something more than science to keep people alive. Covid is an example of that. If, you see how many people have made it through the pandemic and how many people have not, we will say that medical science needs something more than just medicines to treat a person.

Suresh: Usually, it is seen that allopathic doctors don't follow or recommend the natural healing process.What's your take on this?

Shweta: There has been a shift in the past few years on the way allopathic doctors view natural healing alternatives. Many Cardiologists & Neurologists I know now recommend Yoga & Meditation to their patients as part of treatment. My personal belief is that Allopathy in combination with Natural Healing alternatives will contribute towards Holistic healing of any individual and should be practiced.

Suresh: That's an interesting perspective. Ok, there's always some before and after when people see death so close, when something major happens in life. Tell me about the difference in before and after. What changes came about in you?

Shweta: This might sound surprising, but I would say cancer has made my life better. It has made me a better person. Previously, I was empathetic being a doctor, I was always concerned about my patients, and I cared a lot about their well-being, but the change I see now is that cancer has made me more empathetic to everyone else, not just about the patients.

Nowadays, I can empathize with anyone or everyone who's suffering, and I try in my small ways to make life better for everyone that I interact with, be it as simple as just giving a stranger a smile so that that person smiles back at you.

The other thing is that I've become more spiritual, and I believe in God's plan with a strong belief that whatever is happening is happening for the good. The other thing is that I found the joy of living in the present moment.

Earlier, I used to have five-year plans, a bucket list of things to do. These days I don't have any plans, I just Live for the moment. It's as simple as that. If I'm driving, I'm just enjoying the drive that I'm taking.

My life is richer, more meaningful. I enjoy the time that I spend with my family. So,anything and everything I do is now filled with quality and purpose.

I think Shweta 2.0, as I call myself now, is better than the earlier Shweta.

Suresh: Your experience as a cancer survivor must have been life changing.Could you share some insights from that journey and how it has shaped your perspective on life and health?

My cancer journey has made me more humane. I was always very empathetic towards my patients but when I became a patient myself I have a clearer understanding of what they go through. Also I have personally experienced the power of heart felt blessings which have been instrumental in keeping me alive against an adverse prognosis. Also now I have a firm belief in the fact that even in pain one can choose not to suffer.

Suresh: Shweta, on one side this medical treatment is happening. Then there are people around you who try and keep you happy, positive, and cheerful. I want to ask about your effort, your plan, or your approach to beat cancer.

Shweta: After diagnosis, I had surgery after which chemotherapy started. That was a year-long process. Before my chemotherapy started, my oncologist only gave me one piece of advice, which I followed diligently- Never to Google my diagnosis, my treatment, and my prognosis. He told me not to read anything on my illness. I religiously stuck to it. I left my treatment in the capable hands of my doctor and as a patient, I think that's the best approach that you can take - don't google your symptoms, don't try to find out or second guess what your doctor is doing. Don't try to look at options. You're not going to a vegetable market to buy vegetables.

It's your life, leave it in the hands of capable people. The other thing was- I took things one day at a time. I had chemotherapy every week- my approach was to just get through the week. I never thought of what I would do next week or next to next week. It was to get through today and we'll see what happens tomorrow. That's how I got through one year of treatment.

Suresh: In today's fast paced world where people often neglect their health,what advice would you give to individuals who struggle to prioritize their well-being?

Shweta: In today’s fast paced world and in traversing the world of corporate or other jobs we often tend to neglect our health because we take it for granted. But one thing that the Covid Pandemic has taught us is that we can no longer do so. If you have good health, then you can enjoy the perks that your stellar career will bring. So be healthy first, then only you can work or enjoy life, don’t wait for tomorrow, it may never come. And I’m not being pessimistic here.

Suresh: Your bio talks about you doing different things now. You are a content writer; you did a course from Indian School of Business (ISB). What were the reasons for the career change? You spent so many years preparing to be a doctor. It's a significant career shift. That requires strong willpower.

Shweta: When I completed my treatment in the end of 2019, by God's grace I was alive. I thought; what next? I wasn't sure of how long I would be alive after that. I always wanted to do more in healthcare than just treat patients. I wanted to get into the bigger aspects of healthcare where I would be dealing with hospitals and healthcare policies. That gave me the idea to pursue an MBA in healthcare from Indian School of Business.

When I joined the course, I wasn't sure that I would be able to finish the course as I was recovering from my treatment.

But I pursued the course with diligence. Once I finished my MBA, I was sure of the fact that there's more to healthcare and more to providing Equitable Healthcare(as I call it) than just treating patients. Being a clinician, I could only treat a limited number of patients, but if I looked at the bigger realm of healthcare, then I could influence research and policy. It would impact a lot more people.

Before my diagnosis, I was a doctor, I was treating patients. When I was going through my treatment, I became a patient. That changed my perspective. When I looked at things from the patient’s perspective, I realized how difficult things were for a patient undergoing treatment.

Those are the things which I want to work on. I just didn't want to impact healthcare from the point of view of a doctor. I want to impact healthcare from the point of view of a patient - particularly cancer patients.

They are suffering. The kind of treatment and the options that they are getting is not equitable. The poor patients are suffering. I have seen patients who could not even get a diagnosis, and by the time they were diagnosed, they died in a week.

These are the areas where I wanted to work on. This led to a career change from clinician to a healthcare management professional.

Once I explored that option, I got a chance to work at ISB in the research department. That got me into writing about healthcare research. Also, the sabbatical that I took from work allowed me to get back into content writing.

I could reconnect with what I was doing earlier, writing poems, and expressing myself on subjects that I cared about. Once I started doing all this, there was no looking back.

Suresh: You are an inspiration for many. What do you think is the most essential thing one should follow to lead a wholesome life?

Shweta: I have personally found that Gratitude goes a long way in providing peace of mind to every individual. Gratitude! For all that we have, and gratitude towards everyone who is even doing a remote thing for you.

My mantra is to be thankful to all the security guards who open doors for me or being thankful to my maid who does my household chores.

The other thing is to SMILE, smile for life is beautiful, smile that you are alive today; sometimes even smile at strangers who knows you might have made their day.

Suresh: What are your plans?

Shweta: Like I had said before, no plans. I would like to continue working in healthcare research and pursue content writing.

Suresh: Thank you so much for your time. This interview has been a learning experience. You're a true example of positivity. You're a true example of courage. It’s been a privilege talking to you.

Shweta: Thank you so much for having me.