February 2011 Profile: Dr. Cynara Coomer

Cynara Coomer

Dr. Cynara Coomer

Age: 40
Marital Status: Married
Residence:Staten Island, New York
Children: Olivia, 2 months

Profession: Dr. Cynara Coomer is the Chief of Breast Surgery and Director of The Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital. She is also an assistant clinical professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women’s health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. Email her at [email protected] and visit her website: CynaraCoomerMD.com

Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)? Tell us what your road to parenthood was like.

A: It wasn’t a conscious decision to become a mom later in life. I waited a long time to meet the right guy, but I certainly did. I had to kiss a lot of frogs to get to this point in my life! “Mr. Right” and I have only been married for 2 ½ years. It was important for us to enjoy being a married couple and become more settled in our lives first before starting a family. When we did decide to become pregnant – I miscarried twice. That was a painful experience but didn’t stop us from continuing to try.

I would think that meeting “Mr. Right” and starting a family later in life had a lot to do with that fact that I was focused on my career as a surgeon. When I was training to become a doctor I would work 100 hours per week and my free time was very limited. Once you actually start your career – it becomes a bit less strenuous. But it’s difficult for a professional woman to meet a man who is compatible with the demands of that lifestyle. I guess that’s why I ended up marrying another surgeon. My husband fully understands what it’s like to be pulled in 100 different directions too.

Cynara Coomer with OliviaQ: What do you most love about your work? What is most challenging about it? How long are you doing it? Where do you see yourself heading?

A: I’ve been doing breast surgery for the past 5 ½ years and I love treating cancer patients. It’s a privilege to be able to take care of people when they’re at their most vulnerable. I enjoy being in the operating room and designing the surgery to suit the person in order for them to have the best cosmetic outcome. It’s an honor to determine their best treatment plan and take them through that plan from beginning to end. Seeing them on the other side – knowing that they are a cancer survivor is the ultimate reward.

It’s challenging for me when I have patients who don’t do well in their treatments. Telling a patient that there’s nothing more that I can do to help them is heartbreaking.

I’m very grateful that I’ve reached one goal in my career – to be a director of a comprehensive breast center for women and that I’ve been given the opportunity to design that center. I’ve always had the vision of developing a breast center because I wanted there to be a place where women would be relaxed and supported during a time period when she’s most anxious about being diagnosed with or dealing with breast cancer. It’s a place that would meet all of her needs not only medically but nutritionally, psychologically and emotionally.

When I’m not at my “day job” – I’m a medical contributor for Fox News Channel. I enjoy the diversity I get at Fox. Every time I’m on the air – I’m reporting on a different health story and meeting different types of people and telling their stories. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to educate a wider audience about medical issues that could potentially save lives.

The main challenge for me is fitting everything in – my practice, Fox News, my family – and being able to do it all well.

Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has helped in your work or personal life?

A: Becoming a mother teaches you patience. When you have a list of 10 things to accomplish when you get home at night but the baby takes two hours to go to sleep, your ability to do anything on your “to do” list is eliminated. But you come to realize that you can get everything done – it may just take a bit longer.

I’ve learned to take time to enjoy the small moments in life. The little smiles or gurgles from my baby, Olivia, can make my entire day. It’s important to find those kinds of moments at work, in your marriage or with your friends. It’s all about the small things in life.

Q: What is a typical day for you like? Do you do any work from home? If so, how do you find that? Have you worked more or less since you became a later mom?

A: I usually wake up with the baby between 4 and 5 a.m. I feed her and I try to sneak in a ½ hour nap before I have to get up. I get ready to go to the hospital by around 7 a.m. I either go directly to the operating room or I see patients in the office. Some days I get called in to Fox to talk about a breaking news story or study.

Now that I have Olivia – I try to leave work a little earlier and get home between 6 and 7 p.m. As soon as I get home, I’m with my husband and the baby for the rest of the night. This is our family time – we play, eat and relax. We usually put her to sleep between 8 and 9 p.m. after her bath.

I do try to bring work home with me and I’m learning it’s impossible to get it done! I’m returning to work with about the same schedule as before Olivia was born although I’m working harder to get home sooner every day.

Cynara Coomer on FoxQ: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What do you most want to teach your child? What influence, if any, has your own mother had in your life and in your parenting?

A: Being a mom later in life probably allows me to be less anxious than a younger mom would be. This allows me to be calmer around the baby. My husband and I don’t necessarily have the financial stresses of younger parents because we are settled at this point in our lives.

I think the not so good part of it is – realizing that you’ll be the old mom on the sidelines of your kid’s soccer games. Most of our friends’ children are grown at this point so I don’t have a lot of companionship with moms with young babies. I do worry about not being able to experience my children’s children to the fullest extent.

I was expecting to love my child for sure, but the depth of love that you feel for your own child is amazing. I hope to teach her self confidence and that it’s not the same as arrogance. I’d like to instill in her that she needs to have an inner sprit of confidence and with it; she can accomplish anything in life. I want her to have good values and ethics in her relationships throughout life.

My mother has always made me feel like I was her priority and supported all of my needs and desires above her own. She taught me to reach for the stars and did whatever she could to encourage me to reach my goals. The depth of my mother’s love has never wavered. She’s my best example in knowing how to love my child, encourage her, support her, and teach her that she has the ability to work towards whatever goal she sets her mind to.

Q: Where do you turn for support as a mom? How important is to connect with mom peers? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms or aspiring later moms? How so? How do you think an organization like Motherhood Later…Than Sooner can be helpful to later moms?

A: For support I turn to my parents and sister because they’ve always been such a strong support system for every aspect of my life, especially this new chapter. I rely on their wisdom and experience in raising children to teach me to take care of Olivia.

Many of my friends have older children and so I rely more on their experience to learn the ins and outs of parenting and also their babysitting services! I can, however, see the benefit of connecting with moms with children of the same age and sharing in the ups and downs of raising a child with someone who knows just what you’re feeling. I have one very close friend who has twins who are a year older than Olivia and being able to talk about poop and burp cloths with her is priceless.

I don’t think of myself as a role model. I’m just a woman with a busy career that I love, who decided that my life would be more enriched with a family. And I’m making that happen the best way I can. My husband and my child are my priority and balancing my career with that is a challenge but one that I can overcome.

Organizations like Motherhood Later are very helpful to women in my situation because you learn that other women face the same struggle that you feel. That struggle is a sense of guilt, no matter what you do. When you’re not at work — you feel guilty. When you’re not at home – you feel guilty. Being able to connect with women who feel the same way is comforting.

Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?

A: I don’t have any regrets about waiting until later in life to have a child. In fact I’m very thankful and glad that I was able to do it. It’s not the answer for everyone but you should feel comforted in knowing that more and more women are having babies later in life. You don’t have to feel under pressure to start your family – do what works best for your situation. Enjoy your relationship with your partner, your career and as you move closer to the time period where you may choose to become pregnant, think about how you can maneuver your career to allow you to spend more time with your child.

Q: When you became a mom, did your own mother or mother figure share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? Or do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you and you’d like to pass on to your child or other moms?

A: My mother said I would never have a good night’s sleep ever again once I became a mom because even when your kids are in their 30s and 40s — you still worry about them.

Olivia is only two months old now and whenever I hear her crying, I run into her room going “is everything alright?” I’m trying really hard not to be a “helicopter mom,” but it’s tough. I can only imagine what it will be like when she can walk!

I’d like to pass on to her the sense that I always had from my parents – which was that I was always their priority. That feeling gave me security that no matter what happened in life I always had a home to go to. A home where my parents would help me pick up the pieces and get back on track. Even in their busy schedules I never had the feeling that they were not there, even for a moment. That’s something I want Olivia to feel. And of course – she has to go to college.