Pediatrician, poet, and novelist Sherry Shenoda is our Woman of the Week. You see her here briefing the US Senate on her research about the effects of armed conflict on children. We asked her to tell you how she wrote The Lightkeeper, the first novel for adults ever released by Ancient Faith Publishing:
"Writing has always been a way for me to figure out what I think. It was a way for me to maintain my humanity, especially during residency and fellowship, when I was working with a lot of sick children. Writing has always energized me and giving me strength to be a better mother and a better doctor and wife. Writing is also a way for me to observe the world. You could say it allows me to be a better human.
"It feels like I’ve always been a writer. I first started writing when I was in elementary school. My friend Veronica and I would write stories together and read them to each other. I wrote two novels before The Lightkeeper, neither of which was fit to submit for publication. I’ve also written poetry for many years, as long back as I can remember.
"Working with children brings me joy. I didn’t know how I would work with children, but when I decided to go to medical school, pediatrics was the logical choice, though palliative care spoke to me, and I enjoyed the speed of urgent care. Pediatric medicine ended up being the specialty I felt would allow for the most out-of-hospital/out-of-the-office life, if you will. It was the specialty I felt would allow me to have time to do other things, including writing. I had the sense that I could have a lot of flexibility in pediatrics, and that has proved mostly true. I’ve been able to do a lot of different things in pediatrics that I really enjoyed, including taking care of children with depression and anxiety as well as treating children who are transitioning out of homelessness. It has also allowed me to pursue advocacy and policy work that was very meaningful to me.
"The novel came about as a way for me to deal with him the suffering that I saw in residency. I treated and worked with a lot of very sick children, and it was difficult for me to process what they were going through. The anonymous service aspect in The Lightkeeper is a direct result of my pediatric residency experience. The uncertainty of the Lightkeeper’s life came as a result of me dealing with the uncertainty and lack of control that a resident and medical student experiences. We don’t really have control over our schedules, and that can be difficult. The schedule is often physically demanding, which the Lightkeeper also experiences in her role tending lighthouses and burying the dead. The struggle that the Lightkeeper has with Wisdom, who is a type of Christ, is the beginning of my conversation with God about suffering and why suffering exists, especially in children."
When our Woman of the Week, Sherry Shenoda, who was nominated for her work as an physician and author, was in medical school, she and her husband worshipped at a local Eastern Orthodox parish, although they were members of an Oriental jurisdiction. We asked her about that experience. You see her here at that parish both with her friend Anna Tregubov and her husband:
"When I was in residency at Dartmouth we found ourselves about two hours away from the nearest Coptic parish. It was an easy decision for us to pray at the local OCA Parish, which was a church about 45 minutes away called Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. HROC occupies a very special place in my heart. I have a lot of love for the HROC community, the priest of the parish Fr Andrew Tregubov, and his daughter Anna, who is more like a sister than a friend to me.
"It was a singular experience in my spiritual life to be able to pray in an Orthodox Church and feel like I was spiritually at home, but not take communion. It was a source of pain for me for a time, but now, in many ways, it mirrors my experience of the world. We often have cognitive dissonance and wish things were different, but this is the way many things are, and it gives me something tangible to pray toward: unity. There was never a word that I prayed in that parish that I did not wholeheartedly believe."
We asked Sherry Shenoda, our Woman of the Week, about her morning routine:
"My morning routine is frenetic, usually, and a race to get ahead of the kids! I wake up and nurse the baby, then shower and put on sunscreen. Sunscreen seems to be the one thing I do consistently for myself. Typically we pray as a family: my husband and I, and our two little ones. This lasts… about three minutes. Then we commute to wherever we’re going, which has been one of the grandparents’ homes during remote work. I’m either in clinic two days a week remotely or with the boys, tending to their needs. One day I’ll have an aspirational morning routine, but for now, we’re just doing the best we can."
Thank you, Sherry!