-Guest post by Becky L. Melvin, W Publishing
I personally have had the privilege to interview many people over the span of my career—celebrities, sports stars, even a few doctors. But I have to say that after working with Dr. Kristi Funk over the past few months, I feel everyone should have the opportunity to meet this amazing woman, wife, mother, doctor, and now an author.
Dr. Funk grew up in a peaceful suburb of Los Angeles, as she says “smooshed” in between Santa Monica and Malibu, called Pacific Palisades. She has four older siblings (three brothers and one sister) by eight to twelve years, so she was always in a hurry to grow up. She played baseball, tennis, and volleyball more than other sports, but she was very athletic and loved theater, always performing in plays throughout the years, including college. Dr. Funk is married to Andy Funk who she calls “CEO of the Pink Lotus Breast Center but also the love of my life.” They live in Santa Monica with their eight–and–half–year-old triplets, Justin, Sebastian, and Ethan, and are exactly one mile from her parents, who still reside in the home where she grew up!
Q: What led to be a surgeon?
From the age of four, I wanted to be an actress. (Ha! You thought I was going to say I always wanted to be a doctor, didn’t you?) I performed in every school play beginning with “Sleeping Beauty” in the second grade and continued all the way through college when I starred as Oedipus in an all-female production. Yet Hollywood was never my end game. I actually pictured myself helping children heal from illness, using drama and imaginative play to explore the feelings and fears brought on by sickness.
Cut to my sophomore year as a psychology major at Stanford University, when I experienced an epiphany that changed my course and still guides it to this day. In the midst of studying for a neuropsychology final, painstakingly trying to memorize which neurotransmitters in the brain led to which functions of the body, I experienced an unmistakable and repetitive “interrupting thought” that made my own neurotransmitters buzz. This thought came from God. You’re going to be a doctor, it said. Whoa. Okay, that was interesting. Incorrect, but interesting. You see, my female role models married young, and all I wanted was to raise a family and work as a drama therapist.
I traveled to Africa a week later on a summer missions trip that had been planned for months. When I saw firsthand the health challenges that millions of men, women, and children face, my life’s purpose snapped into shape—and not in the form of theater or therapy. I felt newly inspired to care for people in the one way that matters most—by helping them maintain the very vessel that carries them around all day: their bodies. Disease robs far too many people of joy, replacing hope with chronic illness and death. It isn’t right.
As I sat cross-legged in a dung hut, balancing potatoes on my head to make the tribal kids laugh, I decided to do something with my life to try to stop the killer of joy: I heeded God’s voice and resolved to become a doctor.
My first rotation in the third year of medical school (the first time you leave the books and classroom to do “real” work) was surgery. Every rotation after that paled in comparison—and voila! Another surgeon was born.
Q: At one time you wanted to go treat patients with stomach and esophageal problems. What changed your mind?
I had begun a minimally invasive surgery fellowship at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center when the Director of the breast center there approached me. They needed a little more estrogen in that building because the center was run by five men over 50! At first, I was not at all interested because, well, breast surgery is easy. I liked the complex problems and challenging surgical cases. It took me several weeks to understand that I was perhaps being prideful. You see, I had just completed five years of crazy residency hours in an effort to become a very technically skilled surgeon, and it seemed like it would all be wasted if I became “just a breast surgeon.”
Eventually, I decided it would be fun to have depth and expertise in just one organ and all the diseases that affect it. It did not take long for me to learn that I am not “just a breast surgeon” to patients.
Q: Why did you write this book?
I wanted to reach more people than I can see during a given year toiling away in my private practice. God gave me a gift in that I can distill complex breast topics into digestible, actionable soundbites. Or 400 pages—maybe that’s not a soundbite, LOL! But I can spit those out on camera, too!
Q: What are the key takeaways from your book?
There are lots, but here are some highlights of the big ones:
- Eat whole foods that are plant–based for every meal and snack. Minimize or eliminate meat, dairy, and eggs.
- Exercise 5 hours a week.
- Don’t be fat. If you are overweight, work towards a normal weight and stay there.
- Minimize alcohol.
- Control your stress.
- Connect with friends and loved ones on a daily basis. Immerse yourself in friendship at least 30 minutes a day.
- Get the breast screening you need based on your personal risk factors: mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, clinical exams.
Q: Why is this book so important for women to read?
Because it can save their lives.
Q: Is breast cancer really preventable?
I make a point of always saying “risk reduction” rather than prevention for two reasons: (1) We all know or can at least imagine knowing someone who really seems to have done “everything right” and yet she has cancer. So in the end, not everyone can prevent this disease, because we don’t have a beat yet on every last trigger that causes it. (2) I don’t want someone suing me when they get breast cancer after doing everything I say. (I wish that were meant to be funny, but it would absolutely happen.)
Q: I read somewhere you give every patient a hug. Why do you do that?
Well, some patients exude a “don’t you dare hug me” vibe, so I don’t hug every patient. But it’s true, I do hug most of them because I feel like I’m walking in the room to greet a friend I haven’t seen for 6-12 months.
And now that you’re making me think about it for the first time, I think I hug them because they’re not dead! We went through one dark valley together, she and I, and “Hooray! You’re still here!” That seems to deserve a hug—especially since champagne in the middle of a work morning would be inappropriate.
Q: In your spare time (which I’m sure isn’t much), what do you enjoy? Hobbies?
Andy and I do Ironman races. Well, to be clear, I do half-Ironman. Andy is the full distance real deal. Halves are 1.2-mile open water swim, 56 miles on the bike, and then a 13.1-mile run. So, I bike and run a lot (I ignore the swim training most of the time), and I do these things with the boys—cycle 32 miles every Sunday with me and Andy. And my son Ethan, he runs a 47 minute 10k, so I already can’t keep up with my own son when we go running together!
I also love family game nights—board games, cards, puzzles. And I love baseball (I grew up being the only girl in a league of 150 boys for 7 years), so we go to LA Dodger games or watch them on TV.
Breasts: The Owner’s Manual: Every Woman’s Guide to Reducing Cancer Risk, Making Treatment Choices, and Optimizing Outcomes is available wherever you purchase books.