Over the last 2 ½ years that I have been writing this blog, I have written special tributes on a few occasions – to my husband, my brother, my dad and to a close neighbor upon his passing. This week, I once again find myself moved to add another person to that list as I wind down on the follow up to my reconstructive surgery after my double mastectomy. This tribute is to Dr. Saul Berger, my cosmetic surgeon, to whom I will always be indebted for not only the great surgeries that he performed but also for all of the support and responsiveness that he provided. Yes, I have a doctor who really listened to me and responds to my individual needs.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time, my cancer surgeon immediately recommended the double mastectomy with reconstruction and I was in complete agreement. I was recommended to Dr. Berger for a consultation and came away comfortable that he was the right person for me. A decision had been made to do both the cancer surgery and the first step of reconstruction at the same time. The cancer surgeon wanted me to stay in the hospital afterward and I was very adamant that I did not want to do so. I explained my wishes to Dr. Berger and he listened.
Although he did arrange for a room for after surgery in case I needed it, he did his procedure after the breasts had been removed and monitored my recovery from the anesthesia and cleared me to go home. That was huge for me as all I wanted was to be left alone in my own bed to sleep or not as felt right for me. I also had Dr. Berger’s reassurance that should I need him or have any questions or problems, he was only a phone call away.
That was only the first of many times over the course of the next two years that Dr. Berger was there for me through the two additional surgeries and all of the treatment and follow up involved through the reconstruction process. Here is a doctor who has a very successful cosmetic surgery business but who is devoting so much of his time and effort to breast reconstruction following cancer. I know about the nights where he gave up personal time and opportunities to perform surgery at 9 p.m. because that was what he needed to do in order to accommodate another surgeon’s schedule and most importantly, what would work for his patient. I know that a Saturday surgery is never out of the question if that is what is required to help. Yet every time that I had an appointment for treatment or follow up or pre-surgery, etc., I always had his undivided attention to my personal questions and assessments and needs.
I know how unusual it is to have a doctor who is so talented yet so kind and understanding and who really cares about others and I found myself asking him about the amount of time that he is devoting to breast cancer survivors like me. As he explained how the numbers were increasing, particularly in young women in their 20’s, he quietly said one thing that will always stick with me – “I can’t imagine not doing it”. That tells you everything that you need to know about Dr. Berger and the gift that we all have been given who fortunate enough to have had him there with us through the new beginning that comes after the cancer has been removed.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.