July 13, 2024
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Survive and Thrive Event Brings Breast Cancer Patients Together

Paramus – Dr. Tzvi Small started focusing on performing reconstructive breast surgery for mastectomy patients over 12 years ago. At the time, reconstruction was not a popular area of plastic surgery and there was limited physician interest. Because of the limitations, many mastectomy patients looking for breast reconstruction found themselves at Small’s door. Small expressed awe for the changes in breast reconstruction that have occurred in the dozen years since narrowing the focus of his practice. “Every few years, things change and I am doing things today that were not done even 3 years ago,” Small explained. Because of the volume of patients he encountered from early on in his career, he performs all different types of breast reconstructive surgery, as well as other types of plastic surgery.

Though he sees many different types of patients, for all different plastic surgery needs, Small expressed particular admiration for his breast cancer patients. “These women are balancing cancer treatments, carpool, dealing with a spouse and children, and mourning the loss of their breast. I step back and wonder, ‘How are they still doing it all?’” Small asked himself.

Small wanted to give back to his patients in a way that they could enjoy themselves for one night, in spite of everything else that may be occurring in their whirlwind life, so he decided to throw a gala event for his patients. Named “Survive and Thrive,” it brings together patients who have passed through his office for an evening out, courtesy of Dr. Small and Bergen Plastic Surgery. “I admire all of these women,” Small said, “and I felt a need to thank them for the trust they put in me, and the honor to treat them on their road to recovery.” The most recent Survive and Thrive event took place on October 2- kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness month- in Washington Township, where Small hosted over 500 past and current patients, and featured a children’s choir, and a local community church choir as part of the entertainment.

Small referred to this event as a chance to see a different side of breast cancer, which he explained as the friendship and affection built between patients and caregivers during treatment, and a “night of pure fun and inspiration.” Small invited colleagues who are all part of a patient’s team in their recovery- oncologists, radiation therapists, breast surgeons and many more. “Patients enjoyed seeing their doctors, nurses, or surgeons outside of a treatment facility,” laughed Small. Adding to the luxury of the event, Small raffled off door prizes such as Botox treatments, facials, and tickets to sporting events.

Many of the patients, though they had not met before their diagnoses, have formed relationships and kept in touch, and now recognize each other at the annual event. Small described the strong network that patients have formed with each other, beginning with a small connection in his waiting room, followed by coffee meetings at Starbucks, culminating into a strong relationship with an exchange of encouragement. Even spouses have found support at the Survive and Thrive evening. One husband thanked Small for the opportunity to connect with other spouses, and expressed the joy he felt in “talking to other people and other husbands.”

Small continued to express his admiration for the women who visit his practice, and their ability to juggle everything in their life. Small hopes this evening serves as a tribute to life, rather than a reminder of their mortality, and they take away the hope that they can continue to improve and gain strength from each other.

By Jenny Gans

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