When Getting Better Means Saying Goodbye

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Some of my patients are in my life for a day. But more often, I see patients often enough to form a relationship beyond the traditional doctor patient interaction, like some of my breast cancer patients come to the office once a week for several months for reconstruction. During these appointments, while I fill the patients' temporary implants, we chat about life, work, family, and hobbies. We exchange pictures of new children or grandchildren, trade stories about friends, and make book and restaurant recommendations. This has become one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Today, I saw a patient I operated on a little over a year ago. She was close to death when I met her in the hospital, and it took several surgeries and many months longer than usual for her to recover. She is now on a first name basis with the staff and the receptionist even recognizes her voice on the phone!
Today, healed and finally ready to get back to living normally, she asked me when I wanted to see her back in the office. When I said one year, her smile disappeared, and she looked pretty upset. She said she wasn't sure how she was going to get through the next year without us. With a big hug and a few tears, I told her that we'd always be there for her. I can't wait to see her next year!
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Jupiter Plastic Surgeon