Guest post: It’s about what they need

Originally a comment by Pliny the in Between on Magic with words.

When I was a general surgeon (eons ago it seems), I had been highly trained in surgery for diseases of the breast as part of my residency. I was an early advocate of less invasive surgery for breast cancer and was the first I know of who worked with a team of physicians to council women about their options. When I saw a woman with breast cancer in my office I coordinated the visit with oncology, radiation therapy and plastic surgery in one visit so the individuals I saw could make the best choice for their needs. When surgery was part of the therapy, I worked with a highly skilled plastic surgeon on all my cases who would help design the incision sites (without compromising the cancer surgery) and we would perform immediate reconstruction surgery at the same time in most cases (so the women never woke up without a breast). Lastly, all my patients were referred to a female surgeon I respected and worked with for a second opinion. The purpose of this was twofold- one to make sure all questions and doubts were addressed and 2 – allow for the possibility that my patient might prefer a woman surgeon (we informed them that this option was completely understandable and that no one would be offended). Sometimes they did – sometimes not.

Here’s the thing – I was completely qualified to handle the clinical needs of any of these patients. But as I tried to instill in our residents – it’s not about us – it’s about what they (the patient) need. Sometimes what they needed was something I could never be – a women who could exactly empathize with them and who provided them with a bit more comfort in a horrible time in their lives. And guess what, that’s what they got. Care, comfort, and security – the things we tried to provide to all our patients.

I bring this up because this should be the only perspective on the issue of advocacy services – what do these women need. They’re not looking to part of any would-be counselor’s agenda or be part of any social movement. They have trauma and pain and helping them find care, comfort and security is all that matters. Anyone who can’t adjust to that shouldn’t be a counselor because empathy is pretty much a must have in that role.

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