Dr. Saul E. Rivkin. I could almost stop there with this post, because Saul is a man who may be bigger than the words used to describe him. But he deserves more – much more.
Just before I met Saul, nearly 20 years ago, his nurse warned me that when it was time for an appointment, we should call the office to find out what time we should come in. My puzzling look reminded her that this was the first visit. She explained that Saul tended to run a little late, so it was a good idea to check in.
My wife, Lori, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer about six months earlier. Her diagnosis was followed by six months of chemotherapy and a second-look surgery. For eternity I will remember watching her surgeon walk across the lobby to tell me the results of that surgery: the cancer had spread and Lori didn’t have much time to live.
He recommended that we see Saul because he was extremely knowledgeable about ovarian cancer and might offer some guidance. Our appointment was scheduled for 5:00 p.m. I called at 5:00 p.m. and was told to come in at 8:00 p.m. With a two-year old son, a busy work schedule, and an ill wife, I was upset. My only pet peeve in life is to be kept waiting-I hate it. Trying to juggle everything wasn’t going to be easy.
We arrived at 8:00 p.m. and waited another hour before being shown to an exam room. Yes, I was steaming, and prepared to give this Dr. Rivkin a piece of my mind. Then he walked into the room and introduced himself. Thin, balding, and working two different cell phones, he had me puzzled. He took Lori’s hand and told her not to worry, we had plenty of options. He explained that we were going to treat this disease like a chronic illness and hopefully cure it over time. I sat back and watched him talk to her, examine her, answer her questions, and it was like I wasn’t in the room-because I wasn’t. When Saul Rivkin met with a patient, the world outside of him and that woman ceased to exist. He didn’t care if there was someone else he needed to see, he didn’t care if he had tickets to the opera; he just cared about that patient sitting across from him.
This went on for seven years. At times it was brutal on Lori. She had 22 surgeries, dozens of chemotherapy treatments, sometimes wasn’t able to eat, and had countless other issues. But you know what? She was always smiling, and it was because she believed in Dr. Saul Rivkin 100%. Lori died in 2003, but she beat her cancer because she didn’t let it define who she was…and she loved Saul.
Does that sound familiar? It should, because this year the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer is celebrating our 20th Anniversary. This year, we’re going to hear many more stories about the great women, families, friends, events, and activities that have shaped the Rivkin Center.
But Dr. Saul Rivkin will always be the most important part of the Rivkin Center. He lost his wife, Marsha, to ovarian cancer, so he and his five daughters set out to make an impact on the lives of other women battling this disease. We have all experienced the gift that he has shared with us. When you say the name Saul Rivkin, there’s always a powerful, caring story along with it. When the Swedish SummeRun comes around every year, Saul is out pounding the pavement with posters and information cards. Everyone at the race wants their picture taken with Saul, and he has his trusty camera at the ready.
Twenty years ago, the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research was born. Today and in the future, we will do more than just research because we are trying to put ourselves out of business. Saul is working side by side with the Rivkin Team to win this fight.
It seemed only appropriate that the Rivkin Center’s first blog post should focus on the man who made this all happen. For 20 years, I’ve been proud to call Saul my wife’s doctor, a fellow member of the Board of Directors, and my partner in crime now that I am the Rivkin Center’s Executive Director…but more importantly, I can call him my friend.
I, like so many other patients and family members, know what Saul does for our wives, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, friends, and anyone else associated with this insidious disease. We are eternally grateful and can never fully repay him.
Today I wish the Rivkin Center a happy 20th Anniversary and I will raise my glass to him, not for the first time, and say, “Congratulations, Dr. Saul Rivkin. You are a great man in a world with many like you, but none equal to you for what you’ve done for the women we love!”