Tom Berenberg, A Grateful Survivor

Since it was such an honor having Tom Berenberg speak at the Raveis Ride + Walk on October 1st, we’ve transcribed his words for you today. Thank you, Tom!

Tom Berenberg:

Thank you so much to the Raveis family for the opportunity to speak today.  It is truly such an honor to address all of you who have given so much to me and to my fellow patients.  My name is Tom Berenberg.  I am a doctor and a patient.  For me, as a young physician, it was a jarring experience to be suddenly standing on the other side of that doctor-patient relationship.  I had spent years of training and hours of sleepless nights taking care of others and in one instant, with the single phrase “you have cancer,” I now looked toward others to care for me.

I was diagnosed in December 2011 and now, nearly 6 years later and after 2 metastatic recurrences, 3 major surgeries, 3 minor procedures, countless scans and blood tests, 5 cycles of outpatient chemo, dozens of blood/platelet/and stem cell transfusions and 5 horrendous cycles of inpatient high dose chemo, I stand here today cancer free.

I found the cancer myself.  I felt a hard, non-tender mass and I knew.  In my mind, I went through a differential diagnosis of benign conditions it could have been, but really I knew it could be nothing else.  My wife was in the next room getting changed for the night, at that moment beautifully oblivious to the heartache I was about to put her through.  That night would be the first worst night of our lives.  My doctor’s exam the following day and the subsequent testing only confirmed the inevitable reality that my life, our lives, had forever changed.  And while some of the worst days of our lives would follow, also the very, very best days of our lives would too.  I want to focus on these positive notes today.  At the very top of that list were the births of our son Charlie now almost 4 and daughter Violet who is 1—children that have given us the best parts of our best days.

Tom Berenberg and son, Charlie

The thing about cancer is that despite giving you a glimpse of unimaginable suffering, it also opens a window to the expanse and depths of the human spirit.  The generosity of others, their caring, sacrifice, and love is so overwhelming.  I have never felt as fortunate as I have during these past 6 years.  People want to help.  Family and friends tell you how much they love you.  Strangers wish you well.  And all of them give you love in so many ways.  Most people only experience this outpouring of affection at the end of their lives, we are lucky to see it now and let it color our lives going forward.

I know that all of you are here today because you want to support those among us who have been confronted with this horrible disease.  In fact, I stand here today not because of my own cancer but because I am supporting a very close family friend who is currently battling a recent diagnosis.  Her strength of will and character in the face of this disease is truly inspiring and it is an honor to be part of her family’s team today.  To all of you–You’re generosity helps us, from the littlest of us in the pediatric ward of the hospital to the oldest of us on the geriatric service.  I want to personally tell you how much we appreciate your gifts—your gifts of time, support, love, and yes—financial support too.  It is both a deeply sentimental thank you but also an actual physical appreciation that we feel upon receiving the medical treatment that derives from your contribution.

You have chosen well—this Raveis Ride + Walk passes 100% of your donations to researchers working on the cutting edge of cancer treatment through the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

The Raveis family is special.  Not only are they personally invested in this struggle against cancer but they are one of the few family businesses that also makes sure that their employees fighting this disease feel fully supported by their employer.

This ride has raised over $250,000!! To know that so many of you have donated to benefit people like me is truly humbling.  Most humbling is that so many of you never met those of us who you are helping.  Yet you helped save my life through your support of this research and you are helping so many others here today and into the future.  A few short years ago, there were days when I felt so sick, tired, and utterly exhausted that a short trip from my hospital bed to the bathroom and back knocked me out for hours.  Now I am stand here today in front of all of you, feeling stronger than ever and about to start a 25 mile bike ride!

On behalf of all the survivors, we are so grateful to you.  And we feel lucky to see, firsthand, the kindness of both those who love us and those who may not know us personally but care about us anyway.  What a beautiful lesson to learn.

Please accept my thank you as a thank you from the thousands of others who you, at this event, have helped this year.  And will help in years to come.  We appreciate your gift and will cherish the lessons you have taught us for the rest of our lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *