Robin has always been a caregiver. She raised three children, took care of her grandmother as she aged and, as a disability benefit specialist for Pierce County, Robin has devoted her career to caring for the physical and emotional needs of people who need support. But as is common with those who are selfless, Robin often neglected her own needs.
“I was never a doctor person,” Robin said. “I never went unless I had to go.” But in late 2022, Robin decided she had to go.
“I have always been a champion of the ‘it will get better, everything will be fine’ approach when it came to my health, so when I began experiencing pain and bleeding, I thought the symptoms might be related to the hysterectomy I had a long time ago,” Robin said. As things got worse, Robin thought something might be going on with her ovaries, until it reached the point that she couldn’t sit in a chair.
The exam that changed everything
Robin went to see her nurse practitioner (NP) in Roberts for a pelvic exam. “The speculum wouldn’t even go in,” Robin said. “At that point, I knew it was cancer.” Robin had a CT scan the following day and her intuition was confirmed. “My NP told me I had a tumor in my rectum that had grown into the side of my vagina. It was cancer,” Robin said. “She was so kind and compassionate. She told me I could call her anytime. She also said I would get the best care at the Cancer Center of Western Wisconsin (CCWW).”
At Robin’s first appointment with an oncologist at the CCWW in Baldwin, she learned her cancer had spread to her liver and left lung. She was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer. “People may wonder why I don’t cry, but I’ve accepted what’s happening to me,” she said. “I won’t sit at home and feel sorry for myself. I’ve decided to live.”
Choosing humor and positivity
Robin began chemotherapy every two weeks immediately after her diagnosis and will likely continue receiving treatments for the rest of her life. Each treatment takes 4-5 hours, after which Robin goes home with a pump that infuses one additional chemo drug into her bloodstream over 48 hours. For the days following her chemo treatments, Robin says it can be really hard to get up and go to work. Nausea and exhaustion are common. “But you have to get up,” she said. “You have to keep going. The medical team can always find something to help with your symptoms. And there are bonuses to all this,” she said brightly. “When I lost all my hair, I didn’t have to shave my legs! And getting ready for work became so easy. All I had to do was pick a hat to match my shirt.” She added, “Now my eyebrows are back, which is great, and I’ve got the rockstar hair I’ve always wanted. My grandchildren think I look better with longer hair, but I think short hair is the way to go.”
“Honestly, I have nothing to complain about,” Robin said. “I’m 58 years old, I have a strong faith, and now I do what my doctor tells me. If I had done that 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be here. My advice to everyone is get your colonoscopies!”
Where you’re a name, not a number
As Robin reflects on the past year, she says the support of her family and co-workers has been her saving grace. She includes the medical team at CCWW as a part of this special group. “When I walk into the Baldwin facility, it is so gorgeous! It’s known for delivering state of the art health care, but it also has this small-town feel. Everything is so personal and comfortable. They know who I am, and they know details about my family. We laugh, we joke, we talk like friends. It’s a wonderful place that offers so much comfort. I believe that if you choose CCWW, you choose hope.”
Quality health care, close to home
When asked why she didn’t choose to receive care at the Mayo Clinic or the University of Minnesota, Robin said the ability to receive world class care 20 minutes from home has made a huge difference to her cancer treatment journey.
“CCWW’s location offers a huge benefit for anyone diagnosed with cancer. I’m so happy CCWW is here,” Robin said. “And I’m proud that I’m still here, too.”
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