CLEVELAND — Robin Swoboda’s laughter is infectious. She always has a smile on her face, she always finds a reason to laugh- even amid her battle against breast cancer.
“Hey, you got to have fun with it. You know, I've had hair my whole life, so I don't have hair,” Robin laughs.
She fought breast cancer four years ago. A lumpectomy removed a non-aggressive tumor. Over the years she stayed vigilant with her mammograms... that was until the pandemic hit.
“I didn't get a checkup last year. I didn't, you know, it was like, they were not seeing people. They were telling you to avoid if you, if you could. And I thought that that meant me,” Robin said.
She wasn’t alone.
“I’ve seen quite a few patients like Robin who knew they had to come in and knew they were due but had concerns that they would be putting themselves at risk,” says Dr. Ashley Simpson, surgical oncologist and Robin’s breast surgeon at University Hospitals St. John Medical Center.
By the time Robin got herself to UH Seidman Cancer Center for her mammogram this past July, her breast cancer returned and spread.
“The results showed from that surgery showed that this tumor was a little bit larger, measured about two point one centimeters and the lymph node in her underarm did have some cancer cells associated with it so that puts her at higher stage than last time,” Dr. Simpson said.
Days later, Robin underwent a Magseed procedure at St. John Medical Center, where Dr. Simpson would also perform her lumpectomy and lymph node removal. It’s a marker smaller than a grain of rice that guides the surgeon. It’s placed on the tumor site and removed during surgery.
“It’s a little iron oxide seed and I always tell my patients in the operating room that I have essentially a fancy metal detector that helps me hone in and know exactly where the cancer is. And in Robin’s case, where this lymph node was,” Dr. Simpson said.
UH also gave Robin a Mammaprint test. A genetic test that tells doctors if the cancer is low or high risk for re-occurrence. Robin’s was high risk and chemotherapy and radiation were next.
Her UH Seidman Cancer Center oncologist prescribed one of the most powerful chemo drugs available, doxorubicin. Very effective, but incredibly toxic. Still Robin found reasons to laugh. But a few hours after her first treatment, things became serious.
“The chemo tried to kill me and I just had a crazy reaction. My sodium level dropped, they said they'd never seen that in the history of doing chemo,” Robin told 3News Monica Robins.
She ended up in intensive care at UH Cleveland Medical Center for three days. Then her team had to come up with a new plan. Different chemo, once a week for eight weeks. Her faith got her through.
“I have a very strong relationship with Christ. So if cancer decides to take me, I'm going to be with Jesus, if it doesn't, I get to stay here with Rob and my tight circle of friends and the people that I don't even know who I feel like I know and love,” Robin says, referring to her social media followers.
But this time, she learned a valuable lesson, sharing is caring and you get lots of love in return. Robin decided to document her journey on her social media in her own way. With lots of laughter.
“I learned to let people help me. The first time I went through it. Nobody knew anything. My son took me in for my surgery, picked me up, brought me home, but I didn't, I didn't let anybody do anything,” she said.
But she never questioned her fate.
“Why me never, never four years ago, it didn't occur to me, and it didn't occur to me this time. It's like, why not me? One in eight women, one in seven women, you know, why not me? It doesn't run in my family, but why not me?” she said.
She hopes her journey helps others navigate their own.
“That’s what we’re here for, we’re here to love others and to help others,” Robin said.
She has no time to look to the past because she’s not going that way.
Robin started a new chemotherapy regimen this past Monday that will last for eight weeks, and then she’ll have radiation. She knows the chemo will sap her energy, but for now, she’s enjoying her granddaughter, family, friends, dogs and a new, very special man in her life. More on that story next week.
PREVIOUS ROBIN SWOBODA COVERAGE:
- RELATED: "Here's my hair until it falls out"; Robin Swoboda debuts new cut after chemo treatments cause hair loss
- RELATED: "Your prayers, good thoughts and positive vibes are much appreciated"; former 3News Anchor Robin Swoboda in the ICU after first chemotherapy treatment
- RELATED: "You mean I get new hair?"; Former 3News Anchor Robin Swoboda finds silver-lining in chemo treatment plan after cancer diagnosis
- RELATED: WATCH: Former 3News Anchor Robin Swoboda finds the funny during pre-surgery check-up for breast cancer relapse
- RELATED: Former 3News Anchor Robin Swoboda announces she has cancer