If you have a question about Fox Chase Cancer Center, ask Robin Luber. She spends every Wednesday volunteering at the Center's Information Desk, and she also volunteers in social services. "I love this job," shared Robin. "I help patients, their families, and the staff. It's very rewarding." And that's coming from a former patient.
In 1995, when she was working full-time at Verizon, Robin had her annual mammogram at her local hospital. The results of all her mammograms never indicated a problem. Robin felt a hard thickening on the side of her right breast and intuitively knew she needed further testing. An ultrasound did not reveal a problem either.
Robin's gynecologist performed a fine needle aspiration which was also inconclusive. Because 2 out of the 3 tests showed no problem, her doctor suggested she "watch and wait" for the next year. But cancer was on Robin's radar screen. Two years before, Robin's mother was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and 5 years of tamoxifen and is still cancer free at age 86.
Robin's cancer never showed up on a mammogram or an ultrasound.
"The thickening became more obvious to me over the next year as I had lost some weight," explained Robin, who could wait no longer. She decided to get a second opinion from a Fox Chase surgeon, Marcia Boraas, MD, who performed a biopsy. On her 42nd birthday, Robin's phone rang. "As soon as I heard who it was, I knew it was cancer," Robin shared. "I had stage III cancer with a 6 ½ centimeter mass." Robin's cancer never showed up on a mammogram or an ultrasound.
Lori Goldstein, MD, a medical oncologist, was an integral member of Robin's treatment team and suggested she enroll in a clinical trial. By enrolling in a clinical trial, Robin was given standard treatment for her disease, plus additional drugs which may have reduced her risk of recurrence.
Robin underwent courses of chemotherapy and radiation after her single mastectomy. A year and a half later, she had reconstruction on her breast. Robin elected to have the TRAM flap procedure, in which tissue from her body was used to replace the breast removed during surgery. A flap is an area of skin, fat and sometimes muscle, which is moved from the stomach, back or other area of the body to the chest area.
"Dr. Goldstein is a brilliant team leader who made all the right decisions."
Admittedly, Robin used to ask Dr. Goldstein for the "numbers" over and over. "I wanted to know what my chances of survival were. But she wouldn't discuss it. Now I can say, Yes, Dr. Goldstein. You were right about everything."
Robin took tamoxifen for 5 years and believes she is withstanding the test of time. She now sees Cynthia Bergman, MD, a surgical oncologist, as her gynecologist and Kathryn Tumelty, MSN, AOCNP, a nurse practitioner, under Dr. Goldstein's supervision. "I like having several healthcare professionals at Fox Chase looking out for me."
"I am doing very well today, thanks to Fox Chase."
So well, in fact, that Robin decided to volunteer at Fox Chase after she retired from a 35-year career at Verizon as a system technician. "I feel more appreciated here at Fox Chase than I did in corporate America."
Initially, Robin was interested in volunteering in the pet therapy program. She adopted a schnauzer named Trudy and trained her for certification. Trudy and Robin are often seen visiting patients and staff. Trudy's daughter, Jackie, will be joining the family in April. There may a mother-daughter Schnauzer team by next spring!
Robin wants other women with breast cancer to consider joining one of the many support groups in the community. She is thankful to the Wellness Community; Linda Creed; Living Beyond Breast Cancer; the American Cancer Society - Look Good. Feel Better, and highly recommends Susan Love's Breast Book as well as joining her "Army of Women."
"Cancer is too much to handle on your own."
"There are so many groups out there to help - and they really helped me get through this difficult time in my life."