Edna Robinson is no stranger to cancer. Edna’s mother lost her battle to breast cancer when she was 35 years old; Edna was only 12 at the time. Her aunt passed away a year later at the age of 34 after a fight with ovarian cancer. In 2011 Edna lost her 73 year-old father to prostate cancer. Both of her sisters have battled breast cancer, and another aunt has faced colon cancer.
On top of all of that, Edna herself is a four-time survivor of breast cancer.
Edna was first diagnosed with medullary breast cancer in 1990. She was 31 years old at the time, and was terrified of the diagnosis. She remembers thinking “I’m going to die. I’m going to die, and leave my children for someone else to raise…” But she began chemotherapy and radiation treatment at a hospital close to her home in Michigan, and after four and a half months her tests began to come back clear and she was considered in remission.
In 1994, Edna learned that the same type of cancer had returned, this time to her left breast near the chest wall. This time around, she endured six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.
For 16 years, Edna lived cancer-free. She didn’t forget what the diagnosis felt like, or the panic-attacks that came along with it; she didn’t forget how exhausted and defeated the weeks and weeks of chemotherapy made her feel; she didn’t forget how painful it was for her children to watch her fight through yet another round with this terrible disease. But Edna moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 2006 and began receiving yearly mammograms at Cleveland Clinic, which had become her medical home. All was fine, and the cancer remained at-bay.
Until 2010, when a regular check-up revealed a lump in her upper right breast. This time, Edna was a candidate for a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, and she thought, “This is it. This time, I’ll get rid of the cancer for good.”
After 15 hours of surgery and five days of recovery in the hospital, Edna was strong enough to go home. She recovered well, despite having to travel to Mississippi just days after being released from the hospital to care for her father, who was now battling stage 4 prostate cancer. Edna believes that it was this period of reconciliation and bonding with her father that allowed him to live five months longer than the doctors expected him to, and also helped her recovery process. Ultimately, he passed away on May 17, 2011 and Edna moved back to Cleveland.
In October of 2015, Edna’s daughter – living with her family in Michigan – gave Edna a call and said, “Mom, I got the BRCA genetic test done, and I want you to have it done, too.”
About 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime in their lives; by contrast, according to the most recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 70.
Edna’s test results showed that she was positive for the BRCA1 gene. Around the same time, on October 8th, 2015, Edna learned that an aggressive form of cancer had once again returned – this time to her right chest wall, despite the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
But Edna found strength in her faith and fought the cancer once again. She had another surgery in November of 2015, and she completed her final rounds of chemotherapy in February of this year and her radiation therapy in April.
Edna has a smile that is contagious and a warmth about her personality that makes you feel immediately like you’ve been friends with her for years. She is a mother, a grandmother, a friend, and as she walks through the halls of Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute you can tell she made an impact during her time there as a patient by the smiles, hugs and hellos she elicits. She has dealt with more than her fair share of challenges, yet her positive outlook prevails – no doubt it’s played a role in her fight to kick cancer to the curb, once and for all.
While Edna received treatment at Cleveland Clinic she engaged in many of the Patient Services offered; from relaxation massages, facials and makeovers provided by Reflections (a free wellness program that offers a variety of complimentary and aesthetic services to Cleveland Clinic cancer patients), to art therapy which she explains was one of her favorite ways to relax and express herself. She also enjoyed the music therapy provided in the Infusion Suites, and tested out a few new looks at Cleveland Clinic’s “Studio Fifty-One” boutique which offers complimentary wigs, caps, and scarves to all Cleveland Clinic patients being treated for cancer. And Edna was one of the very first beneficiaries of Rhonda’s Kiss, a philanthropic fund that supports patients with financial assistance for needs that cannot be covered by insurance or government agency funding.
And now, Edna’s “paying it forward” by becoming a patient mentor through the 4th Angel program, founded by Olympic skater, Scott Hamilton, who also received cancer treatment and care at Cleveland Clinic.
Each of these complimentary programs are critical to the holistic approach to care that Cleveland Clinic provides. They’re free of charge to patients, but they have costs associated with them and, unfortunately, the need for services is at an all-time high.
Support Cleveland Clinic and the Taussig Cancer Institute’s Patient Programming – and patients like Edna. This October, 10% of sales from our pink cocktails & pink desserts will be used to support and give hope to those impacted by cancer at Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer.