A few weeks after Robin Browne celebrated her twenty-eighth birthday, she began experiencing pain on her right side. She underwent several tests, including an ultrasound of her gallbladder – all of which came back clear. It wasn’t until she felt a small lump on her left breast that she learned her medical mystery was breast cancer.
“My first and only thought was that I was going to die – imminently,” she said recalling the moments after she learned of her diagnosis.
Later, tests revealed Robin’s cancer had already spread to her spine, liver and lymph nodes.
“It was – and still is – stage IV,” she said. “That was a real shock. It took me a while trying to say it out loud before I was comfortable with it.”
After learning her cancer was HER2-positive, Robin enrolled in a clinical trial where she received the targeted therapy Herceptin which put her disease in remission. To this day, Robin continues to receive the medication once every three weeks to keep her cancer at bay.
“It has been the difference between life and death,” Robin says. “Research is the reason I lived to see my thirtieth birthday.”
Throughout her diagnosis, her friends and family have rallied around her.
“Both of my parents have come to every treatment with me,” she said. “Everyone took turns spending the night sleeping on the couch next to me or doing whatever was needed to distract me.”
Throughout her treatment, Robin’s childhood best friend, Catherine Kaelin, remained by her side. Weeks before Robin’s diagnosis, Catherine’s aunt Carolyn had died from the disease. As a scientist, Carolyn dedicated her life to investigating breast cancer and her husband, William, has been a BCRF researcher since 2006.
“Catherine had just experienced this tragedy. After hearing about my diagnosis, she instinctively went into this calm, protective mode,” Robin says. “She became a soothing force.”
Earlier this year, Robin had the opportunity to recognize Catherine for her support when she presented her with the Unsung Hero Award at BCRF’s Boston Hot Pink Party.
“I didn’t realize how dependent I was on my network of friends and family until I was diagnosed,” Robin said. “It’s hard to ask for help sometimes. Their support was really incredible.”
Robin has also become a strong supporter of research.
“Believing in medicine, research, and the power of doctors and scientists has taken the place of believing in anything higher for me,” she says.
“Research is the reason I lived to see my thirtieth birthday.”
Read more personal stories about breast cancer from BCRF’s Research Is The Reason campaign here.
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