Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 8, 2013

Breast cancer is like a chronic disease

Longtime cancer survivor doesn't let disease define her.

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — When Lane Robinson first started chemotherapy, she had a treatment about every three weeks.

“It was rough. I’d be out of work for a week, and I’d feel like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. Then I’d feel better for the next couple of weeks, and then we’d start over again,” she said.

Robinson, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2001, is still fighting the disease 12 years later. She’s been through what she calls “hard” chemotherapy twice, radiation once, and she’s been part of several clinical trials, including the one she’s in right now.

“I’ve responded very well, to the point where – well, they don’t really call it remission – but there’s no sign of the active disease,” she said.

Her mother, the late Donna Hutchins, was diagnosed at age 39, and lived with the disease for the next 16 years. Knowledge gained from her mother’s battle helped; Robinson’s doctors caught her cancer early, and she’s been fighting it to at least a standoff these past 12 years.

“It’s something that will always come back,” Robinson, a secretary with the city of Kokomo, said of her diagnosis.

As medicine has evolved, cancer has become more of a chronic condition for many patients, Robinson said. Rather than looking at her cancer as something she can eventually be 100 percent free from, she looks at it as something which can be kept in check.

“I don’t think about what might happen; I think about the fact there’s always something new when I need it,” she said.

She also doesn’t seek out statistical information on survival rates. Her doctors know this, and respect her decision.

“I don’t let them share that stuff with me, because I don’t want to know,” she said.

“Someone told me, ‘You’re either 100 percent here, or you’re 100 percent gone.’ I don’t ask, and I don’t let them tell me. I just do what I need to do.”

When Robinson was first diagnosed, her daughter was 7 years old. Simply being a mother — pressing herself to “see [Macey] in high school, see her graduate, see her graduate from college” — has been crucial.

Macey is a sophomore at IUPUI now and a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, an organization known for its breast cancer awareness advocacy.

Robinson also feels like she’s had a stroke of luck [“I don’t really believe in luck though”] in her doctors, starting with Dr. George Sledge, who was at the Indiana University Medical Center when she was first diagnosed.

She is proud that her enrollment in clinical trials has helped create new treatment options for other cancer patients, and believes if she hadn’t been included in one trial about five years ago, that she likely “wouldn’t be here.”

And she tries to keep a balance between her medical care and the rest of her life.

“I let [Macey] know what’s going on with my treatments, but it has not consumed our lives. We deal with it, but it’s not who we are,” Robinson said. “I look at it like a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease. You’ve got to take your medicine and deal with it, but you’re never cured.”

If there’s anything she does preach from experience, it’s the oft-repeated wisdom that early detection is crucial.

“I know that’s what made a difference for me,” she said.