Bald heads won’t sweat under a knit cotton hat. Scrambled eggs and bacon are a perfectly acceptable dinner. Underwire bras are a thing of the past.
“It’s so bizarre the things you learn while going through this, but I’m the luckiest person you’ll ever meet,” said Key West Realtor Martha Robinson, whose doctor in April “saw a tiny, tiny shadow” on her annual mammogram.
“So I had another mammogram,” she said. “Then I had a biopsy, which wasn’t fun. And then I knew.”
Robinson had breast cancer. It was stage 1, but an aggressive type that would require surgery to remove the lump, then four chemotherapy infusions given four weeks apart, and finally 20 days of radiation therapy, which she’ll start Nov. 9.
“So I’m still bald, but in a strange way, I like it,” she said. “I never wanted to wear a wig, so my hairdresser shaved my head for me. My amazing friend Kellee Bartley showed up with cotton hats for me. I have tons of hats now. One of my best friends sent me pajamas. Brenda Donnelly dropped off some of the best lip balm and skin cream since the chemo dries everything out. I’m surrounded by amazing people. And my boyfriend, Roy Bishop, is an absolute godsend. He cooked me scrambled eggs and bacon for dinner when it was the only thing that sounded remotely appetizing after my first week of chemo. I don’t know what I would have done without him and everyone else. I truly am the most fortunate woman in the world.”
Robinson counts the GenesisCare Oncology Center in Key West among her local miracles. The center provides chemotherapy infusions and radiation treatments on North Roosevelt.
“The treatment I received there was the exact same formula recommended by the most-revered Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa,” Robinson said. “They offered me a second opinion via Zoom, which was incredible. And to know I could get the exact same treatment protocol here in my hometown among people I know and love was a saving grace. Not to mention the Women’s Imaging Center on 12th Street that’s run by Lower Keys Medical Center. That place is incredible and so supportive. I can’t say enough about everyone.”
For some reason, Robinson had always assumed she’d get breast cancer someday. “So I really wasn’t afraid,” she said. “But I am very glad that it happened now, when I’m 69, instead of when I was younger.”
She’d even been a board member of the Cancer Foundation of the Keys for more than 20 years. “Mercy Hiller from the oncology center founded that group to help local cancer patients pay rent, mortgages, utility and grocery bills while they were undergoing treatment, and I was always involved.
“I’d been getting annual mammograms since my 40s,” she said. “I’m 69 now, and I don’t care if you print my age, because I want people to know everything so they’ll get checked regularly, so women will get their mammograms, so men will get a prostate screening and everyone will get skin cancer and colon cancer screenings. They’re so important, because even if the news is bad, it’s manageable when you catch it in time.”