Terri Robinson suspected she had breast cancer before she started her new job.
“Two or three months prior to being hired, I felt a lump,” Robinson said. “I went totally into denial.”
Only when a swollen lymph node “popped out” on her neck did she finally seek medical attention. In June, two months after she was hired as a cashier for Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, doctors diagnosed what she had known all along.
“It was an extreme, stage-three carcinoma,” Robinson said.
Because she had ignored other signs something was wrong – like pains in her arm and her left breast – she was not completely surprised. But she was scared.
“It was the most extreme emotional roller coaster I have ever been on,” she said.
After the reality of cancer, her secondary fright was telling her new bosses about her medical situation. She had just started training.
“They have been very, very supportive,” she said. “I’ve missed three or four days because I was sick. I was sent home once because I was sick. Not just my supervisor but my boss’s boss, everyone in the casino if very supportive. They’re always asking how I’m doing. They are very, very big into Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
Christine Todd, community relations manager with Harrah’s Ak-Chin, brought Robinson onto the casino’s Breast Cancer Awareness Committee, which organizes “pink” events for October.
“She’s amazingly strong,” Todd said. “She is using her story to spread the word about breast cancer and getting checkups.”
“I’m a fighter,” Robinson said.
Within three weeks of being diagnosed, Robinson was on medium doses of chemotherapy. Her routine has been two weeks on and one week off.
“I’ve had it kind of easy with the medium dose,” she said. “It’s not the highest. It’s not the Red Devils. I have not lost my hair. It’s just thinned a little.”
Robinson, 55, lives in Cobblestone Farms. She expects to learn this week the results of a positron emission topography (PET) scan to see how the treatment is working. If there are still active cancer cells, it will mean more treatment. If not, it is onto surgery.
She said she may opt for a double mastectomy and reconstruction to be rid of as many potential cancer areas as possible.
Married with a daughter and a 4-year-old granddaughter, Robinson said all of her family has been through the journey with her. Her daughter cried at the news of the cancer, her granddaughter was curious about her IV port, and “people were angry because I had gone into denial.”
Now, as she awaits the next big step, Robinson wants to be a voice for breast cancer awareness.
“I want every woman to be more aware of her own body,” she said. “If we could have more women get checked regularly, then I’ve helped a little bit.”
She also helps through the Breast Cancer Awareness Committee. Saturday at 7:30 p.m. is the Pink Pool Party to raise money for cancer research. It is free and open to the public and is highlighted by the Battle of the Bras.
It is a fun time for a serious topic, with men strutting the catwalk in flashy bras designed by the various departments in the casino.
“I love my job because it has been so positive for me,” Robinson said.
In the past, she was also involved with Relay for Life and knows her journey will continue to be up and down. She said helping bring awareness to others has helped her personal journey. There is lingering fear cancer will return somewhere else and many other unknowns. Having strong family support through her troubles has been vital.
“I’ve met survivors and people whose family members have been through this,” Robinson said. “I do know my life as I knew it will never be the same.”