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Relay for Life honorary survivor - Check and double check

Robin Enerson says always ask questions of medical professionals

July 15, 2020
By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer , Estherville News

Editor's note: this week, we feature one of two honorary survivors for the 2020 Relay for Life, Robin Enerson. The other honorary survivor is Mary Jo Burrell, whom we will feature in a future issue of the Estherville News.

Robin and Dave Enerson have been married 33 years, have two grown sons, Trevor and Tyson, and farm east of Gruver. Dave was able to be with Robin through most of the medical appointments, hospitalizations and more over the past four years since Robin's diagnosis with both breast and thyroid cancer.

Robin has had nine routine annual mammograms, and everything went fine. one breast was changing in shape and size compared to the other. It wasn't until a vacation to Mexico with Dave in March, 2016 when she put on her swimsuit that she knew something wasn't right. It's kind of a personal thing to share with the whole world, but Robin said it's important, because she felt no lump, she had no soreness, it didn't turn red, or green or purple for that matter.

Article Photos

Robin Enerson, with husband Dave, has battled both breast and thyroid cancer
Photo submitted

On the mammogram, nothing unusual showed up, because Robin, again being forthright in sharing something most women would rather keep under their shirt, said she has breasts of high density. Breast tumors show up on a mammogram in the same grey as dense breast tissue, so some women, Robin included, can live with cancer for years before it is detected. It wasn't until a contrast MRI that they found the breast cancer.

Robin had a PET scan that showed thyroid cancer (papillary carcinoma) and having been diagnosed with breast cancer (invasive, lobular carcinoma), in May she began chemotherapy.

"Chemo made me feel really tired and worn out, but other than the first time, it did not make me very sick," Robin said.

She did lose all her hair.

The beginning of her medical journey had her moving from Mayo's clinic in Fairmont to the breast center in Mankato, and later to Dr. Reiland, recommended by her sister-in-law who had also had breast cancer, at Avera in Sioux Falls.

It was in Sioux Falls that doctors were able to determine Robin had been living with the invasive lobular carcinoma in her breast for about five years.

"Anybody with any medical condition should question, question, question," Robin said. "Be your own advocate. Never hesitate to ask questions. I think women often tend to not question doctors, for whatever reason."

Dave said, "Yet another year with this would have been detrimental to say the least."

The cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes, though it had not metastasized.

Dave said, "I think a mammogram can give a woman a false sense of security that all is well. I think anyone having a mammogram should know if they have dense tissue and find out if a contrast image is needed to be sure."

Robin's breast cancer was estrogen-fed, so in addition to mastectomy on September 26, 2016, in October, she also had her thyroid removed and her ovaries. Then it was time for radiation at Abben Cancer Center in Spencer.

After that was the painful part tissue expanders.

Tissue expansion involves the expansion of breast skin and muscle using a temporary tissue expander. After a few months, the expander is removed and the patient receives a finished reconstruction or implant. Robin said the stretching of skin and muscle caused a lot of discomfort, to say the least.

Robin returned for six-month checkups. In the summer of 2018, a blood test showed levels that were concerning to doctors. A PET scan followed, and it was a harrowing wait to find out it was some kind of anomaly and things were fine.

In Dec. of 2019, there was a lump. The doctor felt it upon an examination and after a biopsy felt it should be removed.

To other patients, Robin says if possible, it's ideal to have someone along for any doctor's appointments and procedures.

"The doctor would be talking, and I'd still be processing something they said two sentences ago, because it was so much. I'd say to Dave, 'They said that?' because you can't hear and process everything."

For Robin and Dave, 2020 has been a good year so far, in spite of the pandemic.

"Life is back to the way it was. We have really good friends," Robin said.

Dave said before cancer, he was somewhat more willing to readily accept invitations to get out and be around people, to try something new. Now Robin has become more extroverted.

"Life is short," Robin said.



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