How one woman beat cancer four times, and lives to help others fighting the disease
By Sophie Pappas
If there’s one thing Robin Miiller’s three children might tell you about their mom, it’s how much she is busy helping other people.
“My daughter stayed home sick one day and when I told her I have to go out and help people with their doctors appointments, she looked at me and said: ‘Do you do this every day, mom?’ And I said, well, yeah almost,” Miiller laughed. “I think now my kids just started to realize this.”
Miiller, of Zionsville, is what some would call a patient advocate. To others, she’s simply a friend. But to everyone, she’s a survivor.
In the mid-‘90s, Miiller was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Since then, she has had a recurrence of the thyroid cancer and fought her way through one round of breast cancer, now more than 14 years ago.
In 2000, Miiller was 32-years-old, and 30-weeks pregnant with her youngest daughter Audrey Faith, when she noticed a large lump developing on her inner breast.
“It’s like it appeared overnight,” she said.
At her next prenatal check-up, her obstetrician sent her to an oncologist who confirmed she had breast cancer.
“Within three days we were planning for an early delivery,” Miiller said.
And so, after many tears and several sleepless nights, Miiller, her husband Damon, and her doctors, decided to deliver a premature Audrey on Feb. 21, and 10 days later Robin began chemotherapy.
All the while, her older children, Allie and Evan, ages three and four, were mere witnesses in what would be their mother’s hardest battle with cancer.
“The thyroid cancer didn’t hit me like the breast cancer,” Miiller said. “I first had it before I had children. But the breast cancer … there was so much guilt.”
Audrey was born weighing in at just over four pounds, and spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit before she could go home to her family.
“I had six months of chemo, followed by radiation, and I had this tiny baby,” Miiller said. “Many days, I had to bring all three kids with me to the hospital for radiation.”
By the time Audrey was a toddler, she had learned to say that she was a “wife saber,” or, mommy’s “life saver,” because had Miiller not been pregnant, she might not had visited her OB doctor so soon to check her breast.
Now, Miiller said that she “stays on top” of the cancer, with yearly mammograms and full-body scans. But beyond taking care of herself, Miiller has found time over the years to participate in Relay for Life and the St. Vincent Cancer Walk, both in Zionsville.
This year, Miiller is the volunteer coordinator for the Sept. 20 St. Vincent Cancer Walk in Lions Park.
“It feels good to [my heart]when I’m helping others and doing the [St. Vincent Cancer Walk],” Miiller said. “I participate because I can … Cancer is part of everybody’s lives directly and indirectly. There are always people being diagnosed and most of all I want to tell them that it’s o.k. It’s o.k. It’s a good thing they were diagnosed. It’s a good thing they got checked. There’s such a need for patient navigation, and for people to have someone by their side.”
Co-chair of the St. Vincent Cancer Walk Lou Anne Brennan, said she has worked with Miiller for the last two years.
“She is a wonderful cheerleader for the cause and has amazing enthusiasm,” Brennan said. “The St. Vincent Cancer Walk is a way for me to give back to St Vincent. I have walked in the event from its inception. My father led a long, productive life, and at the age of 89 passed away due to cancer. He received his cancer care at St. Vincent for which I am grateful. During his journey, he discussed with doctors about the needs of cancer patients beyond the radiation and chemo. He was an advocate for programs that helped patients beyond their medical needs. Those programs are what the St Vincent Walk provides with the funds it raises.”
Miiller said that helping others and being a part of raising money for cancer research and facilities is exactly what she should be doing.
“This is the direction I’m supposed to be going in,” she said. “I can look back now and tell myself: ‘Robin, your diagnosis wasn’t a curse.’ I’m living and hoping that someday I’ll know cancer’s purpose in my life and other people’s lives.”
St. Vincent Cancer Walk 2014
Sept. 20, in Zionsville Lions Park
10-mile challenge walk is a $50 donation to participate
3-mile family walk is a $30 donation to participate. Children ages 5 and younger can walk for free.
To register for the walk, visit http://ow.ly/zAAEb.
- Volunteer Coordinator for the St. Vincent Cancer Walk, Robin Miiller, is hoping to have at least 300 volunteers for the Sept. 20 event. To volunteer, email her at StVWalk14@gmail.com.
- Last year, the St. Vincent Cancer Walk raised more than $400,000 to help cancer patients. This year, the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation is raising money to buy a mobile health screening van.