“Ya’ll ready to make some noise!!!”
The DJ at Saturday night’s Think Pink Rocks concert at Mizner Park didn’t have to ask twice. More than 3,000 people descended on the amphitheater for the third annual breast cancer awareness event that features stars of the R&B and hip-hop worlds, from AKON and Shontelle to Flo-Rida and Melanie Fiona.
There were bouquets of pink balloons, a Hollywood-style pink carpet for the celebrities to walk, a Think Pink Mini-Cooper on site-and heavy bass reverberating throughout Mizner Park. Mayor Susan Whelchel declared Saturday Think Pink Rocks Day in Boca and handed the key to the city to hip-hop impresario and Boca resident Steve Rifkind, the owner of Street Records Corporation, who assembled the evening’s star-studded lineup.
The real star, however, was Stephanie Robin, who started Think Pink as a luncheon in October 2005 with friend Elizabeth Weprin because the two then-preschool moms were frustrated by the speakers and lack of fundraising at other “awareness” events in town. Robin credits Weprin with expanding the luncheon into a concert. “Music makes people happy,” she says. “Let’s celebrate life.”
Robin is celebrating it-and for good reason. The mother of two, just 42, has been battling breast cancer for the better part of six years.
“People tell me that I’m their hero, but I don’t view what I’ve done as heroic,” says Robin, who lives in Boca Raton with husband Michael, son Coby (10) and daughter Skylar (9). “I did what I had to do. I had children to raise. Crawling under the covers [and hiding] wasn’t an alternative.”
Neither was breast cancer, at least in Robin’s mind, when a black-and-blue mark on her left breast, the result of an accidental kick by Coby, failed to heal in spring 2004. After an initial test indicated that it was “most likely” a hematoma, Robin pushed for a second procedure. On June 1, the doctor called and told Robin there was evidence of malignant cells.
“That was the phone call I wish I never answered,” she says.
Not only was Robin diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer-her tumor checked in at 5 centimeters-she subsequently tested positive for the Breast Cancer Gene (BRCA).
“My mother had breast cancer twice, but I didn’t know it could be genetic,” Robin says of BRCA, which is prevalent in people of Ashkenazi (Eastern and Central European) Jewish descent. “If you have the gene, it’s like [an 80-to-90] percent chance that the cancer will come back in the other breast.”
Robin decided to undergo a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction, which was followed by eight rounds of intense chemotherapy. In March of 2005, because BRCA can lead to ovarian cancer, she had a complete hysterectomy.
A year later, unable to shake a cold and persistent cough, Robin again visited her doctor. This time, the news was even worse. The breast cancer had metastasized and spread to her lungs-and it was Stage IV.
“There is no Stage V,” she says. “I was devastated. I thought that after the mastectomy and hysterectomy and chemo that it was never coming back. It felt like my life had been turned upside-down.”
Doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York removed the cancer, but it grew back in three spots. After one chemo treatment failed to produce results, Robin learned about a yearlong trial study involving an experimental drug at Sloan-Kettering. Starting in December 2007, she flew to New York every week for eight weeks; later, she received treatment every two months.
The results, to date, are nothing short of miraculous. The tumors in her lungs have diminished in size by 90 percent. And Robin, who is spreading the word about BRCA awareness, is feeling as strong as she has in years.
“Cancer brought out an inner strength and power that I never knew was in me,’ she says. ‘I will not let cancer prevent me from raising my children.”