Opp’s Spurlin is 1st 2017 Cancer Freeze recipient

Published 11:30 pm Monday, November 7, 2016

The Spurlins -- Robin, Dennis, Will and Wes. Courtesy of Cancer Freeze

The Spurlins — Robin, Dennis, Will and Wes.
Courtesy of Cancer Freeze

Cancer Freeze has announced its first 2017 recipient: Opp’s Robin Spurlin.

Spurlin is a former high school teacher and now stay-at-home wife and mom.

Spurlin said her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.

“Her cancer was estrogen+ and progesterone+,” she said. “She had a bilateral mastectomy and was put on a drug called Femara for five years. We talked about genetic testing for me and my sister, but I pushed it all to the back of my mind not wanting to find out if I carried any genes that may cause cancer.”

Spurlin said she believed it would be something she would deal with in 15-20 years.

“On Feb. 23, 2016, at the age of 39, I was taking a shower and accidentally found a lump in my left breast,” she said. “My heart pounded. I asked my husband to feel if it was really there or not. It was there. It was so pronounced, I didn’t know how I hadn’t felt it before then.”

Spurlin was able to contact her gynecologist the next morning and had an appointment that day.

“I told him about my mother’s history and since I would be turning 40 in April, he ordered me to have a mammogram,” she said. “On March 8, I had my mammogram. After it was finished, I waited for it to be read to determine if I needed an ultrasound, which I did. The tech was super nice. She moved from the mass area to under my arm, and stayed in that location for a long time. It was at that moment I knew something was wrong.”

Spurlin said the ultrasound tech left the room and came back with the doctor.

“He sat down and told me that the mass and a lymph node were extremely suspicious and I needed a biopsy right then,” she said. “He also said he was 95 percent sure it would be cancerous.”

Spurlin said at that point, she didn’t hear anything else the doctor said.

“I held my hand up and told the doctor to stop talking because I didn’t understand what he was saying and asked them to go get my mom out of the waiting room,” she said. “On March 11, my mom and I sat across from the nurse as she told me the mass was malignant and I had invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer. Cancer. How could this be? I breastfed both of my boys. I was a nonsmoker, and I hadn’t turned 40 yet.”

Spurlin’s husband, Dennis, works offshore and was at work.

“Now I had to tell my husband,” she said. “I would have to tell him over the phone that I had cancer. When I talked to him, I expected him to be upset, but he was strong. He told me that we were going to fight this together. He also told me that we needed all the prayers we could get. It was time to let all of our friends and family know.”

Then came the MRI and the surgical consultant with the general surgeon and plastic surgeon.

“As soon as I was diagnosed, I knew I wanted to have a bilateral mastectomy,” she said. “Both the general surgeon and the plastic surgeon agreed.”

On April 1, Spurlin had a mastectomy with tissue expanders, and sentinel node removal.

“On my way to my first expansion a week later, the general surgeon called to tell me my pathology results,” she said. “I was stage 2 triple negative with micro-invasion of the sentinel lymph node with lymphovascular invasion present.”

For Spurlin, this meant chemotherapy and radiation.

“I had it in my mind I would have the same treatment as my mom, so this was another moment I felt like my world had been taken out from under me,” she said. “I’m not a crier, but I busted out crying when the plastic surgeon came to my room and asked me how I was doing.”

On April 19, Spurlin turned 40 and had drains removed.

“Over the month of April, I would have expansions done once, sometimes twice a week,” she said.

She started chemo on May 4.

“The next week, I cut my hair off, I didn’t think I could handle seeing my natural curly hair falling out,” she said. “Then, after my second treatment, my hair started coming out by the handful, so I had it shaved off. Cancer was going to do a lot things to me, but losing my hair was going to be on my terms.”

Spurlin said she had four Adriamycin and Cytoxan, also known as red devil, treatments every other week, followed by weekly taxol treatments for 12 weeks.

“I finished my chemo treatments in October and am currently undergoing radiation,” she said.

Spurlin talked about her emotions.

“I was so mad when I was diagnosed. So much so, I quit praying. I would go to church, when I felt well enough to, and get angry. When people would tell me how strong I was, in my mind, I would argue with them, but the love and support I received from my family, friends, church family and community was so overwhelming. There is no way I could ever put into words appropriate enough to express how grateful I am. I have seen the love of Jesus through the actions of others. Now, instead of asking why this happened to me, I ask how I can help others.”

Cancer Freeze is set for Feb. 4, at Lake Jackson in Florala.

“My husband Dennis and I have been together since high school and have two sons, Will, who is a seventh grader at Opp Middle School, and Wes, who is a third grader at Opp Elementary School,” she said. “I am active in both the elementary and middle school PTOs and the Opp Bobcat Booster Club, as well as board member for the Opp Chamber of Commerce and the Opp Cultural Arts Center.”