This Mother’s Day, CURE Childhood Cancer would like to thank all of our mothers for your love, support, and dedication. We would like to share with you this letter from Annamarie, the mother of Sam Robb.
Friends, Family, and Supporters,
Becoming a mother is a life changing moment in a woman’s life. I was blessed to be the mother of four. A second life changing event is to hear that your child has been diagnosed with cancer. With the diagnosis, we counted our blessings in the improvements of treatments, new research, the wonderful doctors and nurses, etc. As the mother, I led our family down the road of childhood cancer to realize the challenges are unending.
When this journey began, it seemed like yesterday. Sam was a sophomore in high school, the starting quarterback for his high school team. At the time our world was immersed in sports for all the children, and Sam had aspirations of playing football in college. Sam was a big, strong young man, 6’4” over 200 pounds with no fears. Our family was humbled when a perceived sports injury turned into bone cancer. Within a day, we confronted the realities of surgery, chemotherapy, etc. for the next year. As a mother, I wished the diagnosis was for me, only to spare my child of this disease.
It was hard to watch Sam deal with the consequences of bone cancer. The initial setback was the reality that the sports he loved and played – football and basketball – were no longer an option. Young people learn to adapt quickly, and Sam focused upon playing baseball as his primary sport. After an 11 month journey filled with surgery, chemotherapy, monitoring counts, threatening infections, and extended hospital stays. Sam started to rebuild his life.
Being a teen cancer survivor has as many challenges unique to them, and at times these challenges were more difficult than the treatments. As a mother, I worked to put the cancer behind us to regain the normal routines of life, but deep in my heart, l knew life would never be the same. Sam had a deeper perspective with an intense zeal for life that would challenge the most patient parent. He had an intuitive sense of what was truly important in life, but this maturity could be difficult for authorities to understand.
Three years and nine months later, my third life-changing message was to hear the word “relapse.” Sam and I sat looking at the chest X-ray to see a mass in his chest that we knew was not good. The doctors apologized for the life-threatening diagnosis. Sam had journeyed with battling cancer by redefining his life, pursuing his dream of playing college baseball, anticipating a transfer to Clemson University, and all of this changed. Once again, Sam was leading the way as a young adult; we consulted with renowned surgeons to see if he could have any hope of a miracle to remove the mass growing in between his lungs. Sam knew this surgery was the Big Play that was very risky, but he would never hold back.
Prior to his last surgery, Sam’s spirit prevailed to enjoy life, to be with friends and family. He crammed so much living into days before surgery to create the weekend of a lifetime: taking friends to UGA, going to a BRAVES game, and being with family and friends into the wee hours. He refused dwell upon the pending surgery on Monday morning.
Sam’s spirit to live in the moment was the perfect example to enjoy life today. I was always touched with his ability not to fret over the future – as most adults and teens do today.
My saddest day was when the surgeon told me Sam did not survive the surgery due to complications. The irony was Sam looked so healthy and strong, but did not survive – so hard to believe.
We are now approaching five years since that June day when we lost Sam in surgery. I reflect upon our journey with an awareness of what so many other families have to endure when their child becomes ill with a threatening disease. I know Sam’s passing while in surgery was a true blessing from God. He did not suffer in the end. I do not believe Sam’s death is God’s plan or God gives you these challenges in life. More so, Sam’s death along with the death of any child is a hard reality of how imperfect our world is. God has provided the faith, family and friends to help us handle the tragedy.
Our family has taken the sadness, anger and grief and channeled it into efforts that keep Sam’s spirit alive. We created The Sam Robb Fund within CURE Childhood Cancer to support pediatric cancer research through a Fellowship Program. We want to provide hope for the future by investing in young doctors. Our fundraising events support this fund while bringing people together to remember the good times.
Sam’s final words to me before going into surgery were, “Mom, don’t worry. Go make a friend.” We would do anything to have Sam with us today. We are comforted by the friends who help us perpetuate Sam’s spirit. His tattoo motto, Fightin ’till the Last Breath, says it all for the mothers and their children still fighting childhood cancer.
– Annamarie Robb