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PHEN Network Member Spotlight
Mr. Eunice "Robbie" Robinson
There is no good time to get such news, but it was particularly jarring when Robbie Robinson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002. He had married his longtime sweetheart Shirley in July, and the diagnosis came in September.
“I was frightened at the fact that its cancer,” he said, “because cancer is associated with death.” But he quickly added, “I was determined that I was going to live.” He also was determined to put on a strong face for his wife, “so that she isn’t destroyed.” He credits the care of his primary care physician at Dimock Health Center, in Boston, MA, for carefully monitoring him over the years and when his (PSA) test showed a change, suggesting he see a urologist. He opted for surgery to remove his prostate and so far, his PSA readings have been “less than zero—basically no cancer detectable,” he said.
Robbie didn’t plan to become actively involved in prostate cancer advocacy and educational outreach, however, “When I educated myself on how men affected react, I understand men don’t have to die from prostate cancer.” He got involved because of the value of shared experiences. ”I began to talk to people and listen to their stories and compare it with what I dealt with,” he said. “When you share, you learn things you can do differently to live as a survivor.”
A member of the St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge, MA, Robbie is a leader there to raise awareness within his congregation. Churches can play a larger role he believes. “First of all, being able to reach people in the church is important, that’s why pastors need to be involved with men’s health.” The important ingredient, he says, is being able to find leadership that wants to be in the process to help educate. Another key is working with women to get them involved in the education process. The church helps but can be a much bigger help, he said, “if we can meet the right person to carry the message.”
The message for churches is clear, says Robinson. Men of color are affected. “We need to pay attention to our body, we need to look at the potential treatments to put prostate cancer in remission—or stunt the growth of the cancer.” Churches have to be on the frontline, Robinson believes. They can teach members about symptoms and train folk to “Pay attention and find ways to remedy their health issues.”
Robbie became a member of the PHEN Survivor Network immediately following his surgery. He volunteers in PHEN’s office to provide outreach around the country, and is a leader for the monthly support group meetings. “When I look at PHEN, I think we are doing a great job. We just need more help, more soldiers to spread the word.” Robinson says he is also “in awe of all the things founder, Tom Farrington has done with the organization. Wherever I could help, I jumped in and tried to help. I will do all I can to carry the messages.”