Real Michiana: Spreading hope after the diagnosis
SOUTH BEND, Ind. –
Many families have been touched by cancer, and lots of people volunteer to help patients deal with the devastating diagnosis, but one woman in South Bend is living her life on both sides.
“People call me Robin Sue,” said Robin Ickes, who volunteers her time to teach classes at Riverbend Cancer Services in South Bend.
“I teach seated strength here. I help with the knitting group and I have a wicked dominos group that comes on Wednesday afternoons,” said Ickes. “I just think it’s an amazing place. It’s not just support groups; there are so many exercise classes and social times.”
Ickes came to Riverbend in 2015. Since then she has joined the board and brought in a new class. But the reason she came in the first place was to get help after her own diagnosis.
“I am now a five time cancer, patient? I’d say survivor,” she said. “All my cancers have been different. In 2009 I started with breast cancer. Eleven months later I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Four years later I was diagnosed with another lung cancer. Four years later, which was last year, I had thyroid cancer, and now I have some skin cancer that they’re working on.”
That’s five different cancer diagnoses in ten years. Ickes now has a pink and purple ribbon tattooed on her bicep.
“The pink is for breast cancer, the white around the ribbon is for lung cancer and the purple is for survivor,” she said. “I felt like I was a strong person to fight those so I put it on my bicep.”
“I am here and I am an experiment I guess,” Ickes said laughing.
But through it all, she felt it was important to give back and help others through their own battles.
“I thought it was important that someone who has had cancer can teach people with cancer,” she said, adding that she’s been able to connect with those in her classes because of her experiences.
“I feel like I’m a strong person, but just being around others that go through this to me helps me be strong too. The people here inspire me to know that I can get past another one because look at what she did. To me it’s amazing,” said Ickes.
Ickes takes art therapy classes at Riverbend. In one of her pieces of art you can see the words ‘resilient’ ‘hopeful’ and ‘strength.’
“It takes a lot of hope to you know stay strong and stay on a healthy journey,” said Ickes.
But the hope she finds in herself she works to pass on to others.
“I hope that I inspire them also to just be the best that they can be,” she said. “You don’t know what somebody else is going through so just be nice, because you don’t. Some people are miserable, they might be in so much pain but they come here.”
Ickes says people at Riverbend have now become more like family.
“This is what we have. And we might not have a lot of time but we have this time right now and we’re okay so let’s work together and do this.”
Riverbend Cancer Services works to provide support to those whose lives have been touched by cancer; not only cancer survivors, but their caretakers as well. For more information on the services provided at Riverbend, click here.