[00:00:00] Adam Walker: From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
After treatment for breast cancer ends, many survivors find that staying involved through community or advocacy efforts can be personally rewarding and can also help others who might find themselves in a similar situation. Today’s guest founded a brand that started out as a mission to get her swagger back through exercise and a healthier lifestyle; and also focuses on healing from the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of trauma from an illness or life altering struggle. Here to share her story and what she has learned along the way is Candace Robinson. Candace, welcome to the show!
[00:00:47] Candace Robinson: I’m glad to be here.
[00:00:52] Adam Walker: I’m excited to talk to you. I love talking to people that, that get back involved that want to give back to the community and that start, you know, new and innovative things. So looking forward to digging into all that, but, but to start with. Let’s hear about your breast cancer story.
Can you walk us through your diagnosis and what was going on in your life around that time?
[00:01:12] Candace Robinson: Absolutely. So Adam, I had just turned 40 years old, had just had this fabulous 40th birthday bash was my closest friends and family. I was physically. I was in the best shape of my entire adult life. And I just schedule my routine well-woman exam.
Um, it wasn’t anything different than what I’ve done in previous years, you know, just my normal annual checkup with my OB Jan. The only difference this time is that I was 40 and I was eligible for a mammogram. My very first. So on January 27th, 2019, I had the mammogram, um, they call me about a day or so later to tell me that they saw something in conclusive on my mammogram result.
And so they wanted me to return for a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. And so again, that was inconclusive, but ultimately they had me come back for a biopsy, which then confirmed that I had BRCA negative her two positive stage zero ductal carcinoma insight to
[00:02:19] Adam Walker: wow. I mean, so on your first mammogram, in the best health of your life, I mean, that’s gotta be a shock.
[00:02:28] Candace Robinson: Adam, it felt like I had been punched in the gut. It rocked my world, you know, especially with no family history. I had no family history of breast cancer. And so, um, as well, I had two young children, um, at the time a daughter who was five and a son who was 13. So, you know, they were all that I could think about, you know, being there for them.
Um, at that time,
[00:02:50] Adam Walker: Wow. So, so let’s talk about the treatment that you went through. And so what did you have done and how did it impact you physically, mentally and emotionally?
[00:03:01] Candace Robinson: So on April 12th, 2019, Adam, I went through a 12 hour bilateral mastectomy with. Reconstruction. And so what that is, is where they take the tissue from your abdomen and they create your new breasts.
Um, so it was essentially two surgeries. All right. So then, you know, they, they cut, they cut me here and then my abdominal area removed that tissue and created the breast here. So pulse recovery, um, Adam was so, so painful. Um, I was physically unable to do anything for myself for about six weeks. Um, those awful, uh, JP drains that they put in to keep the fluid, you know, coming out and flowing out the bandages, um, were unbearable.
Um, and then. As a result of the surgery, the abdominal surgery, because they removed the tissue and muscle from my, my abdomen, I developed a subsequent hernia. And so in January of this year, I had to undergo another surgery. Yes. They had to go back into the original incision in my abdomen and go in and repair the, the hernia.
So basically because the tissue and all of my muscles were so weak and everything in my abdominal area, all of that Oregon’s kind of say, okay, listen, we can’t hold on any longer. We’re just going to come through this hole. Right. And so, um, my Sergeant had to go back in and repair it and put it off.
Stitch it all back together. Um, but you know, mentally, physically, it was very draining. You know, you have essentially. Um, apart a part of your body, a part of you has been taken away. And that is a lot to process as a woman, especially, um, you know, breasts, such a large part of who we are, you know, as mothers, um, you know, as wives, just as, as a woman, just a being right.
It’s so much, um, it’s been taken from you. And so that was, that was emotionally and mentally, mentally draining.
[00:05:13] Adam Walker: I can only imagine. I understand as a result of these, these challenges, you’ve found a brand. Right. Uh, so tell us about survivor’s swag. I want to know more about this.
[00:05:25] Candace Robinson: Yes. So after my mastectomy, I struggled with my body image and accepting my new body, my new breasts, my abdomen, you know, everything was just not the same.
It was different. I was different. And so. I was numb in those areas. No, I couldn’t really feel anything. A lot of the nerves have been removed and taken away, so everything was new to me and it just felt different. And so it lowered my self esteem. Um, I, I gained. You know, I was depressed. And so survivor’s flag actually came to me in a dream after my efforts, um, to lose weight and, and having to buy new clothes to fit this new body.
Um, anyway, I made the decision to start working out again, and then it was my intention to get that swag back, to get that swagger back that I had at that 40th birthday party. Right. You get that swagger bag that I had when I was. And, you know, my arms and my muscles popping out of my legs and my arms, you know, I want it to get back to that person.
And so, um, that was where survivors wag came alive. And so the vision for survivors wags to empower survivors of all aspects of life to get their swag back after trauma, after something that they’ve gone through, that’s been so painful that, um, Themselves. And so survivors wags a brand where women and men can feel good about themselves by wearing brand.
[00:06:56] Adam Walker: And so I, I assume you’ve got a website. Do you have social accounts
[00:06:59] Candace Robinson: visit us? Yes, absolutely. You can visit us at www dot the survivors flag that com and on Instagram at the survivor underscores.
[00:07:11] Adam Walker: Okay. I love and tell me, like, like w what all do you sell there? I mean, just give me the quick 10, second. I’m curious.
[00:07:19] Candace Robinson: Basically it’s athletic t-shirts or plain t-shirts with just the survivor swag logo on it. And survivors wags wag is an acronym for strong warrior, always grateful. And the logo is a Phoenix. Uh, Phoenix, a Phoenix rises from the ashes, right? Like, so that whole vision of, of being reborn after having a mastectomy is where survivors wagon, the image and the image of the Phoenix was developed from.
So, um, it’s t-shirts style sell sale. You heard me talk earlier about the JP drain. Um, and how, how painful that was and that whole process. So I also sell JP drain shirts. So for women who have undergone a mastectomy and they have the drains that are attached to them, no one wants to see the drain. Uh, fluid and blood and things, and that you don’t want to walk around the house or have to go to the doctor for a follow-up visit.
And those things are hanging off of you. So on my site, I sell shirts where it has trained pockets on the inside of the shirt where you can dump those JP drains over in there. You, you snap the shirt up, put on a pair of jeans, put on whatever you want to put on, and you can move about your day without having to look at
[00:08:38] Adam Walker: that.
I love that. I love that. So. The question remains. Did, did this help you get your swag bag? Right? That was the goal. How’s it working with the goal.
[00:08:50] Candace Robinson: And that is the goal. And I think, um, for us as survivors, it is a journey. It’s not instantaneous. It’s something that takes time. So Adam, I would say that I am still working on getting my swagger back.
I think that it is a work in progress. Um, I think that we. We learn to, to deal over time. And so just through baby steps, you know, through counseling, through support, you know, through family members, you know, you eventually get there, you know, and it does, it gets better. It gets better, but no survivor after, after undergoing breast cancer and having to go through, you know, those types of things, um, chemo, et cetera, those types of things, you come to a point where you say that.
These are the things that matter, the small things that matter. And those small things are things like family, those moments, moments that you can’t get back. So you’re you, you learn to be more present in the moment you learn to be, um, But you don’t sweat the small stuff, right? Like you eventually started to see.
Okay. Hmm. Is that really a big deal in the grand scheme of things? So I think you just develop those, those skills over time and it’s really resiliency. That’s really what it’s about. And I think it’s a lifelong process for us.
[00:10:16] Adam Walker: Yeah, I love that. Well, and you mentioned, you know, several sort of ways that, that people can sort of help start to get through hard times.
I’m just curious for you, is there any kind of one method or one thing that you did that you feel like really helped you overcome through that process?
[00:10:35] Candace Robinson: Uh, support system, you know, having a very supportive family. Um, I don’t think anyone should have to undergo breast cancer by themselves. Um, I think your faith in God, for sure, uh, prayer, um, will help you get through it.
But I think really, you know, most importantly having someone or maybe multiple people. Sue to help you through it because it’s very private first for many women, it’s very a very private journey, but you need to have someone there to support, you know, you shouldn’t really have to endure that long. And so I think that was what really helped me.
I had my husband, my children, my mom, my dad, my sister, and they were all a very integral part of my healing process.
[00:11:21] Adam Walker: That’s really wonderful. Last question. Uh, why is it so important for you to, to do this podcast is share your voice and share your story.
[00:11:30] Candace Robinson: Well, you know, Adam, for so long, I didn’t want to share my story and being transparent with you.
Um, I felt. My story wasn’t important because my breast cancer was very early stage. Okay. You know, it was caught very early and I didn’t have to go through chemo or radiation. So I kind of felt like, you know, my story kind of didn’t matter. But then I was talking to a good friend of mine. Who’s also a breast cancer advocate and she and I actually have worked together in the community and raising funds for breast cancer awareness.
Um, she says, you know, Candace, you should never, ever, um, be afraid to tell your story. She says, because your story could be a blessing to help someone else. And, you know, so I made the decision that I am going to start telling my story because you never know. In the room or who listening to this podcast who, who this may resonate with or who something, maybe one little thing that I say, um, may help that person or save another person’s life.
Um, and especially for other black women, because black women are diagnosed at the same rate as white women, but we have a higher mortality rate, which means we die more often than white women. So if I can just encourage one person to get a mammogram. Early detection. Get your annual Trek checkups, ask for 3d mammogram, do self breast exams on the first of every month, know your family history, right?
Get a genetic test. If you see changes in your body, get it checked out. Don’t dismiss it. So if any of those things that I say. Or things that I say to a person down talking to, or at a community event, if I can say one thing that will help someone and guess what it was well worth, it, it was,
[00:13:29] Adam Walker: it was well worth it.
And having you on this episode has been well worth it for all of us. Uh, Candace, thank you so much for joining us on the show today. You’re inspiring and I’m going to check out your brand survivors.
[00:13:42] Candace Robinson: Yes. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:13:50] Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com.