Robin Schwarz: Giving Back Beautifully After Breast Cancer
— by ABCD board member, Gina Rich
September 21, 2021
Robin Schwarz was a busy mother of two young children when she learned she had breast cancer. It was 2010, and Robin did not know anyone else who had been diagnosed. Then friends introduced her to another woman who had also faced breast cancer and wanted to offer support. The connection made a lasting impression on Robin. “Right from the beginning, I wanted to be able to help other women the way she had helped me,” she says.
Near the end of her treatment, which included surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, Robin found herself fielding requests from others in her social circle, asking if she could reach out to newly diagnosed friends and relatives. So she did. “If I can use my experiences to help other women who are going through similar things, then it somehow justifies the journey a little bit more,” Robin explains.
That type of personalized emotional support is exactly what ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis provides through its trained volunteer Mentors. But Robin wasn’t a Mentor yet; in fact, she did not learn about ABCD until several years after her diagnosis.
In 2019, Robin happened to see a Facebook ad for an upcoming ABCD Mentor training. “That’s sort of what I’m doing anyway,” she remembers thinking. She decided to sign up.
Robin completed ABCD’s Mentor training online in April 2020. Since then, she has mentored several women. For many, the sense of isolation due to Covid restrictions has been overwhelming. “Nobody knows what I’m going through; I’m here alone,” was a common sentiment Robin heard from Participants undergoing chemotherapy during the early months of the pandemic.
As the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, anxiety remains high. “There’s a whole other dimension of things for cancer patients to be concerned about right now with Covid,” says Robin.
And when cancer treatment is finished, patients face different challenges. “You get to the other side of all the treatment, you look at yourself in the mirror, and you don’t know who that person is anymore,” says Robin.
After her doctor recommended exercise as a way to reduce disease recurrence, Robin discovered a newfound love of amateur ballroom dancing, taking lessons at a Fred Astaire studio near her Illinois home. She also found joy in kickboxing classes and strength training. Exercise helped her adjust to life post-cancer and “recreate” herself as a human, Robin says. Today she encourages the women she mentors to think about how movement can be empowering and healing. “My energy level is always better when I’m working out,” she says. “It feels good to feel strong.”
Channeling her love of things that sparkle, Robin works as a consultant for Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski, selling jewelry through virtual platforms including Facebook. This spring, she hosted a jewelry party online to help raise funds for friends whose son was undergoing treatment for leukemia. And recently, she decided to host another Swarovski fundraiser, this time benefiting ABCD.
For Robin, supporting others on their breast cancer journeys has been fulfilling and meaningful. “I was really looking for something that felt more personal to me,” she says. ABCD turned out to be the perfect fit.