Robin Roberson was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of this year. The diagnosis was stressful enough, but then the coronavirus pandemic put a wrench in her treatment plan.
Elective surgeries have been cancelled all over the U.S. due to the coronavirus, and this included Roberson’s double mastectomy surgery that was slated for April 4th at a hospital in Oklahoma City.
It’s alarming to think that cancer treatment is considered “elective” in some cases, but, unfortunately, that’s the case for many patients.
Roberson was diagnosed in late January with two different types of breast cancer. She also had a strong family history; she had lost her maternal aunt and her paternal grandmother to breast cancer, and with the disease on both sides of her family, she was worried about delaying treatment.
She had already delayed just a little so that she could be there for her son’s wedding in March. Waiting even longer was out of the question.
So she did some research — and eventually she found the Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA) in Tulsa. They were available and willing to do her double mastectomy.
“Working with a center like CTCA, they are focused completely on cancer,” Roberson told KJRH. “So, the covid crisis didn’t really affect them as much.”
Kevin Tulipana is the regional medical officer for CTCA Tulsa, and he reaffirmed that the center is still doing everything possible to be able to treat patients in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are very few cases that would be truly elective,” Tulipana said. “Cancer doesn’t wait, cancer is not going to wait for COVID, it’s not going to wait for anything else, so we have been doing what we can to get access to patients as much as possible.”
However, after finding the center, Roberson hit another snag: her insurance company refused to cover the treatment at CTCA. They actually almost made her go out of state to get the procedure done, but CTCA worked quickly and diligently with them to be able to treat her in Tulsa.
“CTCA really spearheaded it along with my husband’s company,” Roberson said. “They are self-insured so that helped because they had to really work together to almost fight the insurance company if you will.”
Roberson got her mastectomy scheduled as soon as possible. Just before she went in for surgery, her friends surprised her outside with special signs and uplifting music.
Now Roberson is sharing her story in the hopes that other patients will be advocates of their own health.
“I want to encourage people to explore other options especially if they’re living with a cancer diagnosis and are needing that life-saving surgery. Please look at a facility like CTCA — it is dedicated to that,” Roberson said.
Learn more in this video.