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Robin Garren's Incredible Story

Healthy Mother, Healthy Daughter

Terrance D. Peabody, MD Orthopaedic Oncology

Mark Agulnik, MD Hematology and Medical Oncology

Janelle R. Bolden, MD Maternal Fetal Medicine

Meet Robin.

First and foremost, Robin Garren is a mom. So back in 2011, when she slipped and fell on a patch of ice downtown, her primary concern wasn’t for herself but for her family at home. As a waitress for more than 10 years, she was used to the daily aches and pains that come with constantly being on your feet. But when the soreness from her fall wouldn’t go away, Robin went to the Emergency Department.

She thought it was just a bruise.

Though Robin had fallen on her backside, the pain was concentrated in her left leg, the same leg that had experienced random spurts of swelling for nearly a year before her fall. When the ED physician returned from viewing her X-rays, Robin could see the worry on his face. Something was wrong. But to make matters even more serious, Robin was also 16 weeks pregnant.

Most people don’t think, ‘Oh my god, it’s got to be cancer.’ I was pregnant. I didn’t have time for anything else.
–Robin
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Robin Had No Time To Lose

Her Team Became Part of Her Family

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making a diagnosis

Shadowing on Robin’s femur led her to the office of Northwestern Medicine Orthopaedic Surgeon Terrance Peabody, MD, where a biopsy confirmed an unimaginable fear. Mere months before her baby was to be born, Robin’s mystery pain was given a name: osteosarcoma, an extremely aggressive form of bone cancer.

Even though Robin was pregnant, she needed treatment. If left untreated, the disease would kill her.
–Terrance Peabody, MD

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Dr. Peabody quickly gathered Oncologist Mark Agulnik, MD, and High-Risk Obstetrician Janelle Bolden, MD, to develop a treatment plan that could defeat Robin’s cancer while protecting her unborn baby.

Nobody did one thing without talking to the others. It was literally Team Robin.
–Robin

Collectively, the decision was made to administer a chemotherapy regimen that would safely shrink Robin’s tumor to an operable size before surgically removing it immediately after Robin gave birth. Due to the aggressive nature of her cancer, and the likelihood of it spreading, the team planned for an early delivery via C-section knowing they had to act quickly as two lives were at risk.

Saving Two Lives in One Day

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a complicated decision

Ultimately, Robin’s cancer was not solely her own. Dr. Bolden explained to her that while chemotherapy would be necessary to prevent the cancer from spreading, her baby could be at risk. Dr. Bolden’s practice had extensive experience caring for women diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, yet Robin’s diagnosis was rare. Still, with faith in her medical team, Robin was determined to carry as long as possible.

I just remember thinking, ‘I will love my baby no matter what.’
–Robin
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Finding the Right Formula

As surgery drew closer and closer, Robin’s chemotherapy regimen continued to evolve. Spearheaded by Dr. Agulnik, the medications chosen for treatment and management of side effects were carefully vetted to ensure there would be no harm to the baby.

Robin had a tremendous amount of life left to live, and when you add a baby to the mix, so much more is at risk of being lost.
–Mark Agulnik, MD

Paired with the pains and aches of pregnancy, Robin bravely endured the effects of chemo until nearly 37 weeks pregnant – a milestone her team had thoughtfully planned for – when she was admitted for surgery.

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The Biggest Day of Her Life

Throughout her treatment, Robin had developed a deep trust in all her physicians, nurses and specialists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a trust rewarded as Robin’s team methodically put their plan into action.

The courage of Robin going to sleep, having all that done and not knowing whether the baby would be healthy ― she’s got some tremendous courage.
–Terrance Peabody, MD

As Robin lay in the operating room and underwent anesthesia, she had no idea what her life would look like when she woke up. Would she have a healthy baby? Would she be cancer-free? Within seconds, she was asleep. First, Dr. Bolden’s team delivered a healthy baby girl. Then, Dr. Bolden traded places with Dr. Peabody, who carefully removed the tumor and partially rebuilt her femur with a bone graft from a cadaver. The two operations were performed in the same room, on the same day ― an unprecedented event.

The Quality of Specialists

The quality of specialists as well as the breadth of knowledge that Northwestern Medicine provides is top-notch. And everyone's willingness to work together for the best possible patient outcome is unparalleled.
–Janelle Bolden, MD

What Makes Us Better, Makes You Better.®

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A baby girl named Sophia

Both giving birth and beating cancer can be described as miracles. And rarely, if ever, does someone experience both in the same day. But when Robin woke up in her hospital room, she was relieved to discover her tumor was gone and she had a healthy baby girl.

Robin is simply an incredible woman and an incredible mother. One day, Sophia will know her mother went through all of this treatment and a surgery that lasted almost a day, and that she did it all for her.
–Mark Agulnik, MD

After eight hours and two procedures in the same operating room, Robin awoke to a beautiful baby girl named Sophia, and her tumor was gone. Today, when Robin takes Sophia to the park or for a walk near their home, she is reminded of Northwestern Medicine’s dedication to providing innovative, world-class care.

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