Robin Crouch, BA '05, graduates with honors despite life-threatening diagnosis
Fighting cancer may have caused Robin Crouch to slow down, but she never let it stop her. In fact, a year after being diagnosed with lymphoma large B cell type cancer, she earned her bachelor's degree and was recognized as the 2005 outstanding graduating senior during Baylor's commencement ceremonies last December.
Crouch's health problems began during her senior year; initially, even her doctors were uncertain about the cause. "I wasn't feeling well, couldn't breathe, and I had all these signs and symptoms. No one could figure out what they were related to because why would someone my age just get sick all of a sudden?" Crouch says. In a span of about a week, she made four different trips to the emergency room with varying problems: a broken arm, broken shoulder blade, asthma, ear infections and pneumonia.
Crouch felt defeated. "I felt like I was insane, and I remember saying to myself, 'This is the last time I'm going to the emergency room. If they don't figure out what this is, that's it.'" She was so determined to prove to her doctors and family the extent of her pain that she used a marker on her body to pinpoint the afflictions.
Finally in December 2004, doctors at Wilford Hall Medical Center in her hometown of San Antonio found a mass in the center of her chest. "The first thing I felt was relief," she says.
She began the intense radiation and chemotherapy processes, leaning on her parents, church family, professors and friends for support. "It seemed to bring people together," Crouch says. "I guess it's the way people act around [those] who are deathly ill. You sort of focus on the positives and all the good things in life. All the bickering ... stops, and it's just peaceful."
Obviously, there were setbacks. Crouch, who considers herself a perfectionist, was annoyed at how the cancer forced her to slow down. But the disease also allowed her to take time to figure out the real meaning of love through observing others. "I felt more a part of the human family-- some sort of weird kinship," she says.
She finished her last round of chemotherapy in last May, went into remission in June, finished radiation in July and then went back to school to finish her undergraduate degree.
"I was kind of rusty because chemo does crazy things to your brain. Like word association just flies out the window and I lost my entire vocabulary," Crouch says. Her parents and doctors constantly encouraged her to do her course work. "I think they had this plan in mind that if you don't have a goal while you're sick, then you're not going to get better as fast because you don't have anything to take your mind off of it," she says. "So they were really pushing me."
Four months later, she earned her diploma and immediately started graduate school in Baylor's international relations program. "I just find it really fascinating to know about other ways of doing things and seeing what's common between them and what we can learn from different places as well," she says about her field of study.
As if graduate school isn't enough, Crouch also is planning a June wedding to Jason Moore, son of former Baylor basketball player and alumnus Winston Moore. She said she was surprised when she fell in love. "That was unexpected. Not many people want to marry someone who's half bald," she says.
Crouch says she's eager to face her future. "I really like things planned out, so that's one big thing I'm starting to figure out is that you just can't plan life. Even with the best of intentions, things are going to happen themselves anyway."
She hopes her story will inspire others in similar situations to persevere, but be willing to take things slowly. "You have only so many working hours a day, so you have to plan ahead and budget for those bad days," she says. "It takes four months to do what would take a normal person two days, but it's what you gotta do -- just keep slugging along.
"It never seemed to be an issue to give up," she says. "I had this sense of, 'It's going to be fine in the end. Don't worry about it. It's just another challenge. This is your life, and you just go on with it.'"