The last week of September, South Hill resident Robyn Lowry was facing a mammoth task: a hike up Mount St. Helens.
It wasn’t the first time Lowry climbed a mountain. She’d hiked up Mount St. Helens the year before. This year’s hike had been scheduled for a while, and Lowry bought her ticket as one of 100 people who were permitted to hike the mountain on Sept. 30.
“I’ve always liked to hike,” Lowry said, who moved to the South Hill area from Florida seven years ago. “(The Pacific Northwest) is so pretty. I love the green.”
But what Lowry didn’t know was that a far bigger obstacle was waiting for her. The week of her scheduled climb, Lowry found out that her cancer had spread from her sternum to her hips and spine. The discovery was one of many in Lowry’s battle against cancer. When she was first diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in March 2014, it came as a shock.
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“I was just shy of my 40th birthday,” said Lowry, 42. “It took me off guard. My whole world came to a stop.”
Talking to others with cancer really helped me through some rough times. It’s those stories that really pull me out if I’m in a rut. If I can be that person to someone else, that’s good.
Lowry began treatment at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord because her husband, Brian, was in the military. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Lowry found out she was cancer free in the summer of 2015.
Lowry went on a victory lap of outdoor activity with her family, from hiking to camping — one of her family’s favorite pastimes.
“We love to camp,” Lowry said. “That’s our biggest thing.”
She started going to school to become a nurse at Life Care Center of Puyallup. Her husband is currently in the nursing program at Bates Technical College in Tacoma.
“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” Lowry said. “I worked with the elderly. I feel like they deserve a lot of kindness, compassion and love.”
Lowry had to leave Life Care Center because of a double mastectomy, but has vowed that she’d return to nursing.
Then in the summer of 2016, after a routine annual MRI, Lowry found out that her cancer was back — this time in her sternum, close to her heart. She was in Oklahoma at the time for her daughter’s wedding.
“It just dumped so much stuff of us, I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
When she got back to Washington, Lowry began treatment at the Seattle Care Center Alliance’s Proton Therapy Center. Every day, Lowry would take a four-hour round bus and train trip from her South Hill home to Seattle.
As a mom, you fix things. If something’s wrong, you figure out how to make it right. It about what we can do best to support the family. At the same time, the kids have to understand that this is all a part of life.
Donna Davis, Robyn’s mother
“This time I feel really good,” Lowry said about treatment. “I don’t know what the end result is going to be, because it’s in the bone. At this point we’re just hoping the cancer drugs will just do what they’re supposed to do.”
As Lowry’s treatment continues, she’s eager to go back to work and get back outside.
“Now I’m just waiting,” she said. “I like to do projects. I got into chalk painting. What I would really like to do is go back to work.”
Lowry’s mother, Donna Davis, drives out from Utah often to visit her daughter and help out with the family.
“As a mom, you fix things. If something’s wrong, you figure out how to make it right,” said Davis, 73. “It about what we can do best to support the family. At the same time, the kids have to understand that this is all a part of life.”
Robyn has five children: two daughters, ages 16 and 19, and three boys, ages 8, 11 and 13, who go to school in the Puyallup School District.
Two of her sons play football with the Big Blue Youth Association. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the boys will be able to wear pink ribbons and shoe laces in support of their mother.
“They’re not afraid to wear their pink ribbons,” Lowry said. “It shows me that they love me. It means a lot to me. I’m always grateful when I see someone wear their pink ribbons.”
While her treatment caused Lowry to forgo some outside adventures, she tries to continue walking and says hiking up mountains isn’t out of the cards yet.
“It did stop me for the last couple of weeks, but I’ve started running again and going on trails,” she said. “I try to get out as often as I can. Whatever I can physically do.”
In the meantime, she’s happy to spread her story.
“Talking to others with cancer really helped me through some rough times,” she said. “It’s those stories that really pull me out if I’m in a rut. If I can be that person to someone else, that’s good.”