BELLVILLE — Robin Walker, 57, believes everything happens for a reason.
Even in the most devastating of circumstances, the Bellville resident has clung to her faith, trusting that the Lord has a plan and purpose for everything.
On April 10, 2013, Walker was diagnosed with stage IIIB colon cancer after coping with sickness for about two years, not knowing the cause for her illness.
“I had no energy. I was very lethargic. I would feel very nauseous, and yet I wouldn't get sick. I kept having issues with blood in my bowels, and so I went to the doctor and the doctor referred me to a surgeon who said, ‘There's nothing wrong with you. It's the cleanest colon I have ever seen in my life,’” Walker recalled.
The surgeon advised that she lose some weight, encouraging her to eat healthy and exercise — which she had already been doing, she said.
“I was trying everything,” she said. “I tried gluten-free and I would lose 20 pounds and then it would come right back on. I tried all these things.”
Her visits to the doctor became more frequent as she wasn’t feeling any better.
“I said, ‘Something's not right here. I'm still bleeding. It hasn't stopped,’” she told the doctor.
“And he was like, ‘I'm telling you, if you had cancer, this would be going on, and this would be going on. There's nothing wrong you.’”
Walker carried on as best she could until one day while exercising at the YMCA she collapsed. That same day at work at Haring Reality, a colleague referred her to a physician who was able to see her the next day and scheduled a colonoscopy.
“When I woke up from (the colonoscopy), my husband was sitting in the chair, he was crying, and my doctor was crying,” she said. “He just looked at me and said, ‘I'm so sorry. You have cancer.’”
The tumor was so large the doctor could hardly get his scope through, she said.
“If it would have been caught back then (when the sickness started), they would have been able to get it out with surgery and I would have been good to go,” she said. “But because it wasn’t, I had to go through chemo, radiation, surgery and then more chemo, which I'm still suffering the effects from the chemo and radiation.”
Walker underwent 30 days of radiation and chemotherapy.
“I kept working for a couple of weeks until the chemo started making me really sick and then I couldn't work anymore,” she said.
The treatment wasn't so bad initially, she said, but that changed after about a couple weeks.
"How it changes depends on the type of chemo you’re on, as well as where you are radiated," she said. "It’s true it affects everyone differently. Mine after a bit was painful. The second round of chemo after the surgery was horrid.
"Everything I ate or drank had to be warmed up. When I went outside I had to be bundled up. The cold felt like needles in my skin. In my mouth it was the same. You only would forget once to not drink anything cold or even at room temperature again. I walked around like a zombie most days. I didn’t see or talk to anyone other than the doctors or nurses for some time. You don’t think about that though. Once the doctor says you have cancer everything from there is a blur."
Before Walker joined the team at Haring Realty in 2003, she worked as a manager of a furniture store for eight years.
“I was working long, long, long hours, one day off a week, unloading furniture trucks and mattress trucks,” she said.
After seeing an ad posted by Peter Haring announcing that he was looking for realtors, Walker decided to give him a call.
“It's funny because years before I had talked about it, but I never did anything about it,” she said on becoming a realtor.
In meeting with Haring, Walker learned what steps she would need to take next in order to become licensed.
In her limited free time, Walker took real estate classes while continuing to work at the furniture store. By November 2002, she had earned her real estate license.
She mentioned the news to her boss at the furniture store, who originally was on board with the idea, Walker said. But the tides changed when he told her she'd have to choose between realty and continuing to work at the furniture store.
“I had never sold real estate. I hadn't really talked to anybody that's sold real estate other than the instructors who did the courses and so I wasn't sure,” she said. “I did have my first listing by then, and was well on my way, but I was not sure that was going to feed my family. My husband at that time was a stay-at-home dad and so my income was what we lived on.”
Devastated, Walker decided to forgo selling real estate at that time.
“I went to Peter and I told him what happened and I said, ‘I don't know what to do, but I know I have to take care of my family,’” she said.
She said Haring responded with understanding, telling her not to worry and that he'd take over the listing for her.
Fast forward a couple weeks, Walker was told that she was fired from the furniture store.
“My husband was not happy and he was about ready to go down and confront the owner, and I said, ‘No. We're not doing that.’ I said, ‘You let God take care of it,’” Robin said.
Thereafter she met with Haring, letting him know what had happened and that she’d like to work at Haring Realty if the job was still available.
To her surprise, Haring handed her a check — Walker’s first listing had sold.
“‘But I didn’t sell it though,’ I said to him. I didn’t understand how that worked,” she said.
“He said that was a referral fee. He didn't have to give me anything, but he gave me this check that was just a huge blessing.”
Through the lens of faith
Walker chooses to look at her past hardships through the lens of faith.
“I had the opportunity to quit (the furniture store job) on my own, but I thought that I needed to be in control and that I needed to take care of my family, and instead of going to God and asking, ‘What should I do?’ I just took it upon myself and I said, ‘I'm just going to have to stay working here because this is what feeds the family. And God said, 'No, I told you I don't want you there. I want you here (at Haring). And so He made it happen. And that's the way I look at it,” she said.
And as difficult as the cancer was to endure, she believes it strengthened her faith and relationship with God.
“You never go grow closer to God than when you or a family member is going through something like cancer and it just really gave me the opportunity to grow so much closer and appreciate God,” she said.
It’s been five years since her last treatment.
“There are different side effects, but those are better than the alternative,” she said. “There are bits and pieces I remember and much I have forgotten. It is better to let it go.
"What I would like anyone who is going through this terrible thing to remember is, take time to rest. Don’t push yourself to do too much. Eat healthy. Stay away from sugar — cancer feeds on it. Go to a support group; you’re not alone.
“It has taken much time to heal, but praise be to God I am healed.”