The Underwear Affair raises money—and awareness—for cancers below the waist
Kate Robinson’s father, Wade, didn’t want to frighten his daughter. So he kept his prostate cancer a secret for two-and-a-half years, from the time she was 13 to 15 years old.
“He was a very private person, and he didn’t think it was enough to worry about,” Robinson said in a recent interview at the Georgia Straight office.
But when it came time for chemotherapy—and the inevitable loss of hair—the truth came tumbling out. They went for a walk on the beach and then sat in his car.
Robinson said she and her brother weren’t aware of how badly his condition had deteriorated until her 16th birthday approached. Doctors had ceased giving her father chemotherapy because it wasn’t helping.
“A week before my 16th birthday, he went into the hospital because he really wasn’t doing well,” Robinson recalled. “And two weeks after my birthday, he died. He was 54.”
The experience created some big challenges. The stress of the daily hospital visits caused her to quit her job, and then school resumed the same week he passed away.
Meanwhile, her only sibling had to move to England to attend school.
“My dad was my best friend, so it really, really affected me—and I was depressed for a long time,” Robinson said.
Last summer, the family was taking a three-week road trip through the United States when history repeated itself. Her mom felt a pain in her abdomen while on vacation.
“She didn’t tell us about it because she didn’t want us to worry,” Robinson revealed.
Tests later showed that her mother had two lumps and an operation was scheduled to determine if she had ovarian cancer.
“Two weeks leading up to surgery, we had a little chant: she’s fine, it’s benign,” Robinson commented wryly. “But it wasn’t. It was malignant. One of them was the size of a cantaloupe. One was the size of a lemon. Your ovaries are supposed to be the size of an almond. So she had a hysterectomy.”
Since then, Robinson stated, her mother has undergone six rounds of intense chemotherapy. And for the past three months, her cancer has been in remission.
Now 18 years old and preparing for her first year at UBC, Robinson conceded that she has had to grow up in a hurry. With her mother sick, she’s done lots of grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Much of this took place while she was attending Capilano University studying costume design.
On the bright side, her talent in this area led her to create a team, Pirates of the Nether Regions, which is raising money for the sixth annual Underwear Affair 10-kilometre run.
It’s a B.C. Cancer Foundation event to combat ovarian, prostate, and colorectal cancer. According to the foundation, 48 percent of cancers diagnosed in B.C. this year will be “below the waist”. They’re responsible for approximately 40 percent of all cancer deaths.
Robinson described them as “whispering cancers” because they often don’t present any symptoms.
“They aren’t publicized,” she added. “They’re still somewhat seen as taboo.”
To shatter the silence, hundreds will show up for the run—many in underwear, and others in equally outrageous costumes. It begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday (July 9) at the Seaforth Armoury, at the corner of Burrard Street and West 1st Avenue.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.