CURE Childhood Cancer’s Named Fund Spotlight: The Sam Robb Fund

The Sam Robb Fund

This post is part of an on-going series that features our Named Funds for CURE Childhood Cancer. To learn more about our Named Funds, or to start one of your own, please click here.

About Sam

On June 25, 2007, Sam Robb succumbed to cancer that had returned with a vengeance. Although he is gone from this earth, his spirit and vitality live on in all whom he touched over his very full but very short 20 years.

Whether we live for a short time or live to 100 years, we all aspire to make a difference in some way, and Sam did exactly that. We are honored to share some of the highlights from a life courageously lived and full of accomplishment, enthusiasm and commitment.

Like many boys, Sam was focused on sports – primarily basketball and football. At 6’5″ and 230 lbs. in the 10th grade, Sam was a “Can’t Miss” college prospect starting in the first varsity football game at Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, GA. As a sophomore, he led the team there to the first varsity victory in school history.

This is where the story begins…

In the fall of 2002, a nagging stress fracture in Sam’s left knee had to be addressed. X-rays were taken and the unthinkable became a reality…the diagnosis of bone cancer.

The medical term is osteosarcoma, which is bone cancer that presents itself in young people during growth spurts. The bad cell says, “I’m taking over,” and within three days, the protocol was set:

  • Three months of chemo pre-surgery;
  • Limb salvage surgery (versus amputation), which is essentially a knee replacement in a 16 year-old boy
  • More chemo to eradicate the cancer.

Unfortunately, Sam’s response to chemo was poor, with a 50% necrosis (tumor kill) putting him into a high-risk group. His odds for survival dropped from the 75% survival after five years class, to considerably less.

Most normal people would be despondent, angry…Not Sam! After hearing the news that his promising football career was over, he embarked on a new challenge as a baseball pitcher. Although it did not come easy, particularly with a prosthetic knee, he managed to play for a highly competitive East Cobb team, pitching and winning the final game of a world series in Tampa. Although he never would achieve elite athletic status, he loved being part of a team.

After high school graduation, he went on to Young Harris College, where he was a member of the baseball team. He was enrolled at Clemson University for fall 2007, but unfortunately, this would never come to fruition.

Osteosarcoma, when it reoccurs, tends to present in the lungs. In the spring of 2007, Sam began to experience fatigue and discomfort in his lungs. Eventually, he felt compelled to get things checked out. After four and a half years, Sam and his family felt that he had beaten the cancer demon. His previous scans were in the fall of 2006, with no signs of cancer present. In June 2007, a grapefruit sized mass was discovered to have grown and taken over his lungs and chest cavity.

Sam was dying from cancer. A number of nationally renowned doctors felt the surgery to remove the tumor was life-threatening. Eventually, a brave surgeon agreed with Sam to go for the “long ball” and remove the tumor…and a lung.

The weekend before surgery, Sam planned what would prove to be a real fare well tour. He visited UGA, attended Braves’ games and held court in the family’s basement.

He knew the severity of the surgery and he knew his time was limited. Sam never made it off the operating table. The tumor was too difficult to extricate.

In many ways, the outcome was blessed.

Sam never wanted sympathy, nor did he ever act like a sick person. He was good at everything except one thing – being sick.

He is gone but will never be forgotten. In many ways, he was bigger than life. His mantra, “Fightin Till the Last Breath,” lives on in all who knew him.

Purpose of The Sam Robb Fund

Proceeds from the Sam Robb Fund will be used for two primary purposes. First, the fund will support the Sam Robb Fellow at the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Services of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine. We believe it is critically important to help train the pediatric oncologists of tomorrow, so that they are fully prepared for a lifetime of excellence in patient care, teaching and research – just like the doctors who cared for Sam. We know that one of these young doctors may make significant contributions to finding cures for childhood cancers, and we know that Sam would be proud to support their training. We are also proud to be able to help Emory and the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorder’s Service of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta attract some of the nation’s best and brightest young doctors. These doctors care for children with cancer with unmatched skill and dedication, and the importance of providing them with the very best training and preparation for this vital and difficult work cannot be overstated.

Secondly, proceeds from the Sam Robb Fund will be used to help defray the costs of prosthetic devices for children with a cancer diagnosis who cannot afford to purchase and/or maintain them. Sam was determined to live life to the fullest and never let cancer rob him of the joys of life. Sam would want to encourage other children to follow his example, and through the Sam Robb Prosthetic Scholarship Fund, he will do that. The hope is that with the proper prosthetic devices, Sam will inspire childhood cancer survivors to return to a lifestyle that brings them happiness.

Introducing the 1st Sam Robb Fellow – Dr. Tanya Watt

Saturday evening June 21, 2008 we introduced Dr. Tanya Watt as the first Sam Robb Fellow to our family and friends. Many of you joined us for an evening of Remembrance and Resolve.

After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in biochemistry, Dr. Tanya Watt attended medical school at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She entered the pediatric residency program at Emory University, during which time she helped adapt the American Medical Association palliative care program to pediatrics. During her fellowship, Dr. Watt hopes to attain a Masters in Science of Clinical Research, thus giving her the tools and knowledge to successfully participate in clinical research, in addition to furthering her clinical abilities. She hopes to develop new chemotherapeutic regimens, in addition to promoting successful palliative care when medicine has reached its limits.

Click here to read the latest mid-year Research Update from Dr. Watt.

To Donate to The Sam Robb Fund

Click Here and type “Sam Robb Fund” in the Comments section. Your gift will be directed accordingly.

Special Events to Benefit The Sam Robb Fund

June 6, 2009 – An Evening to Celebrate with Dr. Tanya Watt, the Sam Robb Research Fellow.  For more information on the event, please contact Annamarie Robb at fightintillthelastbreath@gmail.com.

October 11, 2009 – The Sam Robb Memorial Golf Tournament on Legacy at Lake Lanier Islands.  For more information on the event, please contact Annamarie Robb at fightintillthelastbreath@gmail.com.

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Filed under Childhood Cancer, Named Funds, Sam Robb Fund, Spotlight, Support CURE

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