Robin Miskel didn’t start her Sanofi US career working in the company’s Rare Diseases group, but after supporting her mother through a life-threatening diagnosis, she was inspired to work more closely with patients. Today, Robin is enjoying her new position as a Care Coordination Case Manager Specialist for Sanofi Genzyme’s US Rare Diseases.
It was New Year’s Day – January 1, 2013. My husband and I woke and looked at the clock in disbelief. It was the very first time we had a full night of uninterrupted sleep since our seven-week old son Charlie was born. What a great start to the New Year!
But a few short hours later, the phone rang and everything changed. It was my mom calling from her local hospital’s Emergency Room to tell us an ambulance was about to take her to Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston to confirm a likely case of leukemia. We were absolutely shocked. In the span of that short call, I began the struggle between caring for my newborn son and caring for my very sick mother.
Mom immediately went into intense chemotherapy with a month-long hospitalization – the first of three that year! After that first round, she moved in with us, and we quickly reversed roles. She had been in the delivery room caring for me when Charlie was born, and now I was caring for her.
After the doctors determined a stem cell transplant was the best treatment, we were cautioned about how weakened her immune system would be. It was an incredibly scary time. There were precautions we needed to take and adjustments we needed to make as a family to give Mom her best chance at survival.
One example is food. My husband is a meat and potatoes guy… I’m a vegetarian… Charlie was not ready for solid foods … and mom had a finicky, constantly changing sense of taste – all this on top of the medical precautions required in preparing her food. In our household, that “What’s for dinner” question became a nightmare!
Mom continued her journey with various bone marrow biopsies, chemo, four emergency room visits and countless clinical appointments. Then, just after her transplant, her leukemia came back, and she learned she had a less-than-10% chance of survival.
I remember the moment we got that devastating news. I also remember that, without a moment’s hesitation, my mother said, “I’m gonna be that 10%. I know it!” My mother’s hope and – as we often joke – her basic stubbornness got her through, and sure enough, she’s still with us today. In fact, she moved back home and is living independently. Mom still visits the Dana Farber Cancer Institute weekly, treating side effects from the transplant.
Looking back, some good came from all this. Prior to this experience, I was kind of a pessimistic person, and now I’m more able to find the positives in life. My husband and my mom have gotten even closer. And then there’s my career change.
Watching my mom go through all she endured empowered me to realize I wanted to work more closely with patients. Today I work in the Sanofi US Rare Diseases group as a Case Manager, supporting fantastic patients and caregivers every day. Thanks to what I experienced with my mom, I’m able to bring more empathy to my work. I love what I do!
I wish my mom’s cancer hadn’t been the catalyst for this change, but the truth is that she inspired me and my family to do things differently in life. Just as her life was empowered by her recovery from leukemia, my life was empowered as I discovered that working with patients and caregivers was so satisfying for me.