For teenagers, it seems like the most stressful part of their life is choosing an outfit for the day, doing homework or working at their job. No teen ever expects to find out they have a brain tumor. But that's exactly what happened to 13-year-old Robin Bock of Marshall.
In the past two weeks, Robin, an eighth-grader at Marshall Middle School, has been through two brain surgeries and still has a long road ahead of her. But she's holding strong to her faith and embracing the outpouring of support she's received, hoping that will give her the strength she needs to get through her medical ordeal.
Robin's journey began a few months back, when she kept having severe headaches, which her doctor reportedly viewed as a lingering sinus infection. After a lack of progress during the course of a few months, her parents, Rosemary and Dale Bock, became frustrated and demanded their daughter be given a CT scan. When that scan showed enlarged cerebral ventricles, an MRI was ordered. On March 21, the MRI revealed that the middle school student had a mass in her brain.
Marshall Middle School eighth-graders recently shared their support for Robin Bock.
After more tests were done, the family met with specialists and surgeons and it was decided that an operation to remove the tumor would be done on March 25.
The day before the surgery, Robin, her mom, and siblings, Adam and Katie, spent the day together at the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, gearing up for the intense experience, while Marshall Middle School students, teachers and administration back home rallied together to provide as much support as possible for Robin.
On Sunday, March 24, after finding out that Robin was scheduled for surgery the following day, MMS Principal Mary Kay Thomas sent out a black board connect with a recorded voice message to all of the eighth-grade students, staff and student council representatives, noting that the doors would be open from 3-4 p.m. that day.
"We sent out a call to 132 eighth-graders, 83 staff members and 24 student council members," said Abbie Boelter, administrative support at MMS. "It was very short notice, but it was amazing the number of people who showed up."
Boelter, Thomas and MMS teacher Sandy Carpenter set up tables in the MMS lobby and brought out paint and other craft items for people to create with.
"A very large portion of the eighth-graders showed up," Boelter said. "Parents came with, too. People were still here at 5 p.m., making banners and cards, while some people went and picked up presents like stuffed animals to go with them. It was very cool."
One very large poster read "We Love You, Robin" and was covered with countless signatures. Another poster included many colorful handprints scattered around the message "You're in Good Hands."
Dale Bock then stopped by MMS to pick up the cards, gifts and five large posters full of signatures and words of encouragement from Robin's friends and other well-wishers. He then presented them to Robin.
"Can you get kids to go to school on Sunday?" Rosemary Bock said on her Facebook page. "I guess in Marshall, Minnesota, you can. Robin was 'overwhelmed.'"
Rosemary Bock said her daughter was extremely touched by the friendship and encouragement shown by her teachers and classmates.
"I feel so happy," Robin Bock said. "And I'm having brain tumor surgery tomorrow. I have never felt so blessed."
The gestures were not only appreciated by Robin herself, but also by her family.
"The middle school community has really stepped up and so has the whole community," Dale Bock said. "They've all done so much. You hear so much about the bad things that kids do nowadays, but the youth of Marshall really stepped up. They showed up on a Sunday to offer support for Robin."
Robin came through the first surgery fine, but because of the location of the tumor - which has not been diagnosed as benign or malignant yet - doctors were unable to remove it. The mass was growing out of the optic nerve and could not be removed surgically without risking blindness, her family said.
Three days later, Robin underwent a second surgery to put in a shunt to drain the excess fluid and pressure in her brain. In all, Robin spent nine days in intensive care, with her mom by her side the entire time.
"When Robin was in intensive care, my wife spent 24 hours a day there, for nine straight days," Dale Bock said. "There were also a number of churches and prayer chains that were working all over the world."
Robin was able to leave the hospital and return home to Marshall last Saturday. As she entered her makeshift "recovery room," Robin was greeted by the many cards and posters that were transported from the hospital and artistically displayed on the walls. As she continues to heal, Robin has tried her best to keep her friends and supporters in the loop.
"The support is outstanding," Boelter said. "The kids are constantly asking how she's doing. She's been in close contact with her friends, letting them know what is going on. It gives you a lot of perspective on your own life, too. Anything can happen at any time, and you have to remember that."
Since returning home, Robin has also received more encouragement from MMS in the form of a video, which includes photos and messages from students and staff. The project was spearheaded by technology teacher Theresa McCoy and physical education teacher Cheryl Henn.
"The eighth-grade students created a page in Paint and the eighth-grade tech kids went around taking photos," Boelter said. "Then the two teachers put them together and added music."
To her family, Robin is known as a bright and bubbly straight-A student who enjoys tennis, show choir, reading and spending time with her friends and family. She's also been an inspiration, they said.
"She's one heckuva brave 13-year-old," Dale Bock said.
Robin will likely be back in surgery on Monday to insert a port in her chest, which will be used to administer chemotherapy treatments, her father said. Doctors will also use the opportunity to remove Robin's stitches from her two previous surgeries.
"The doctors have high hopes that the chemo will shrink the tumor," Dale Bock said. "The next step would be radiation. The final option would be to remove the tumor, but that would be at the sake of human cost."
On April 9, the Bock family will meet with Robin's Minneapolis medical team to discuss the biopsy results.
"We're still waiting for the final biopsy," said Dale Bock. "They're pretty confident it's a low-grade cancer, which tends to be a slow-growing one. But it was also caught late."
So for now, the family waits and prays for the best. They're proud of the bravery Robin continues to show and grateful for a community that has treated Robin like one of their own.
"It's a great thing that the school and the kids at school did for her," Dale Bock said. "We really appreciate that everyone went through all this effort. There were kids at the hospital and at our home. They've made a commitment to stand by her side. That means a lot."
To follow Robin's journey or to send her a message, go to: www.caringbridge.org/visit/robinbock.