How faith, family and commitment to giving to others help a four-time cancer survivor in the fight for her life

“I have been blessed to have one of the most caring, compassionate and thorough oncologists ever.”

Call it a test of her faith or the cross she must bear. Either way, Felicia Robinson is an example of perseverance and survival in the truest sense of the words. Robinson, 43, is a four-time cancer survivor of ovarian cancer. Her story is harrowing as she details her fight to live and return to thriving over the nearly five years since her first diagnosis. She has battled cancer, tough recoveries from her treatments and financial hardship, yet her focus is on helping others.

“I know of so many people who are going through chemotherapy or just have received a cancer diagnosis. Whether you go through chemo or not, the diagnosis itself can be traumatic. When you’re going through it and you don’t have support, that can cause you to give up,” Robinson explained. “I had such an amazing support system from my family to my friends to my church family. I wish everybody could go through cancer like I did.”

Currently, Robinson is building Cares4Cures, which will provide support for individuals undergoing cancer treatment.

The signs that seemed normal

In 2018, Robinson was 38 years old and fully living in the entrepreneurial spirit that had her working as a professional driver and operating a home cleaning business.

As for her health, Robinson had a primary care physician she saw regularly, but she did not regularly see an obstetrician and gynecologist (OBGYN). She was experiencing pelvic pain but thought it was just part of being a woman. Robinson eventually made an appointment with her OBGYN when her pain intensified and persisted.

She ended up having laparoscopic surgery for ovarian cysts. Her OBGYN saw something concerning during that surgery, and Robinson underwent testing. That testing revealed her first ovarian cancer diagnosis.

“Ovarian cancer, unfortunately, can develop undetected,” explained John Wallbillich, M.D., gynecologic oncologist and member of the Gynecologic Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. “There can be vague symptoms, and women are used to having vague symptoms most of their lives as they go through menstrual cycles, pregnancy or other things. Ovarian cancer can be relatively silent.”

Before her first diagnosis and the treatment that followed, Robinson was receiving care at another health facility. While the cancer was discovered early, chemotherapy treatment proved the real test of her faith, strength and will to survive.

Her second diagnosis was in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. By that time, Robinson had transferred her care to Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit. She said it was her best decision during her cancer journey.

Robinson is very grateful to the Karmanos team, including her doctor Dr. Wallbillich, for her care with her second, third and fourth diagnoses.

“I have been blessed to have one of the most caring, compassionate and thorough oncologists ever,” Robinson said.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the third and fourth time in 2021 and 2022. She underwent a debulking surgery and chemotherapy. Robinson also had a hysterectomy, which she said was devastating because she knew then that she would never be able to carry a child, something she had longed to do for many years. Robinson experienced adverse outcomes throughout her treatments, including a life-threatening infection with her chemo port. She also developed a new allergy to a specific chemotherapy drug. For her last round of treatments, she underwent radiation instead of chemotherapy.

Dr. Wallbillich explained that Robinson’s recurrence of ovarian cancer and the development of an allergy is not uncommon.

“Most ovarian cancer is initially diagnosed in stage III or IV. In general, when a cancer is diagnosed in an advanced stage, there is a high risk of it recurring,” he said. “Developing an allergy to the chemo drug is not rare, particularly as a patient experiences more and more chemotherapy treatment cycles over their lifetime. It’s not always smooth sailing. There are bumps in the road.”

Despite her many trials, including Robinson’s financial hardships, she counts Dr. Wallbillich and his team as part of her amazing support system.

“Dr. Wallbillich has always gone above and beyond for me. He treated me as if I were family! I’m beyond grateful to him and his team!”

“I’m alive today not only because of the grace and mercy of God but also because of an amazing support system that wouldn’t let me give up.”

Robinson says the care she received at Karmanos, her unwavering faith, and the support of her family are the sustaining factors in her life. Together with her sister Imojean Robinson, who started a nonprofit in honor of Felicia, she is working to give that kind of support to others, even while she fights to rebuild her life. Ongoing treatment and recovery still impact Robinson’s ability to work.

“I don’t want anyone to go through this sickness alone and definitely not go through it having to deal with the stress of finances,” said Robinson.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about Cares4Cures, and I’m so excited to be doing it with my sister.”

“My sister's experience is unique in that she had her faith, friends, and family to help get her through these last four years of her diagnoses,” explained Imojean.

“But there are many people who don't have the same level of support, and those are primarily the people that we desire to support. We believe that the level of care we show to these patients also helps facilitate healing. We care in hopes to help cure,” Robinson’s sister concluded.

Recently, the non-profit organization delivered care baskets to Karmanos patients to commemorate National Day of Kindness. Robinson said it is the first step in her commitment to filling the gaps in care that cancer patients may experience. While she continues to work on building the program as an arm of her sister’s non-profit, Robinson remains solid in her faith and commitment to living a purposeful life.

“I’m so grateful to God that my needs were met. I have emotional support, family, friends, and spiritual leaders who support me. I want to be able to help not only patients, but their caregivers, as well,” said Robinson. “It’s really about education and providing support and caring for the whole person that makes the difference. It’s about taking care of the mind, body and soul.”

Click here to learn about the Karmanos support and education services available to patients, their family members and caregivers.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with gynecologic cancer, consulting with a specialist who has dedicated their career to researching and treating the disease is important. Our Gynecologic Oncology Multidisciplinary Team consists of experts focused on treating gynecologic cancers. Call 1-800-KARMANOS or visit to schedule an appointment.