Paulinda Babbini’s nonprofit raises money to fund ovarian cancer research at UCLA.
When Paulinda Babbini’s daughter, Robin, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004 at age 17, the mother’s first reaction was shock. Robin was a typical, active teenager and honor student, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, homecoming queen and involved in the dramatic arts.
How could her baby have cancer at 17 — worse, stage three ovarian cancer?
But Robin did have ovarian cancer, a disease that will strike nearly 22,000 American women this year alone, killing more than 14,000. Ovarian cancer accounts for 5 percent of cancer deaths among women, and causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
Mother and daughter decided to fight and face the daunting disease together.
As part of her treatment, Robin underwent a total hysterectomy, followed by chemotherapy treatments. Unfailingly optimistic, Robin completed her classes, graduated from high school and began her freshman year at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
But six short months later, Robin’s cancer returned. She underwent another surgery, during which doctors discovered the cancer had spread. She fought on, joining the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and continuing her studies. She served as co-captain of her team at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event. And despite her weakened condition, Robin gave a gut-wrenching, inspirational speech, hoping that one day there would be a cure found for ovarian cancer and no one would have to suffer like she had.
Just six weeks later, Robin lost her battle with ovarian cancer at 20.
“Losing a child is an anguish no parent should ever experience. It is utterly devastating. But how to move forward becomes the next challenge,” Babbini said. “I knew I had to shine a light on Robin’s memory and give her brief life a lasting purpose. Committing myself to fundraising to fight ovarian cancer keeps her in my heart.”
Babbini vowed that her daughter would not die in vain. Single-handedly, the grieving mother in 2010 launched the nonprofit The Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired by Robin Babbini and set out to raise money for ovarian cancer research. All the money she raises goes to fund the work of Dr. Sanaz Memarzadeh, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA and director of the G.O. Discovery Lab at UCLA.
The donations from The Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired by Robin Babbini have enabled Memarzadeh and her team to make critical steps in understanding why ovarian cancers are not detected early and why these tumors often relapse despite surgery and chemotherapy.