Robyn Adams is sparkling bright!
By Jennifer Brown
If you know Robyn Adams, you know her enthusiasm is contagious. But now she’s spreading something else: sparkly jewelry to chemotherapy patients at Levine Cancer Center in Charlotte, NC.
It was June, 2014, when Robyn, a longtime Sunshine House center director, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She began treatment almost immediately. Usually in “comfy” clothes, or even pajamas, because, as she says, who wants to dress up for chemo?
But then one day, she said it hit her: “Honest to goodness, I was sitting in my chair in chemo, and I was like, this is so not me! Why am I wearing this? So I said, ‘I’m going to change the way I look to change the way I feel! If I wear something pretty, I’m going to feel pretty’.”
Since that revelation, Robyn has dressed the part for each treatment (scheduled once every three weeks). She pulled out her nicer clothes, which weren’t getting much use during medical leave from work. And she pulled out her jewelry – all of her jewelry. The bigger, and dare we say, gaudier, the better!
Soon, people noticed. Even her doctor asked, “Are you seriously wearing heels?”
“That’s what inspired me to start trying to make people feel better,” she says. “I saw all these people on their different cocktails of chemo, and I thought, cancer is so ugly.
“You are sitting there, and you know you have poison getting pumped into you, and you just feel yucky. I thought, ‘jewelry makes me feel better, makes me feel sparkly, so maybe there’s a way to make other people sparkle.’ So, I just started walking around, on my chemo pole, handing out jewelry.”
Friends and family members jumped at the chance to help, and before she knew it, Robyn was receiving hundreds of donations of costume jewelry.
“People don’t know what to do when someone is diagnosed with cancer. They want to help, or to give money, but they don’t know what to do, or what to say. This gives people something to do, because everyone has jewelry!”
Sunshine House centers in the Charlotte area have also chipped in, with staff and families donating jewelry and money for the cause, and a preschool class from Center 113 hand made sparkly pink bracelets for “The Sparkle Lady” to give away (the bracelets match Robyn’s funky pink wig). Then, just last week, a North Carolina based jewelry manufacturer donated several hundred pieces after learning about the Sparkle Project.
Though she’s grateful to have a break from her own treatments over the holidays, she was still visiting and passing out jewelry to others on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, there’s always someone new to give a piece of jewelry to; there’s always someone there for their first time with the same doe-eyed look of fear Robyn had over a year ago. So, she sidles up to them in her pink wig, hands them a clear bag with a piece of jewelry in it and a “Sparkle” logoed card that says “Don’t let cancer steal your sparkle….Love, Robyn.”
It’s hard to imagine any woman with stage 4 cancer describing herself as lucky, but Robyn does. “I am the luckiest girl in the world right now. I have unbelievable support from my friends and family. And my kids have been great!”
Robyn’s three children – Maggie, 21, Abbie, 16, and Reagan, 11 – have been by their mother’s side through all the ups and downs since the “C” word invaded their lives last year.
So has her father, Frank DeLuise. He’s become a “chemo buddy” to others at Levine Cancer Center, volunteering every Thursday to sit with patients who have no one sitting with them for the hours-long infusions. And, unbeknownst to Robyn, he spent the last few months trying to get her Sparkle Project the publicity it deserves.
So, she was more than a little surprised when she got a call from WCNC in Charlotte requesting to film a story about Robyn giving out jewelry to chemo patients. Her story was also featured on People.com.
“It is so amazing just to be able to get the word out,” she says. “My goal is that everybody who walks into an infusion room anywhere in the country will be given a piece of jewelry to make them sparkle.”
That’s quite a mission. And on top of it, she also wants to find something as equally joyful to give male patients receiving infusions. Few are interested in cubic zirconia studded brooches or clip-on earrings. Instead, she leaves a little sparkly piece with the female family members or friends sitting with men receiving treatment.
Every bit of sparkle helps.
“This is for all the patients. This is not about me,” says Robyn. “But, I guess this is my purpose away from The Sunshine House right now. It’s filling that void for me…I just hope I never run out of jewelry to give away!”
If you’d like to contribute to Robyn’s Sparkle Project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail donations to Sparkle Project, c/o The Sunshine House, 12 Interchange Blvd., Greenville, SC 29607.