Voiceover: A new house in the suburbs, a thriving business, a growing family. It was a charmed life for college sweethearts Robin and Dave Dubin until Dave was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 29. Cancer is part of Dave's family history. Will it be part of his family's future? The Dubins talk candidly about the decision to explore genetic testing for their sons, and the anxiety that comes with having answers.
Robin Dubin: So you tell me a little bit about what it was like when we met.
Dave Dubin: So we met as college sweethearts at Tulane University. We were 18.
Robin Dubin: 19, I think.
Dave Dubin: 19? All right--
Robin Dubin: Just somewhere around there.
Dave Dubin: We'll go with 19. We were studying and I saw you, and I'm like, "That's the girl I'm going to marry." And I, of course, didn't tell you this until, what? How many years later?
Robin Dubin: Until we were about to get married. You told that story to the canter that was going to marry us, and that's how I found out about it seven years later [laughter].
Dave Dubin: Sorry. So we got married and we were running a business together. We did the traditional move to the suburbs, buy a house, have a first child, and we sold the business. So a lot of stress. So when I started having symptoms at age 29 of colon cancer, it was passed off as stress-related, came with everything that was happening, even though the whole family history of colon cancer was very well documented.
Robin Dubin: Your father and your grandfather were a bit older than you were when they had cancer, so we didn't think too much of it. You had to have surgery--
Dave Dubin: I did.
Robin Dubin: --and chemo.
Dave Dubin: So what was it like watching me go from being a strapping 29-year-old still playing soccer, to becoming a patient who can't lift his own son?
Robin Dubin: You do what needs to get done to get through it.
Dave Dubin: So you became the proverbial mama grizzly.
Robin Dubin: Mm-hmm. You were a survivor. You did well. You recovered, and life kind of got back to normal at that point. And we, over the next seven years, had two more kids. And as a cancer survivor, you actually were five years cancer free.
Dave Dubin: It was roughly 10 years after the first surgery. I go to donate blood, and essentially my iron count had dropped like a stone.
Robin Dubin: And they found a bleeding tumor, and surgery was able to remove it. That's when you went for genetic testing and found out that you carry a mutation, and they [caused?] increased risks of different types of cancers.
Dave Dubin: So what did mama grizzly do this time?
Robin Dubin: Well first you started seeing a high risk oncologist.
Dave Dubin: I did.
Robin Dubin: So you now get, not just annual colonoscopies, but all kinds of other screenings and scans for other body parts. And a year later, they found a tumor in your kidney.
Dave Dubin: I was certified defective by that point [laughter].
Robin Dubin: So we really were very fortunate that you were being screened, because it was a very small tumor.
Dave Dubin: The surgeon was able to go in the same way went in previously, and a couple hours later, I come out smelling like roses.
Robin Dubin: Right. Then our kids get to the ages where they need to have genetic testing. I think that was tougher on me than everything we had to deal with with you. So our oldest son Zack is now 22. When he was 18, he got genetic testing and he tested positive. So he had to go for his first colonoscopy at 18, and has been seeing an oncologist and getting MRIs ever since. He has decided to apply to graduate school to get a master's in genetic counseling.
Dave Dubin: So he took this setback, if you will, and has turned it into something positive.
Robin Dubin: We have three boys, and Corey, our middle son, who is 18 now just had his genetic testing done a couple months ago, and he was negative. It was kind of a surreal experience. I was pretty much preparing myself for another positive result. Zack, who is down at school, he called me the second he was done with class, and he was so relieved that his brother tested negative.
Dave Dubin: So what does the third one think?
Robin Dubin: Well he knows, obviously, a lot for a 14-year-old, considering he's been with us for this whole thing. So he's grown up with it, and he sometimes will ask us questions out of the blue about this, and what it might mean for him. It's a little sobering to have your 14-year-old ask about cancer.
Dave Dubin: I think in our case, we would rather he actually did ask the question than not.
Robin Dubin: Yeah. And we're hearing that there may be vaccines, and it hopefully will change our children's future to the point where they don't have those risks anymore, despite having the genetic mutation.
Dave Dubin: If there was a crystal ball that said this was going to be the journey 30 years ago, I still wouldn't trade.
Robin Dubin: Me neither. There's no one else I'd rather go through this life journey with than you.
Voiceover: Families like the Dubins put their hope in the future of science. Conquer Cancer Donors have funded nearly 1,500 research projects to provide new treatments to patients with every type of cancer. Make a gift at conquer.org/donate to support the next generation of conquerers.