As a young child, Robin Benoit was exposed to asbestos fibers
Robin Benoit was born in Laredo, Texas, on November 11, 1959. Her father, William Shoup, was a flight instructor and electronics technician in the United States Air Force; her mother worked as a secretary on the military base. After her father was honorably discharged in 1962, he began working as an "oiler" at Central Power & Light Company ("CP&L"). As an oiler, he would check meters/gauges on the turbines throughout the plant. He frequently worked asbestos-covered steam pipes, recalling the asbestos block and insulation covering the pipes.
At the end of each work day, William's clothing was marred with asbestos dust from a long, hard day. Anxious to return to his family at home, William rushed home after work. He did not change out of his work clothing nor shower prior to coming home. Once at home, William would spend time playing with his children, unknowingly transferring the asbestos dust on his clothing to his children.
As William enjoyed returning home to his family, so, too, did Robin wait for his arrival. Robin enjoyed seeing her father at the end of his work day and playing with him. William was a great father, often playing basketball with Robin and teaching her Spanish.
On 'special' occasions, Robin's father took her to CP&L to pick up his paycheck. The company encouraged employees to show their families around the plant. William recalled taking Robin to the cooling tower, which was a great thrill for her.
Robin becomes a mother
In August, 1997, Robin began working as a teaching assistant for the Victoria Texas Intermediate School district. In January, 2000, undoubtedly because of her father's earlier influence, she became a bilingual tutor. In April, 2000, Robin began feeling ill; she was extremely fatigued and having difficulty breathing. Robin went to her primary doctor and expressed her symptoms.
Abnormal chest x-rays taken on April 23, 1999 showed pleural effusions in her lung. Doctors tried draining the fluid, but her lung was "a hard mass." A pleural biopsy confirmed that Robin had mesothelioma. She was referred to doctors at M.D Anderson, who, in May 1999, recommended chemotherapy. Given the size of Robin's tumor and the progession of the disease, Robin was not a candidate for mesothelioma surgery or radiation. As a young mother of two, Robin immediately began chemotherapy to contain the disease.
"I had horrible side effects from the chemotherapy."
Robin found chemotherapy to be extremely painful. The morning after her first treatment, Robin was in so much pain that she was unable to get out of bed unaided. She experienced stomach cramps, diarrhea and nausea. Robin was prescribed Lortabs, Valium and Predisone for pain. Despite her diagnosis, however, Robin remained positive. She said, "I don't question why this is happening. I just ask [God] to leave me here long enough to help my kids at least through school."
"I feel guilty for what I [am] doing to my kids"
Robin's children struggled to understand Robin's illness and Robin felt immense guilt. Despite Robin's determination not to let mesothelioma cancer disrupt her life, within a short period of time she was unable to accomplish many of routine tasks. It became increasingly difficult to chauffer her children to/from school and to extracurricular activities. Both children assumed many adult responsibilities such as shopping and cooking; Robin was not only proud but extremely grateful for their love and support.
In April, 1999, when Robin went on medical leave, the bill began to mount. To help with the finances, Robin's older sister, Debbie, and her son moved-in with Robin and her children. Robin's mother also moved in to help care for the children.
Robin Benoit dies of mesothelioma at 41
While mesothelioma is never easy to accept, for Robin and her family it was especially difficult. Robin was in her late-30's when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Due to her diagnosis, Robin was robbed of the opportunity to watch her children, Ashley & Joseph, mature into responsible, loving adults; she was unable to find love and marry again; she was unable to vacation and enjoy many of life's pleasures. Despite a courageous battle, Robin passed on June 22, 2001 leaving behind her daughter, Ashley (16) and Joseph (12).