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Fostering Hope in the Shoals

January 23, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Helen Keller Hospital physical therapist Amy Goss Robinson jokes that being a redhead makes her naturally stubborn.

It’s a personality trait that has helped Amy persevere when life throws obstacles into her path, including a frightening breast cancer diagnosis at age 36.

Fresh off double mastectomy surgery in 2013 and facing eight rounds of chemotherapy, Amy went looking for a breast cancer support group to join in the Shoals; to her surprise, there weren’t any. Most people would have shrugged their shoulders, accepted the status quo, and moved on.

Not Amy.

In 2014, the Sheffield native decided to start the Shoals area’s first-ever support group for women with breast cancer. Dr. George Russell Jennings, the plastic surgeon who performed Amy’s breast reconstruction surgery, offered his Muscle Shoals office as the group’s first meeting place.

Today, the BRAT Pack (Breast cancer Recovery and Awareness Together) is approaching 200 members. Along with meetings where members discuss topics like emotional health and sexuality after cancer treatment, the group assembles care packages with toboggans, warm socks and other practical items for newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients in the Florence area. Amy also hopes to re-start an equine therapy program that was put on hold during COVID.

Because of her contributions as a breast cancer activist and foster parent (more on that later), Amy was named 2022 Shoals Woman of the Year.

“The attention is kind of uncomfortable for me,” Amy says, “but it’s opened up so many doors to allow me to talk about the issues that I’m passionate about.”

If breast cancer awareness and support is her No. 1 passion, foster parenting is a close second. Amy cannot have children of her own because of the side effects from chemotherapy.

“Before I got sick, I lived for myself. After I got sick, everything changed,” she says. “I met so many women who died of breast cancer and started thinking that there must be a reason that I lived.

“And my heart told me that it was to do foster care.”

In April 2018, Amy followed her heart and said yes to fostering a little boy named Nicholas who has hereditary spherocytosis – a rare blood disorder that requires regular treatment at the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic on the campus of Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children.

“The foster family that had Nicholas couldn’t manage his health,” she says. “They thought I might be a better fit because of my medical background.”

Amy has a doctorate in physical therapy from the University of South Carolina and works with a wide variety of patients at Helen Keller Hospital as well as Keller Outpatient Therapy and Keller Imaging & Therapy on Avalon. She has nearly two decades of experience as a licensed physical therapist.

She quickly fell in love with foster parenting – and with three-year-old Nicholas. A few months later, she opened her home to Nicholas’ twin sister Neveah and an older sister, Miryah.

In August 2020, after navigating a frustrating maze of regulations, Amy legally adopted all three children with the support of her fiancé Chad Robinson. Once she and Chad got married, he began the long process of also adopting the children. It was finally approved on March 24 of this year.

The happy and suddenly-large Robinson clan, which also includes Chad’s teenage daughter Kennadee, lives on a 120-acre cattle farm in Killen that has been in Amy’s family for three generations.

“Since my cancer diagnosis, my life has changed tremendously for the better,” Amy says. “I have a gratitude and appreciation for life that I never had before. And the sense of fulfillment I have in living for others now instead of myself is beyond measure.”

 Pictured above: Shoals Woman of the Year Amy Goss Robinson with her adopted children (from left to right) Neveah, Nicholas and Miryah.
Credit photo to Kendra Isbell Photography.