Jewish American Heritage Month Local Hero Robin Rady Helps Cancer Patients Get Organized with ‘Binder of Hope’
Jewish American Heritage Month 2015 Honoree
Friday, May 1, 2015
Four years ago, Robin Rady was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though it was caught early, it’s the kind of news that could have been enough to put anyone in a deep funk or a tailspin. But Robin, who is known for her warmth and positive energy, searched for clarity and calm. She found it in a binder–and that binder ended up seeing her through one of the toughest periods of her life, a time filled with surgeries, reconstructive surgeries, physical therapy and so much more.
“Throughout the process, I accumulated so much paperwork—lab and pathology reports, blood work results, and CT scans,” Rady says. “In addition, I had quite a collection of my own handwritten notes from all my doctor appointments. I had papers in my car, papers in my kitchen, papers in my office and I saw how quickly this could get out of hand. I created a medical records binder for myself as a way to take control of my disorganized self and bring order to this already stressful time.”
Today, the 2015 Jewish American Heritage Month Local Hero is making a difference by creating binders for new cancer patients. The idea to do so was sparked by a conversation with Dr. Mary Wilde, one of Rady’s doctors, who is also the medical director at Scripps Polster Breast Care Center.
“Dr. Wilde kept commenting on the way I organize my papers,” notes Rady. “I finally said, ‘Okay, as my way of giving back, I’m happy to do this for your other patients.’ She said, ‘I’ll take 100.’ But I suggested we start with five.”
To make sure the binder would contain information useful to other patients, Scripps worked with Rady to hold a focus group. Since then, the result was a resounding success.
“From the day we held the focus group and then made the first binder, I find I cannot make them fast enough,” she observes.
The binders are designed to be a portable office and contain tabbed sections for each of the doctors a cancer patient typically sees. There is a place to insert test results, medication and supplements list, exercise and physical therapy information, insurance documents, and the binder even comes with a three-hole punch so patients can insert their forms as soon as they get them. Many of these features are new, an outcome of patient feedback. As such, Rady calls the binder a work-in-progress.
“I don’t have an ego about this. I want to make the binders better,” she explains. “If someone says, ‘This is not working for me, could you please change it,’ I’m always open to making it better. It’s not about me. It’s about helping them.”
Since making those first five binders for Dr. Wilde, Rady has now distributed upwards of 2,000. These binders are available through Rady’s website Metugo, Scripps, and Susan G. Komen San Diego, where Rady is a Member at Large on the Board of Directors.
“I’ve turned this into an accidental company, which I call Metugo because it stands for ‘Medical Records to Go,’” she says. “We have fun putting the binders together at assembly parties here at Scripps. Each binder has a sticker on it that says, ‘Assembled with care by Tatiana, breast cancer survivor,’ or whoever else put it together. I get so much positive feedback from patients who receive binders who tell me they can feel the love and they appreciate knowing who put the binder together for them.”
Scripps Nurse Educator Beverly Mangerich calls the binders a “wonderful tool,” adding, “You can see the relief in the patients' eyes when they have a method to organize their care…Robin has done an amazing job of keeping the binder user-friendly and patients are very grateful to receive it.”
As orders for the binders increased, Rady saw a need for help and hired Liz Gitler as Metugo’s COO.
“I couldn't ask for a better boss,” Gitler remarks. “She truly cares. I’m fortunate to see her every day and see all the great things she does, but also to see what she's created out of something that was so negative in her life, and to see how it's touched so many people in the community. The binders bring some sense of control to the patients during such a stressful and chaotic time. You think, oh, it's just a binder. But this binder is a binder of hope.”
Despite dealing with the breast cancer diagnosis, Rady considers herself lucky.
“My journey has been so positive and has really restored my faith in humanity,” she says triumphantly. “Between the patients and the doctors and the nurses, I've met so many wonderful people.”
She’s grateful to her family for the support and love she felt throughout her cancer journey. This includes Don, her husband of 20 years, who kept her laughing; her two children who appreciated her honesty about her cancer; her sister, Randi, who she calls her biggest hero and champion; and her mother, Eileen Rodgers who, Rady noted, would make “the best matzo ball soup for my kids.”
“When I think about being Jewish, it makes me think about family and love,” she reflects. “I’m so lucky to have a very loving Jewish family and an extended family coming to help and step in. ‘How can we help you?’ ‘Should we drive the kids to school?’ ‘Drive them to the hospital to be there when you wake up from your surgeries?’”
She’s also thankful for her father, Jules Grush, and credits him for giving her the idea of the binder.
“My dad had health issues of his own years back,” she recalls. “I saw that he created a binder of his own. I thought it was so amazing how he organized it, so when I was diagnosed, I guess I must've channeled my dad.”
It’s clear that Rady's gratitude for the medical treatment she received is immense, as is her genuine delight with the response her binders has garnered.
“It makes me feel so good to give back,” she says with a beaming smile. “It has been a complete pleasure and joy to help and be supportive of as many cancer patients as possible. Cancer is tough, mentally and physically. If I can take away a little bit of that stress, it makes me feel so good and that's very fulfilling.”
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