INTERVIEW

ICYMI Robyn Griggs Interview

For most folks, staying upbeat, even joking, while battling Stage 4 cancer seems incomprehensible, but Robyn Griggs is determined to face down the disease with the same positive attitude she’s maintained for all of her life. “I was told from an early age that I’d always be okay if you found something that made you laugh or smile before you went to bed,” shares the actress. “My memories of singing on stage and being on soaps and everything else are such great moments and if you can just smile about something, you’re gonna be fine.”

However, there was nothing joyful in the moment she learned that she had cervical cancer. Leading up to that game-changer, Griggs admits she had chosen to ignore some alarming symptoms. “Every time I had my menstrual cycle, I kept saying to my husband, ‘I can feel my ovaries,’ and I’m sure he thought, ‘Oh, good grief, what the hell is wrong with this chick?’ ” she chuckles. “I bloated from so much fluid that I looked like I was nine months pregnant. From the get-go, Mark told me, ‘You’ve got to go to the doctor,’ but I’m very stubborn. There were signs and pain but I’m one of those people who just push through whatever.”

When it got to the point that Griggs could barely urinate, she finally made that appointment. “A Pap smear showed a huge mass on my cervix and after the CAT scan, the nurses were looking at me strangely,” she recalls. “They asked, ‘Are you in a lot of pain?’ and I said, ‘No … what’s going on?’ Then I heard, ‘You have masses on your stomach that are squeezing your organs.’ ”

Then came the official diagnosis. “When the doctor told me I had Stage 4 cancer, it wasn’t sugarcoated and I’m so thankful for that because it would’ve kept me hemming and hawing on what’s going on,” says Griggs. “When the doctor left after giving me the news, I broke down, bawling. Now mind you, it’s during the pandemic, so my husband isn’t allowed in and everyone around me is wearing masks, so it’s just frightening. My first thought was, ‘I’m going to die.’ It was just horrifying. When the nurse came in, I was sobbing and said, ‘I need anti-anxiety medicine.’ She got the doctor and he said, ‘Listen, we’re going to fight this,’ and that set me up to be strong and face it.”

Griggs assumed that surgery would be the next step. “My thought process was, ‘Just get it out of me,’ ” she reports. “But they said that I was terminal and surgery wouldn’t help. Two days later, I was in the hospital having a port put into my chest so the chemo could go right in. The next day, I started my first round.”

Griggs appreciated the kindness that was shown to her at such a scary time. “I was given a room with a window so my husband and my dog could wave at me,” she smiles. “My nurse, Gina, knew I like the Minions and she made this Minion out of construction paper and put it on my window so my husband would know where to go. Every day at the hospital my husband and Ralphie would come and wave at me. I still have that Minion.”

During her ongoing treatments, “I Googled everything and my doctor advised me not to do that,” Griggs confesses. “He said, ‘Robyn. You’re young and strong,’ so, I stopped looking altogether. I’ve also had people tell me about so many different products, like immune boosters, but I was told, ‘We’re doing this textbook,’ and it worked!”

That’s because a significant improvement unexpectedly occurred. “The standard range of your blood’s tumor marker is 230 and mine had previously been at 1,150,” Griggs explains. “After the third cycle, I went down to 192. The doctors were like, ‘This isn’t normal. This just doesn’t happen.’ It turned out that I was able to get surgery, after all. So I went through three more cycles of chemo, and my level went down to 36. I had surgery on December 22 and I was released from the hospital on Christmas morning. They removed everything, and the way I looked at it was, ‘Well, I don’t need liposuction now.’ ”

That doesn’t mean Griggs is cured, but her condition is in a much better place. “Recurrence is certain but I’ve had two more cycles of chemo after my surgery,” she notes. “And every two weeks, I have an IV of Avastin, which is like a wonder drug that hits your blood cells from a different angle, basically.”

Through the ups and downs (“I could feel happy and uplifted but within an hour, have no energy and be sleeping”), Griggs credits husband Mark for being her rock. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without him beside me,” she marvels. “It’s been such an emotional roller coaster but he’s been keeping me steady and that’s true love. When I whined, ‘I’m bald, I’m ugly, and I don’t fit into anything because I’m overweight from steroids,’ he said, ‘Are you really that vain?’ That’s what I need to hear. I waited for the right one.”

Sharing her experience with others helps to keep Griggs going. “I’ve had such a great life full of fun moments and learning experiences, and my cancer is just another one of those things,” she shrugs. “This is what I was dealt, so I’ve got to live with it and move forward. I hope I can help someone else in the same situation and I’m gonna share this with anyone who will listen because there were things that I didn’t know that I could’ve done to prevent what I’m going through.”

Returning to daytime is on Griggs’s to-do list. “I loved working on soaps,” she says. “They shaped who I am, and gave me strength and discipline. It’s sad that there are only four soaps left but one of them needs to call me. I’m ready … I’m not dead yet [laughs].”

Griggs has discovered that her fight to stay alive is very costly. “I have insurance that covers a lot of my medical bills but not everything,” she laments. “The biggest expense is something I go through every two weeks, which is the Avastin and it’s $15,500 per dose.” To help Griggs’s plight, you can contribute any amount to www. gofundme.com/f/fight-with-robyn or purchase merchandise at www.bonfire.com/store/team-robyn/.

Hair’s the thing

“When I started my second round of chemo, I was told my hair would fall out and I told them I didn’t care, but my very sweet nurse, Edith, gave me a wig anyway,” Griggs recounts. “I’m so glad she did because I thought I’d be okay with losing my hair but it was horrible when it started happening. I told Mark to shave it all off because I didn’t want to watch it fall out in clumps. So, we went out on the deck and I sat down with a towel and he shaved my hair off.” That wig she was given became a godsend, and her collection soon grew. “I have tons of wigs and they’re gorgeous,” Griggs enthuses. “My niece, Megan, got me a pink wig that’s really pretty, and now I have red, black, long, short. I pretty much have all styles and colors and some of them only cost 20 bucks each.”

And with each one comes it’s own persona. “When I’m in the pink wig, I’m more Gwen Stefani-esque,” Griggs giggles. “I have this straight, long dark wig and I can go from motorcycle babe to bohemian chick. Then I have the long blonde mermaid curls, and that’s when I’m flirty and flinging my hair over my shoulder. I also have red and platinum blonde bobs that are lots of fun.”

And there are times when Griggs feels like flipping her lid. “When we go out to eat, sometimes I’ll be sitting there, and the wig makes me really hot,” she explains. “In those cases, it will suddenly come off and the best things are the looks from people, like, ‘Lady, what the hell are you doing?!’

Just The Facts

Birthdate: April 30, 1973

Born In: Tunkhannock, PA

Daytime Diva: Griggs played ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Stephanie Hobart (1991-92) and Maggie Cory on ANOTHER WORLD (1993-95)

Relationship Status: Married golf pro Mark Wiley on July 4, 2013. “What can I say, I love fireworks [laughs]. We had a whirlwind romance. I went out with some friends in my hometown and Mark was at the same place with a buddy, who recognized me from the soaps. Mark had no clue because he watched DAYS OF OUR LIVES [laughs]. We went on a date and I basically never left. We went to Vegas but we didn’t get married by Elvis, Marilyn Monroe or zombies, although I wanted that.”

B Mine: Because of her love for schlocky horror movies, Griggs has starred in films such as Minds of Terror, Zombiegeddon, Slashers Gone Wild! and Hellweek. “I don’t do any nudity, so I usually ended up being the killer, except for in Dead Clowns. In that one, I ran into the bathroom and got stabbed, but at least I fought back [laughs]!”

Pet Project: “I couldn’t have children, so Ralphie is my kid. He’s a Yorkie/Papillon and I named him after Ralphie from A Christmas Story.”

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