HomeNewsArticle Display

Carry On: rocking the bald head

Carry On: rocking the bald head

Senior Master Sgt. Amber Robbins, 5th Force Support Squadron superintendent, stands with her family at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Jan. 23, 2019. Robbins was recently selected to promote to chief master sergeant after facing a year-long battle with breast cancer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alyssa M. Akers)

Five things you should know about breast cancer

Master Sgt. Amber Robbins, 5th Force Support Squadron superintendent, speaks during the Breast Cancer Awareness luncheon at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Oct. 17, 2018. Robbins recently finished a year-long battle with breast cancer and shared her story with the luncheon attendees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alyssa M. Akers)

Carry On: rocking the bald head

Senior Master Sgt. Amber Robbins, 5th Force Support Squadron superintendent, discovers she was selected to promote to chief master sergeant at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Dec. 4, 2018. Robbins was one of four people at Minot AFB to be selected for promotion into the top one percent of the Air Force enlisted force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alyssa M. Akers)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

She walked into the room, not expecting much – but finding everything.

Airmen from all over her squadron were there, cheering her on. Ready to shave her head.

Senior Master Sgt. Amber Robbins had breast cancer. It was diagnosed October 27, 2017 after she first discovered a lump that May.

Robbins knew it could have been cancer, but refused to accept the idea.

“I kept putting off [seeing someone] because it just had to be something else,” said Robbins. “I let months go by, but it was still there.”

Once her husband returned from deployment, he convinced her to be seen by a specialist.

After initially receiving her diagnosis, she planned to not tell her children until she and her husband felt they had more information.

“We walked through the garage door and were greeted by my daughter,” said Robbins. “I don’t know if it was because of her big blue eyes, but I looked at her and just started crying.”

That look made Robbins and her husband change their minds.

“I couldn’t keep it in,” Robbins said. “She immediately knew something was wrong.”

The next few months hit Robbins hard. She weighed her options before ultimately having the lump removed, then starting chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Her children stepped up. Since Robbins spent a lot of time at home, her children both handled the chores and took care of her.

“The kids would bring me breakfast, lunch, dinner, anything I needed when I couldn’t muster the strength to get off the couch or out of bed,” said Robbins. “The one thing I really enjoyed was seeing my kids come home from school every day. I wouldn’t change anything from what I experienced the past year.”

Her family wasn’t her only support system. Her Airmen also stepped up after her diagnosis, showing their support a number of different ways. However, one moment stood out to Robbins.

“An Airman walked into my office and told me she only had one request,” said Robbins. “She said, ‘you take care of us, so let us take care of you. We got you.’ When she said that, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head and the walls came down. The one thing I realized through my journey is that people who want to be there for you will be, and it’s not always the people you expect.”

Four months after her diagnosis, Robbins sent out an email to almost every 5th FSS Airmen, inviting them to shave her head.

“I wanted my Airmen to be a part of this,” said Robbins. “Just like my family, they’re also going to see me at my lowest. I wanted them to have an intimate relationship with this journey, which meant hands-on. I wanted their strength to go through me just as my strength goes through them and make them feel like they’re here with me and we’ll fight together.”

Unsure how many Airmen would show up, Robbins walked into her work center on a Saturday morning with no expectations.

The room was packed when she arrived. After placing a trash bag over her clothes, each Airman took their turn shaving a strip of hair.

“Holy smokes, they were there for me,” said Robbins, with excitement. “They weren’t there because I told them to, they came because they wanted to. As much as this [line of work] is professional, I had to share a lot of my personal life with my Airmen.”

Even with all the support from her Airmen, her journey was made even more successful with her husband by her side.

“I’d like to think we complement each other and motivate each other to be better,” said Robbins. “We decided to fight as a family.”

Even though she was the one diagnosed, he took it hard and faced his own challenges through her journey with cancer.

“It probably hit him harder than anyone,” said Robbins. “He’s a fixer, but this was something he could not fix. We reached out to people and created a support team for him too.”

Through the treatments, she stayed strong and was even selected to promote to chief master sergeant, the top one percent of Air Force enlisted Airmen.

Robbins dedicated as much time to studying as she could both during and after chemotherapy appointments.

“There were times I would forget what chapter I read, so I didn’t think I was going to do very good,” said Robbins. “When I found out I made it, I felt overwhelmed and excited.”

Robbins realized that speaking about her experiences helped keep herself together emotionally.

“With a diverse amount of experiences across the Air Force, you never know what someone has gone through,” said Robbins. “Just talking about it lets so many emotions out. There are so many people who knew about the medical side of my condition, but the emotional side was different.”

After 13 months of traveling thousands of miles back and forth for appointments and chemotherapy, she was declared cancer-free and had her final appointment December 2018.

“I got to finish 2018 with a bang, and I can start this year fresh with no chemo and no radiation,” Robbins exclaimed. “Bye cancer! You did nothing to hold me down; I rose above you and will continue to rise above you.”

Even with the higher odds after going through cancer, Robbins said she will never stop fighting.

“When the chief master sergeant of the Air Force names you as one of his heroes, you have to take on a superhero persona,” said Robbins. “Those are big shoes to fill, so I took it very seriously. One of his priorities is self-care. If we can’t take care of ourselves, then we can’t take care of anybody else.”

She also felt that cancer, as devastating as it was, molded her into the person she is today.

“I am definitely not the same person I was two years ago, and I’m never going to be that person again,” said Robbins. “I have to figure out my new normal, and get over the challenges I still face from treatment and all the appointments. So many things hinder my day, but I press forward and move on.”

Anybody can develop cancer. Robbins said she wants to ensure people are aware and have the proper tools to rise above a diagnosis. Her main focus was to make sure her Airmen saw what cancer really looked like.

To Robbins, it was important for Airmen to see her with no hair while in uniform, because in the military it’s uncommon to see that side of people who have experienced cancer.

“If an Airman down the road is diagnosed with cancer, I hope they can think back to that senior master sergeant who rocked a bald head at Minot Air Force Base,” said Robbins. “Maybe I can be their hope.”

Editor’s Note: If you or a loved one are worried about how cancer may affect you, please reach out to the 5th Medical Group at (701) 723-5633.

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Contact Us

To reach the Minot Air Force Base Main Directory, call: Commercial (701) 723-7979 or DSN: 453-7979.   

To request Public Affairs support, please fill out an Air Force Form 833 and email to the Minot AFB Public Affairs workflow mailbox. 

Unfortunately, we are not accepting marquee requests since our marquee board is down for an undetermined amount of time. Thank you for understanding.

FacebookFacebook
InstagramInstagram
TwitterTwitter
FlickrFlickr
YouTubeYouTube