June 4, 2009 in Washington Voices

Weak body reveals true strength

Jacqueline Robinette finds focus at Cheney
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle danp@spokesman.com photo

Jacqueline Robinette is a senior at Cheney High School. Even though she struggles with Graves’ disease, she is a member of the National Honor Society and plays tennis. danp@spokesman.com
(Full-size photo)

If you ask Jacqueline Robinette why she thinks she’s a notable student, she’ll crack a huge smile and exclaim, “Because I’m awesome.”

When she was a sophomore, Robinette joined the cheerleading team at Cheney High School, but she started feeling sick – she had been working out a lot, but she felt very weak and tired. She began losing weight and her muscles started to deteriorate.

“Walking up a flight of stairs would totally exhaust me,” she said.

During Christmas break that year she went on a ski trip with her family. She became alarmed when she fell down on the ski hill. Then she fell down again and could not stand up. The ski patrol had to take her down the hill on a snowmobile and it took all of their strength to lift her, since she was deadweight.

She said it was pretty embarrassing.

“I really don’t like negative attention,” she said.

The next month, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease – a hyperactive thyroid gland. Her resting heart rate was 144 beats per minute. She couldn’t sleep even though she was exhausted.

She said doctors told her she had three options: take medications to suppress her thyroid, take radioactive iodine pills to attack and kill her thyroid or have her thyroid surgically removed.

She wanted the problem to go away, but she didn’t feel that surgery was an option for her. She chose the radioactive iodine, hoping that taking it she would feel better right away.

“It got worse before it got better,” she said.

From the time she started feeling bad until the last week of March of her sophomore year, she said she couldn’t make it through a full week of school. Her grade-point average began to fall even though she tried hard to keep up with her studies.

“I never had to work hard for my grades before,” she said. Having understanding math and science teachers helped a lot. She even spent her lunch hours in her biology teacher’s classroom.

Robinette learned that trying hard counted for something that school year. She also learned that she should pick two or three activities that she was passionate about, instead of trying to do too much.

She’s no longer a cheerleader, but she plays tennis (“I’m hardly a superstar,” she said). She’s in the National Honor Society and she holds a state office with Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. She first ran for that position just as she was starting to feel better as a sophomore.

These days, Robinette is feeling a lot better. She still takes a half a pill a day, but feels that if this is the worst that happens to her, she’s got it pretty easy.

“I’m so fortunate in the things that I have,” she said.

After she graduates on Friday with a 3.75 grade-point average, Robinette has plans to go on a safari in South Africa with her older sister, Beth. She credits her mother, Ellen Robinette, for teaching her how important travel is. She hopes to go around the world to see new places and meet new people. She also hopes to find a job overseas one day.

That love of travel is probably why she wants to study international relations when she attends the University of Puget Sound this fall.

Even though she’s looking forward to seeing the world, she still loves Cheney. She lives in the same house her grandfather moved into when he was 16 years old on the Lazy R Ranch. Her dad, Maurice Robinette, is a cattle rancher and she admires that he is doing what he loves.

“I hope to achieve the same level of bliss in my job,” she said.

And although she loved high school and still loves Cheney, she is looking toward the future.

“I’m excited for the next phase of my life to begin.”


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