Survivor Spotlight featuring Carrie Rollins

10.28.2013 / Blog Posts Breast Cancer Awareness Community

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Our next special WOW survivor spotlight features Carrie Rollins, 31, an analyst for the Department of Defense and mother of two whose favorite Redskins player is Santana Moss. Rollins, an avid runner, had no family history of breast cancer when she discovered an abnormality in her breast earlier this year and was diagnosed with category 4 DCIS in May.

After a double bilateral mastectomy in June, Rollins did not need chemo or radiation due to the type of cancer and her young age. A Redskins fan since conception (her parents were season ticket holders), Rollins joined WOW this season and has been “overwhelmed” with the opportunities and support the group has provided so far.

What is your favorite Redskins memory?
Carrie Rollins: Most recently going through all this, some really good friends of ours wanted us to go have a good time so they gave us their tickets to the home opener with suite tickets. We got to go, had the whole pre-game eating tent that we went to, we had these amazing seats, and just the way the crowd felt when RGIII came out of the tunnel that first game it was absolutely amazing and to be there to experience it was phenomenal. I’d have to say that now is my highlight.

What is your game day ritual or superstition?
Carrie Rollins:My dad had a rule that when the team won, you’d wear exactly what you were wearing that day and if the next week you’re wearing that same outfit and it didn’t work, you throw it away. We put on our fan gear so if they happen to lose the game, we can’t wear that again. Everybody, even the dogs. The dogs have their jerseys and are wearing them too.

At 30, you weren’t having regular mammograms and had no risk factors for the disease. How did you discover the tumors?
Carrie Rollins: I was in the shower. I didn’t even do self breast exams because I am in my 30’s and thought there’s no way that was anything I needed to worry about. I just happened to be in the shower and I grazed my breast and I thought “Oh, that feels different.” Then I was poking around at it for a while and it kind of felt like there was something there and after a while I started freaking myself out so I thought I’d better go to my doctor and have her tell me it’s nothing. I went to see her in the beginning of April and she said she felt something but didn’t think it was worrisome but she sent me to get a mammogram as a precaution. I went to get a mammogram the day before my son’s fifth birthday thinking it was no big deal. This is just a routine thing, not a big deal. When it turned out the way that it did, it definitely turned my whole world upside down.

My local hospital only found one [tumor]. I’m kind of type A, so I called Johns Hopkins as soon as I knew there was anything to be worried about and got up there and had a biopsy and more mammograms and they found that there were actually three tumors. From me thinking that there was no way that it could be anything, luckily I went to my doctor. Something inside my head told me to go have it checked and that way I wouldn’t have to worry.

Who was your support system and how did they support you?
Carrie Rollins: My in-laws have been absolutely amazing. I have two very young kids [5 and 2] so I didn’t know how we were going to handle all of that. They just stepped right up and didn’t miss a beat. The kids’ schedules never went off, they were continuing to go to school and preschool like usual and their activities. My girlfriends really made sure we were eating. They sent food and made food for us.

I have two really good girlfriends that sent me this package full of stuff I would need at the hospital and once I got home, so that was pretty amazing. Things I didn’t think I would need but turned out to be a really big deal like throat lozenges because of the breathing tube they put in during surgery and then button down pajamas, the body wipes/towelettes because for the first week I wasn’t allowed to take a shower so it was really nice to have something to wipe down with and face wipes and dry shampoo. I didn’t even know I was going to need that but they had done the research and sent me the whole kit.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before your diagnosis?
Carrie Rollins: I wish I would have really paid more attention to the self-exams. Luckily I did find it when I did. I swear it was divine intervention and then I constantly had this nagging voice in my head telling me to go and take care of this. I would have probably done a better job of checking myself monthly. I always went to my annual appointments and I had actually just been to an annual appointment in November so it was only a few months after my appointment that I felt it. I just happened to be really fortunate to find it when I did. But now that it’s happened I’m so big on telling my girlfriends, you do self-exams, if you feel anything abnormal, you’ve got to know your body and then if you feel anything that you don’t think feels right, you go immediately.

What have you learned about yourself from your experience?
Carrie Rollins: In one respect I feel like I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. I think you have to be. Especially when you’re a mom. I really had to put on my brave face for the kids and not let them know anything was wrong because I didn’t want them to worry. Get all that out of the way before you walk in the front door and put your game face on. I definitely say that I really surprised myself with the strength that I’ve had through it all. And my husband really surprised me with that too.

How did the Redskins and/or the Redskins fan community impact your journey?
Carrie Rollins: It really has been something to kind of get away from it. When you’re watching the game or spending time with your family, it’s usually the last thing you’re thinking about. You want the win. We’re just so focused on the win it puts everything else out of your mind.

I went to the Redskins’ home opener and that’s when I saw the first WOW sign and so I went in and enrolled to become a member. I’ve been overwhelmed with how amazing everybody’s been with the opportunity to do this interview and the opportunity to go out on the field this Sunday -- I’m completely overwhelmed with how they’ve embraced this. I feel very grateful.

If there’s one thing you would share with women reading this story, what would it be?
Carrie Rollins: Know your body. Don’t ignore anything because it’s better to have the information and know that everything’s fine than wait it out and it turn into something more difficult to deal with. That’s been my big thing now. Just know your body and don’t ignore any signs.

During the month of October --  in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” initiative -- we are delighted to introduce a blog series spotlighting breast cancer survivors on This Breast Cancer Survivor Spotlight Series will share the inspiring stories of these extraordinary women and special WOW members with the Redskins community while continuing to raise breast cancer awareness and educate women about the importance of annual screenings.

Amanda Rykoff is a New York City-based sports writer. She’s a proud Penn alum, recovering attorney, devoted aunt, and voracious consumer of media. She has contributed to, The Outside Corner, ONE World Sports, Sports On Earth, The Football Girl and other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter (@amandarykoff).

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