Finding Support in an Unlikely Place
- When Allie Olson was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer, she didn’t have her mother or her sister close by to support her through her journey. But she found a friend in her two-time-cancer-surviving UPS delivery man who’s been supporting her throughout treatment.
- The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45. It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor.
- It’s also important to try to find the support you need while undergoing cancer treatment. Opening up to others about your struggles during a cancer battle can be beneficial to you and possibly those you reach out to as well.
As she battles a rare form of breast cancer, her UPS delivery man – who happens to be a two-time cancer survivor – has been giving her the support she needs to get through treatment.Read More
According to her GoFundMe page, Olson has already undergone chemotherapy, and she will undergo surgery this month and radiation therapy beginning mid-November. She’s doing well with treatment as of right now, but making the decision to have her treatment in New York was a difficult one. Her mother and sister offered to take care of her in Indiana if she came to live with them, but she knew that wasn’t her best course of action.
“Of course you want your mom to take care of you, but I had to think long and hard about it,” Olson said on The Kelly Clarkson Show. “And I had this incredible team of doctors in New York that knew my case so well, and I just had to stay there.”
But Olson still found the support she needed in Brooklyn from an unlikely source: her delivery man, Al Rodriguez.
“The best thing that could happen was having this person knock on my door who could check on me, who could applaud for me, who could leave me little notes when I wasn’t there when I came back from chemo,” she said.
The supportive notes and messages were so helpful to Olson, but it was Rodriguez’s ability to relate and give emotional support that really made the difference for her.
“He would say, ‘How was chemo today? How are you feeling today?’ and I could be really real and honest and be like, ‘I’m not having the best day’ or ‘I feel great today,’ and he knew what it was like,” Olson said.
Rodriguez understood what Olson was going through because he happened to be a two-time cancer survivor. And seeing him as an example of what was possible has given Olson the strength to keep fighting.
“He didn’t survive it once, but he survived it twice,” she said. “So here we have this living proof, and I could just open my door and see Al there.”
Understanding Breast Cancer
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. And while mammograms aren’t perfect, they are still a great way to begin annual screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45. It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, like Allie Olson did, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment. In the case of Allie Olson, her cancer cells tested negative for estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors and also don’t make too much of the HER2 protein meaning her breast cancer is triple-negative.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
Finding the Support You Need
During a cancer battle, it’s important to know that you are not alone. There’s a community out there for you to be vulnerable with, if you’d like, and it’s worth it to at least try to connect with some people as you battle the disease.
Kate Hervey is another cancer warrior who has touched many people by sharing her story. A young college girl, she was shocked to be diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that tends to form near large joints in young adults, after seeing her doctor for tenderness and lumps in one of her legs.
Hervey, a nursing student at Michigan State, had to handle her cancer battle during the COVID-19 pandemic and scale back on her social activities as a high-risk patient. That’s when she turned to TikTok as a creative outlet, and inspired thousands.
“One thing that was nice about TikTok that I loved and why I started posting more and more videos is how many people I was able to meet through TikTok and social media that are going through the same things,” she says. “I still text with this one girl who is 22. If I’m having a hard time, I will text her because she will understand. As much as my family and friends are supportive, it’s hard to vent to someone who doesn’t know what it’s really like.”
Hervey is now cancer-free, and says she couldn’t have done it without the love and support of her TikTok followers.
“I feel like I’ve made an impact on other people and they have made an impact on me through TikTok, which is crazy to say. I can help people go through what I’ve been going through as well.” She has graciously agreed to allow SurvivorNet to use her content in order to help our community.
And while turning to social media might not be your thing, it’s important to consider opening up to others about your struggles during a cancer battle. Even if it’s with a smaller group – or your UPS package deliverer – you never know how much the support can help you unless you try.