Finding Support during a Breast Cancer Journey
- Patriots super fan Kara Doolittle has received ample support from the online football community as she battles breast cancer. She’s even gotten messages of support from former quarterback Tom Brady and running back Brandon Bolden.
- Many women develop breast cancer every year, and the disease is the subject of much research. There are many treatment options out there, but treatment paths depend greatly on the specifics of each case.
- it’s important to consider opening up to others during your cancer battle. Even if it’s with a smaller group, you never know how much the support can help you – or help those you share with – unless you try.
Doolittle, a 33-year-old Patriots super fan from Bristol, Conn., was diagnosed with breast cancer after going in for a routine CT scan at the start of this year.Read More
She underwent a double mastectomy earlier this month, and is currently waiting to see what the rest of her treatment path will look like. Earlier this week, she took to Twitter to share an uplifting post about one of her cancer-fighting inspirations as she awaited test results that later showed that she would not need radiation because the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes. That inspiration was none other than Patriots running back Brandon Bolden, who beat epidermoid carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, in 2018.
“If @BB_HulkSmash can fight and beat cancer, so can I.”
Inspired by her passion for the Patriots, superfan Kara Doolittle received good news this week as she continues her battle with cancer: https://t.co/LTMZmuNTRc
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) February 18, 2022
To her delight, Bolden took the time to respond saying, “Yes you can tough times don’t last tough people do.”
Support for a Patriots Super Fan
But this would not be the only time Doolittle felt support from her beloved football community. In fact, she even got a shoutout from the former longtime Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after she tweeted about how the Man in the Arena episode where he talked about his mother’s cancer diagnosis back in 2016 resonated with her.
You got this Kara!! Sending love ❤️ https://t.co/FymXwfGyaS
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) January 7, 2022
“You got this Kara!! Sending love,” Brady replied to her post.
The devastating fall four years ago that led to her pelvis surgery has made it difficult for Doolittle to be back in the stadium recently, but she’s felt even closer to the football community after her cousin made a GoFundMe page to help her with medical expenses.
The GoFundMe campaign ended up attracting the attention of Buffalo Bills fans and Patriots fans alike. And keeping to their rivalry, the two fan bases began donating around the time of the wild-card round between the two teams. This led to the more than $20,000 worth of donations that Doolittle’s GoFundMe has to date.
“I attribute that all to Twitter and football fans,” Doolittle said. “There were fans on there that sent messages like, ‘I’m not a Patriots fan, but I’m a Niners fan and you know, my wife had breast cancer’ or ‘my mom had breast cancer’ or ‘my sister had cancer.’ I just feel like it’s been such a big community of support where I’m definitely not alone. I get messages from people who are just looking to help even, if it’s just to offer encouragement.”
Now, as she anxiously waits to see if she’ll need chemotherapy or not, Doolittle is looking to her favorite athletes for courage and strength.
“I think that maybe it’s inspiring to us at home,” she said of what sport has taught her. “To realize we could get through things that maybe would seem insurmountable otherwise.”
Understanding Breast Cancer
We don’t know much about the specifics of Doolittle’s case, but breast cancer has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
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.
“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, previously told 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. Doolittle has had a vast football community to help her see how many people she had in her corner, but you don’t have to be a recognized Patriots super fan to get the support you need during your cancer battle.
There’s always people out there for you to be vulnerable with, if you’d like, and connecting with others as you battle the disease can make a world of difference. Another cancer warrior named Kate Hervey knows this all too well. 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.
So while sharing your story to a vast Tik Tok audience might not be your thing, it’s important to consider opening up to others during your cancer battle. Even if it’s with a smaller group, you never know how much the support can help you – or help those you share with – unless you try.