From shock to survivor to spokeswoman

Vicki Rollf shares her breast cancer experience to empower others

Vicki Rollf Vicki Rollf’s emotional rollercoaster with breast cancer began with shock, anger and sadness.

“I couldn't even say the words breast cancer,” said the 64-year-old grandmother. “I referred to it as BC.”

Rollf, of Overland Park, Kansas, had no history of breast cancer. Nevertheless, it wasn’t unusual for her to need a follow-up after a routine mammogram. So she wasn’t worried when she was called back for an appointment in June 2012. But this time, she said, the conversation went differently.

Rollf was with diagnosed with stage I breast cancer. She had two lumpectomies at an area hospital with the understanding she would have radiation but not chemotherapy.

“I was so relieved. But then my HER2 results came back and changed the plan,” she said.

HER2-positive breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. Experts recommend that all invasive breast cancer be tested for the presence of HER2 because the results significantly impact treatment recommendations and decisions.  

From anger to understanding

Rollf’s results indicated she had a high risk of metastasis if she didn’t have chemotherapy. “I was angry. I had two friends with breast cancer, and they had gotten by without chemotherapy. I kept wondering ‘Why me?’” said Rollf. “I was in shock and mad ... mad at the world.”

The day of her diagnosis, Rollf received a call from her church support group, but she didn't want to talk. “The caller wouldn’t let me get off the phone,” she said. “It was divine intervention. I realized I wasn’t in control. In fact, things were totally out of my hands. Shortly after, I decided I was ready to get treatment. At this point, I felt like I was being proactive and wanted to get the ball rolling.”

After recovering from her surgeries at another area hospital, Rollf sought treatment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center – Overland Park. There, she saw Amy Rabe, MD, medical oncologist, and Vickie Massey, MD, radiation oncologist, and had chemotherapy, Herceptin and radiation.

“The nurses at the Overland Park office are angels from God,” Rollf said. “They were fantastic and blessed with wonderful talents. They were gentle, accommodating and always wore smiles. I cannot thank them enough for their efforts to make me feel better.”

She completed her treatment in August 2013. Although she is still monitored and takes medication to reduce the risk of cancer recurring, Dr. Rabe said Vicki is cancer-free.

A transforming experience

Overcoming cancer was only half of her battle. Rollf believes she won a bigger victory. She describes her transformation as physical, mental and spiritual.

“My faith has become stronger. I feel more peaceful. I’m more thankful for the rewards of my blessed life,” she said.

“I strive to be a kinder, gentler human being. My relationship with my family is better. It’s easier for me to give grace to others. And I think I have a lot more patience."

“I’ve met beautiful women through this experience who are now close friends. Am I happy that I had breast cancer? Of course not. But am I blessed by the results. I actively encourage other breast cancer patients to have faith and be strong.”

Rollf shares her experience and works to improve the cancer experience of others as a member of The University of Kansas Cancer Center Patient Advisory Council. She is also on the Susan G. Komen steering committee and serves on other cancer support groups.

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

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