Therapist learns valuable lessons through her own diagnosis
Megan Rollins, 36, works with cancer patients at Genesis as their physical therapist assistant. She’s encouraged and strengthened them for 11 years. So when she discovered her own lump while getting dressed for her husband’s Christmas party, she surprised even herself by not feeling too concerned.
“I told myself it was probably benign, and I’d get it checked out later. My husband was the one who actually pressured me to see the doctor sooner,” Megan recalled.
On Christmas Eve, while her then 8- and 5-year-old children daydreamed about Christmas, Megan underwent a mammogram and ultrasound. A few days later she had a biopsy. The screening and testing process moved rapidly – and that’s a good thing.
“Megan had clinical, Stage 2, triple negative breast cancer – it’s very high risk,” explained Scott Wegner, M.D., Megan’s medical hematologist/oncologist and medical director of Genesis Cancer Services. “This cancer is more likely to spread and cause death due to malignancy. With aggressive cancer, it’s important to act swiftly.
Different opinions not needed
Megan chose to receive treatment at the Genesis Cancer Care Center. Although she had never worked directly with Dr. Wegner during her professional time at Genesis, she says the thought of going somewhere else or seeking different opinions never crossed her mind. Instead, she said she trusted herself to the strangers at Genesis, who quickly became family.
“I walked in with a life-threatening disease saying, ‘I’m here. Help me!’ It’s one of the most vulnerable places a person could ever be in,” said Megan. “But these people changed quickly from a group of strangers into a group of family who were helping me fight this.”
It didn’t take long to develop relationships or to begin her 16 chemotherapy treatments rounds.
“I was diagnosed on Tuesday, my appointment with Dr. Wegner was Wednesday, and my first chemotherapy was Monday. That’s just five days after my appointment with him. I think those numbers are pretty impressive,” Megan said.
As a breast cancer navigator at the Genesis Cancer Care Center, Wendy Long, B.S.N., R.N., OCN, CBHN, guides patients from diagnosis through treatment and then throughout survivorship. Having a specialized, assigned cancer navigator helps patients focus on healing.
“There’s so much to absorb with a new diagnosis, so I answer questions and make sure everything’s scheduled and moving in a timely manner,” Long said. “Patients often feel like the waiting and not knowing what to expect before starting treatment is the worst, so I do what I can to get everything aligned and help things flow easier for them.”
Long immediately helped Megan organize her treatment regimen. “During my first meeting with Dr. Wegner, Wendy gave me a planner and wrote in my appointments and cycles for chemotherapy, then she numbered them – and I needed that, said Megan. “It was so much to take in.”
Caring for Megan … and her family
Megan says chemotherapy was “rough,” and she experienced too many side effects to count. She spent days in bed, lost her hair and eyebrows, and weakness and nausea raged. Her family supported her through treatments, and her family received extra support in unexpected ways too.
Sister Bernadette Selinsky, Genesis Spiritual Care, talked with Megan every time she received chemo. “She’d not only ask how I was, but she’d ask about my kids. She knew they were having a hard time too, and she was praying for them too. That was a big deal for me,” Megan recalls.
In addition, Megan noticed that her husband Jesse also received support and attention from the Genesis family.
“Not only did I receive superb care, but they did the exact same thing for my husband. Every warm blanket, food or kindness they gave me, they gave him, too. They took care of him because he was there to take care of me. Knowing they were taking care of him was huge for me,” Megan said.
As Dr. Wegner met with Megan frequently, he noticed her positive support team and Megan’s personal strength and determination.
“Megan has a fabulous, young family, she works part-time, and she determined nothing would stop her,” Dr. Wegner said. “I don’t think about cancer as a battle. People are dealt this disease, and it’s not whether they’re a fighter or not. Patients experience it the way their bodies and cancer allow them to. That said, Megan has been incredibly strong through her experience.”
Mastectomy versus lumpectomy – making the tough choice
After much thought, conversation and prayer, Megan chose to have a lumpectomy after chemotherapy. She said deciding whether to have a mastectomy or lumpectomy was the hardest decision she’s ever made in her life, but that she’s at peace that this was the right choice for her.
The surgery left Megan with arm pain from agitated nerves and scar tissue. She couldn’t hold her arm out to put away dishes, let alone lift another person, which she needed strength for to return to work. With her physical therapy background, Megan knew to visit Genesis Rehabilitation Services for outpatient physical therapy. She received a treatment that broke up scar tissue in her arm and helped her regain mobility.
“If people didn’t know about the abilities of physical therapy, they might suffer through things like that. Now I’m fully functioning and getting better daily,” Megan said.
She’s been changed … in a good way
With treatment and surgery complete and successful, Megan’s latest results show no evidence of breast cancer. Instead, Megan continues finding evidence of healing. She recently returned to her work at Genesis and helps other patients during their cancer journey.
“I am a completely different person and a completely different therapist,” Megan said. “I’ve seen so much good come out of this. I’m more empathetic and can feel what patients feel. I can also read how a person is doing so much more accurately now. It’s carried over into my family too. Little problems don’t matter now. All that matters is that we are happy and healthy. So really, this has changed me for the better. There are blessings in hard things.”