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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Making the Journey Together

Fall 2012

Making the Journey Together

By: Sara Baker
Date: September 3, 2012

Mother and daughter find strength in each other as they battle breast cancer

Breast Center patients Joanne Knapp and Anna Rollins embracing each other
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Joanne Knapp and her daughter Anna Rollins are each other’s greatest support.

“We are willing to travel for the best,” says Hagerstown, Maryland, resident Joanne Knapp. “The people who take care of us bend over backwards to help us. We are so happy to have the team at Hopkins. They are keeping us alive and together.”

In December 2008, Knapp was diagnosed with breast cancer during a routine mammogram. What makes this story even more heartbreaking is that just one month earlier, her daughter, Anna Rollins, also had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Side-by-side and with guidance and support from the Breast Center team, mother and daughter began to literally fight together for their lives. In the spring of 2009, while Rollins underwent five months of chemotherapy treatment, Knapp, diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) had two surgeries, including a lumpectomy. When the summer months rolled around, Rollins had a modified radical mastectomy with simultaneous breast reconstruction, and Knapp began radiation treatment. And in the midst of it all, once surgeries were completed and treatments ended, both women, along with their husbands, sold their homes and moved to a new neighborhood.

“Cancer gives you a chance to reevaluate your life,” says Rollins, whose original diagnosis was Stage II triple negative breast cancer, along with follicular lymphoma. “We realized how important it was for us to spend more time together as a family, enjoy one another and support each other. Living so close makes it easy for us to have those little moments that make a life.”

So, they became next door neighbors.

Recovery Journey Continues

Since then, the family’s breast cancer recovery journey has continued, with many highs and lows along the way. They have enjoyed the convenience of living side-by-side and being able to do the simple, everyday kinds of things in life together, such as gardening and shopping. Today, Knapp’s cancer is in remission, with her past three annual mammograms confirming that she remains cancer free. Two years ago, Rollins learned that her breast cancer had metastasized. But she remains positive, hopeful and in-tune with the approach of her physician, Mehran Habibi, M.D., surgical oncologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Center.

“Dr. Habibi told me that he would treat my cancer as a chronic disease that can be lived with, rather than a terminal condition,” Rollins says. “Of course, I have had to modify my lifestyle, and there are challenges to face, but I feel inspired to live because of the support I get at Johns Hopkins.”

Perhaps it’s this level of compassionate care that makes the drive to Baltimore from Rollins’s and Knapp’s Hagerstown homes all worth it.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 410-550-8282.