For almost two years, Rollins Wilkerson was a typical, healthy little girl. But the week of her second birthday in June 2008, she began to exhibit seemingly small illnesses. First, it was pink eye. Then, it was an ear infection. “We really didn’t think much of it,” said her mother, Brooke.
That same week, Brooke took Rollins to her pediatrician for her annual checkup. During the routine blood test, Rollins’ lab work revealed a problem. “At first they honestly thought there was a problem with the machine,” Brooke said. “But then they took blood again and did the test again. It still wasn’t right.”
Thinking maybe her iron level was out of balance, Rollins’ pediatrician sent her to Children’s of Alabama for further testing. Doctors quickly ruled out her iron level and called for a bone marrow test, which revealed Rollins had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). “We were in total shock,” Brooke said. “It was one of those situations where you couldn’t believe it; there was no way it could be true. The doctors explained that the specific type she had was actually the best of two possibilities. It’s funny what you end up being grateful for.”
After tests revealed Rollins’ bone marrow was about 86 percent full of leukemia, doctors moved quickly to start chemotherapy. The next day, Rollins had her first surgery to insert a port. She spent almost a week in the hospital undergoing various chemotherapies, treatments, scans and blood tests. “There was so much Rollins had to endure,” Brooke said. “Thankfully, the scans showed that the leukemia had not spread.”
While Rollins was soon sent home, she immediately began an eight-month-long journey of weekly hospital visits for more chemotherapy and treatment. “After the initial 28-day cycle, chemo would vary,” Brooke explained. “It all depended on what her body could handle. At that point, her hair began to fall out. We had a 2-year-old that was supposed to be running around and playing, and instead she was sick. She felt too bad to move.”
Rollins endured over two years of chemotherapy, finishing in August 2010. “The day chemo ended was a big day,” Brooke said. “We had a huge party and celebrated.”
At that time, the family also celebrated Rollins being declared cancer-free. “We had to go back in for a checkup every month for a while, then appointments would be further and further apart,” Brooke said. “After we made it to five years, she now has to go yearly. So far, her numbers have looked great and her counts are normal. She’s now six years into being healthy.”
Today, Rollins gets to focus on what she enjoys – gymnastics, dancing, and art. Instead of spending time in the hospital getting chemo, she’s doing cartwheels and learning how to do a back handspring. “She’s just perfect,” Brooke said. “She’s healthy and we are so thankful to Children’s for everything they did for Rollins. They took such good care of all of us. They understood our pain and fears on bad days and celebrated with us on good days. The staff made a terrible situation better by being so good to our family.”