Cancer became a divining rod for Campbell student

June 17, 2010 | 5 Comments

Cancer became a divining rod for Campbell student

Buies Creek, N.C.—For most freshmen, college holds the promise of developing life-long friendships, a taste of independence and academic preparation for future careers.  For Matthew Rollins, it also offers the opportunity to fight a familiar enemy – cancer.

An incoming Campbell University freshman, Rollins was diagnosed with cancer in 2004when he was just 12 years old. Suddenly, he went from happy, well-adjusted middle school student to cancer patient overnight. Although traumatic, the illness led Rollins to make one of the most important decisions of his life, to become a pediatric oncologist like the ones who treated him at the University of North Carolina Hospital atChapel Hill. He is eager to get to Campbell and begin his science education this fall.

 “Being diagnosed with cancer at an early stage in life truly altered my entire life,” said Rollins.  “Before I was diagnosed, I really had no plans for my future, and I was unaware of the options that were out there. Cancer is what pointed me toward what I want to do with my life. I feel that I should spend it working to treat children diagnosed with cancer just like I was treated as a child.”

Rollins’ ordeal began one morning when he was brushing his teeth and found a lose tooth. The tooth in itself was no cause for alarm, but a trip to the dentist revealed something more serious. A cyst was pushing Rollins’ tooth out of alignment. Tests determined the cyst to be malignant and Rollins was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a rare form of cancer which is part of a group of malignant diseases known as Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas. The malignancy grows very rapidly and a person who appears to be in good health could become critically ill within a month to six weeks.

But Rollins was lucky. He was referred to the University of North Carolina Hospital at Chapel Hill and began chemotherapy treatments within a week of his diagnosis. And even though he spent six months in and out of the Children’s Pediatric Unit, doctors say he is cancer free. The care and compassion displayed by his doctors and nurses left a lasting impression on Rollins, however.

“Defeating cancer made me realize that I was strong enough to do anything I set my mind to,” Rollins said. “Keeping a positive attitude was very tough to do, but I knew it was the only way to make it through such a tough time.”

Rollins took steps toward a career in medicine while still in high school. He was involved with Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), a pipeline organization that prepares students for health care careers, and he enrolled in Allied Health Sciences II, a class that allows students to become certified nursing assistants upon completion of the course.

“As a motivated individual with a passion for serving others, I plan to employ my educationat Campbell for the public good,” Rollins said. “There’s a growing need for healthcare workers, and I feel that becoming a doctor would be the best way to serve a vast amount of people while also doing something that I thoroughly enjoy.”

A resident of Asheboro, N.C., Rollins graduated from Southwestern Randolph High School. In 2008, he was nominated by his school counselors to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Washington, D.C. He was also selected to attend the HOSA National Leadership Conference in Nashville, Tenn. Rollins served as the secretary for the North Carolina HOSA District 5 and Central Region during his high school career. He is the son of Jeff and Jody Rollins.


Photo Copy: Matthew Rollins

Tags: science, student,


Matthew all our family is so proud of you.  In the face of adversity you didn’t say “I can’t” but “I can.”  You have worked hard and accomplished much.  As you begin this new phase of your life I wish you much happiness and every continued success.  I know you will excell in everything you do and make Campbell University proud!

By Joann Lucas on July 1, 2010 - 3:25pm

I am especially proud of Matthew. I have been his pastor for several years now. I came to know him and his family under some very difficult circumstances. I have watched him grow into an exceptional young man who has taken a life shattering event and turn it into a life building event. That is significant. He is a fine Christian young man who has served our church well. He has been and continues to be a very positive role model to those around him. Campbell University is extremely fortunate to welcome a student of Matthew’s caliber.

By Pastor Wyatt Hoogkamp on June 30, 2010 - 7:50am

Matthew I am very proud of all of your accomplishments. Your story is very inspiring to me as an educator.  You took on your diagnosis with courage and determination to now make a difference in the world. It was truly a pleasure being your teacher and Beta Club advisor.  I wish you all the best in your future endeavors at Campbell University and beyond.

By Bobbie Clark on June 29, 2010 - 10:44pm

You are a very strong,courageous, inspirational young man!  I know that you will be successful with anything that you decide to do in life.  The main thing is that you have chosen a career to give life back to others.  The next few years may be very challenging, but remember, any small step towards your goal, is a huge step towards giving something special to others.  You keep up the great work.  I know many people are very proud of you.  God bless you in all that you face in life!

By Debbie Montgomery on June 29, 2010 - 3:06pm

We are so proud of Matthew and all of his accomplishments. He is a very motivated young man and has his goals set for the future. He will be an asset to Campbell University.

By Dianne Tannery on June 29, 2010 - 10:17am

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