Kara Doolittle felt a lot of anxiety Tuesday morning.
The 33-year-old Patriots fan from Bristol, Conn. was waiting to find out if cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She underwent a double mastectomy the week prior, and to help herself feel a little better, she posted on Twitter to express gratitude to be alive.
"If (Brandon Bolden) can fight and beat cancer, so can I," Doolittle said, tagging the Patriots running back in the thread -- relating to his own secret battle with cancer.
Later that afternoon, Bolden helped turn her day around by responding to the Tweet – reminding her tough times don't last, but tough people do. That positivity carried her throughout the day before her favorite team offered support. Within 15 minutes of getting a Tweet from the Patriots, she received good news from her doctor. The cancer didn't spread, meaning Doolittle wouldn't need radiation.
"Luck was in my favor at that point," Doolittle said. "It was just a good day. It just made a bad day very good."
The Patriots have been a source of strength and hope for Doolittle for some time now.
Four years ago, while participating in a ropes course, she fell the equivalent of five stories and broke her back and both legs. She has since undergone seven surgeries on her ankle and pelvis to regain the ability to walk, but the freak accident might have led to a life-saving screening later on.
Following up on her most recent procedure in October 2021, Doolittle went in for a routine CT scan where doctors found a tumor in her breast.
"I got diagnosed with breast cancer and it was just by chance that we ended up finding it because I was recovering from pelvis surgery and they were doing a full body CT scan," Doolittle said.
"They ended up finding the mass. It was actually so weird because the night before I got diagnosed my boyfriend and I were actually watching "Man in the Arena" with Tom Brady. It was the episode that had just come out about his mom getting diagnosed with cancer. So, it was so weird that we had just watched that episode and then the following day I got diagnosed with cancer."
Doolittle says the coincidental timing of watching that episode helped her navigate a time of fear and uncertainty. She connected with the way in which the quarterback handled his mother Galynn's cancer diagnosis in 2016 shared in his ESPN+ docuseries.
Being a huge fan of the retired Patriots legend, Doolittle took to Twitter to share how it resonated with her. To her surprise, Brady took the time to respond.
"I told my boyfriend, I said, "I've peaked. The cancer can take me now."
She's kidding, of course, but the joke is a good analogy for how much Doolittle has been impacted by football.
Her father was a season ticket holder when she was born, taking her along to games at the old Foxboro Stadium, and Drew Bledsoe and Steve Grogan were her first two favorite players. Her living room décor is red, white and blue for the Patriots and that fandom has led to a following of thousands on Twitter.
The accident four years ago makes it difficult for her to get to the stadium, but from home she can be part of the community online. And from her fall to the cancer diagnosis, New England fans have rallied around her with support.
When cousin Lisa Levesque made a GoFundMe campaign to help Doolittle ease the burden it became a source of healthy competition once a division rivalry got ahold of it.
Bills Mafia, known to throw their effort behind charitable causes beyond Buffalo, began donating money to the fundraiser around the time of the wild-card round. Refusing to be outdone, Patriots Nation started donating $10 in honor of Mac Jones' number.
Not long after that Doolittle's GoFundMe had surpassed $20,000.
"I attribute that all to Twitter and football fans," Doolittle said. "There were fans on there that sent messages like, 'I'm not a Patriots fan, but I'm a Niners fan and you know, my wife had breast cancer' or 'my mom had breast cancer' or 'my sister had cancer.' I just feel like it's been such a big community of support where I'm definitely not alone. I get messages from people who are just looking to help even, if it's just to offer encouragement."
The community also was there when she was told she might never walk again. Then too, she looked to athletes for inspiration. She credited some of the TB12 method for helping her get back on her feet and changing her diet, and Bolden's story especially motivates her as she waits to find out if she'll need chemotherapy.
As Doolittle goes through yet another rehab, this time unable to move her arms, she studies how athletes practice mindfulness and mental toughness. That's what keeps her fighting every day.
"I think that maybe it's inspiring to us at home," she says of what sport has taught her.
"To realize we could get through things that maybe would seem insurmountable otherwise."