Breast cancer survivor Lollar, daughter saluted before game with O's
KANSAS CITY -- When Royals coach Mike Jirschele strolled out to home plate to submit his team's lineup card prior to Friday night's game against the Orioles, an unfamiliar guest joined him.
Joining him was Paige Lollar, the Royals' winner of the 2014 Honorary Bat Girl Contest, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease.
In 2012, Lollar was relaxing at her St. Joseph, Mo., home, preparing for work when she discovered a lump.
"I didn't think much of it, I thought, 'I'm too young,'" Lollar said. "And so I told my mom and she said, 'You have to get this checked.'"
Lollar went to St. Joseph Medical Center, and the doctors echoed her lack of concern, but recommended precautionary tests.
"I went through CAT scans, and ultrasounds, and MRIs, and biopsies," Lollar said, and after a pause, almost cheerfully blurted out: "And it was breast cancer in the end."
Two years removed, as she took in the Royals' batting practice on Thursday, Lollar seems unfazed by the diagnosis. But it floored her at the time.
"I was in absolute shock, complete terror," Lollar said. "What do we do? How do we do it? I didn't know about the next steps, no one in my family has been through it that I was cognizant of."
Despite her initial terror, Lollar approached the situation positively.
"It was never a death sentence for me, I was never worried about that, but I was mostly worried about losing my hair and the common girl stuff," Lollar said with a laugh.
The initial shock eventually subsided, but then the reality of Lollar's diagnosis set in. This meant myriad visits to St. Joseph's, where doctors probed her and peppered her with questions. Lollar underwent surgery to check her lymph nodes and put in a port. But worst of all, she was scheduled to begin chemotherapy.
Lollar showed up for the first day of chemo ready to tackle this obstacle. But before beginning treatment, her doctor revealed another shocker: She was pregnant.
"I was like, "No way!" Because I was single, I wasn't expecting or trying, and it just all kind of happened," Lollar said. "Then it was, 'How do we do this treatment and keep the baby safe?'"
Even the doctors didn't exactly know what to do.
"My doctors had never had a case like this before, and it was all a new world," Lollar said. "He was recommending me to go see this person, and Mayo Clinic was involved, and I was talking to all kinds of specialists. It was just, 'Find out as much as you can as quick as you can because we have to move forward.'"
Lollar decided to continue her chemotherapy treatment at St. Joseph's, despite the health risks to her and her baby.
"Of course there was a risk, but the treatment wasn't that bad at all, I sailed right through it easily, which I don't like telling people because I know it wasn't as easy for a lot of others," Lollar said.
On June 4, 2013, Lollar gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Hadley Rae. Ten days later, she returned to St. Joseph's to continue her chemo.
Two years removed from a pair of life-changing revelations, Lollar thanks the support of friends, family, medical staff, and in particular her parents, whom she moved in with during the pregnancy.
"Without them, I would have been lost on a daily basis, trying to go to doctors meetings and not understanding," Lollar said.
It was Lollar's sister-in-law that informed her of the Honorary Bat Girl Contest and persuaded her to enter. Lollar submitted her story and a picture. After that, she simply let the campaigning run its course.
"We rallied for votes, I got all my family on board, and they told all their coworkers what was going on, and I got all my coworkers involved, and so then, I made it past the voting step," Lollar said.
After passing the first round of voting, she received a call from Matt Slamon of Major League Baseball last April. A panel of judges, including MLB players Pablo Sandoval, Evan Longoria and Freddie Freeman, country singer Jason Aldean and MLB Network host and reporter Sam Ryan, selected Lollar to represent Kansas City.
On Friday, Lollar stood near home plate before the game against the Orioles, grinning ear-to-ear as she took in batting practice from her beloved Royals -- and her favorite player Salvador Perez -- with her entire family.
Lollar is nearly out of the woods with treatment. Chemotherapy concludes in June, at which point they'll celebrate Hadley Rae's first birthday.
"We're ready to be done, but we're happy where we're at, too," Lollar said. "I have high expectations for the future … I'm going places."
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com.