Carla Gibbs is insistent when it comes to letting others know the importance of early breast cancer detection.
The Farmington Middle School teacher says she won’t stop telling friends and loved ones to make an appointment for a mammogram until she knows they have done so.
Gibbs, 45, has a reason to be so persistent – her physician noticed irregularities on a mammogram she had done in January this year.
It was the third mammogram for Gibbs. She had it when a mobile unit visited the school district.
“I didn’t start at age 40 like I should have,” she admits. “But, I’m glad I started when I did.”
A biopsy one month later would lead to the discovery of precancerous tissue, and was followed up with a lumpectomy in April.
Her diagnosis was stage zero ductal carcinoma in situ.
According to the Mayo Clinic, DCIS is the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast and is considered the earliest form of breast cancer.
DCIS does not often show any signs or symptoms, as was the case with Gibbs.
Her oncologist recommended radiation as a preventive treatment for breast cancer.
“My doctor told me if (the cancer) does come back, it typically doesn’t come back as stage zero – it comes back more aggressively,” she said.
Gibbs would begin seven weeks of radiation treatment when classes were dismissed for summer break.
While Gibbs admits the treatments were hard, she was surprised at how quickly she began to feel better once completed.
“It was just a matter of days,” she said.
On Sept. 23, Gibbs was invited to throw out the first pitch for the “Pink-Out” softball game between the Farmington Knightettes and the Central Lady Rebels.
Her husband, Craig, served as the Farmington baseball coach for a number of years, so the ball field holds a special place in their hearts.
Daughter Sydney, 16, was the catcher while daughter Lauren, 10, cheered from the sidelines.
As a Central graduate and Farmington teacher, Gibbs said she was “really honored.”
“It was a fun thing to do,” she said. “A lot of the girls on the Farmington team I had in class.”
Tonight, the Farmington volleyball team hosts its own “Pink-Out” game.
Gibbs was released from her breast cancer oncologist one week before she threw the first pitch. She will still have check-ups with the radiation oncologist at Siteman Cancer Center in South County.
She will take tamoxifen – an estrogen blocker – for the next five years.
Gibbs said she also underwent genetic testing because of family history. Her father had pancreatic cancer and an aunt had a diagnosis similar to her.
Thankfully, Gibbs said, the test came back showing no predisposition.
Gibbs said she’s spoke with a number of individuals since her diagnosis who have similar stories.
“That’s a testament to how much is going into breast cancer research,” she said. “They can catch it so much quicker now.”
She said it’s also important to “be your own advocate.”
“I think a lot of people aren’t advocates for their own healthcare,” she said. “You need to feel comfortable.”
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or email@example.com