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Faith, family and co-workers help teacher survive breast cancer

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Bev Gibson

RESIDES: North Vernon

AGE: 50.

JOB: Teacher at Graham Creek Elementary School in Commiskey


TREATMENT: Double mastectomy, chemo therapy and radiation


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NORTH VERNON — Having survived a bout with breast cancer, Bev Gibson’s learned to slow down and appreciate the simpler things in life.

“Because I was forced to slow down … for almost a year, I can enjoy sitting in the swing and walking around watching the plants, seeing how much they’ve grown from one day to the other. I was too busy,” Gibson said of her pre-cancer days, which were little more than a year ago.

In September 2010, Gibson found a lump in one of her breasts.

“I kind of thought the worst because it was an obvious lump … it was pretty apparent that there was something wrong and I don’t know why it took so long to realize it was there,” she said.

The North Vernon native acknowledged that she wasn’t as diligent as she probably should have been about self-examinations.

Gibson’s family had no history of cancer, and the Graham Creek Elementary teacher missed her annual mammogram last year because it conflicted with the start of a new school year and she did not want to miss a day of school.

Upon making the discovery, Gibson quickly contacted her doctor, who arranged for a biopsy.

On Sept. 24, high school classmate Tammy Creech, who now works for Columbus Regional Hospital’s Breast Health Center as a nurse navigator, delivered the news.

Gibson had Stage 3 breast cancer, meaning the cancer had spread from breast tissue into her lymph nodes.

Gibson informed her principal, Peggy Fear, who referred her to fellow teacher Kim Sullivan, who had survived a similar breast cancer diagnosis six years before.

Aside from the considerable support she got from her co-workers, Gibson credited her faith in God and her family with getting her through a difficult time.

“The support that I get from my husband is unbelievable,” she said of Burt Gibson, to whom she’s been married for 31 years.

Learning of Gibson’s illness brought out of a side of Burt she had never seen before.

He intuitively knew when she needed him to take charge and when she needed him to back off, she said.

Bev said working through her disease also strengthened her bond with daughters Ashley Parker and Rylee Goins.

Her faith also was instrumental in getting her that difficult time.

A member of the Butlerville Mennonite Church, Gibson recalled praying with her husband and believes God gave her two words: strength and grace.

Leafing through their Bibles, the family found a verse that contained both words, II Timothy 2:1, which reads in part, “... be strong through the grace that is Christ Jesus.”“I was blessed with peace of mind,” Bev said. “I always knew that we and the doctors were doing all we could do.”

Although there were several treatment options available to her, Gibson opted to undergo a double mastectomy.

“It was kind of like ‘OK, this is a no brainer. If there’s no breast tissue anywhere in your body then you’re not going to get breast cancer again,’” Bev said of her decision.

She had the surgery on Oct. 25, 2010, roughly a month after her diagnosis, and a follow-up surgery to remove additional lymph nodes.

Rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment caused her to lose her hair.

The fact that their teacher all of a sudden began wearing hats to class did not go unnoticed by Bev’s students.

“There were some teachable moments because of it and the questions kids asked,” Bev said.

Most of her students had heard of breast cancer, but had never been personally affected by it.

Some students just were envious that Mrs. Gibson was allowed to wear hats in the school building and they were not, she said.

“It’s not that scary to young kids as it is to older people, I don’t think,” she said of her students’ somewhat surprising reaction to her battle with cancer.

The youngsters soon seemed to forget about their teacher’s condition and went about their business, which was refreshing to Bev, because she did not want to be viewed as just a cancer patient.

“I didn’t want to be defined as the person who needed to be checked on,” she said.

“It’s good to have people who care and are concerned, but sometimes you don’t even want to think about it for a day or two.”

Cancer already has robbed Bev and her family of roughly a year of their lives and she doesn’t want to give it any more time than absolutely necessary.

However, the experience caused her to re-evaluate what’s important in life.

“I don’t focus so much on things that didn’t happen and haven’t happened and I thought I wanted to happen. I appreciate things that have happened,” she said.

In a way, she would like to forget the whole ordeal.

“I know I’m fortunate,” she said.

“It’s good to see the people with their pink ribbons on and all that stuff and you’re happy for the support, but sometimes it’s too in your face,” she said.

“The world would be better without cancer.”


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