Brighton Twp. Mom Takes Proactive Approach Against Breast Cancer
Tanya Gibson says getting tested and choosing to have a double mastectomy is how she is fighting back.
Having watched many of the female members of her family go through the battle of breast cancer, Tanya Gibson says she always knew that her time could come.
With her grandmother, great-aunts, aunts and mother all being diagnosed with the disease, the Brighton Township woman said she was surrounded by generations of women who had fought for their lives, and she had watched what the disease could do to their bodies.
So, when her doctor approached her three years ago, suggesting she test herself for the BRCA gene by having a blood test that uses DNA analysis to identify the mutations in either one of the two breast cancer susceptibility genes, Gibson agreed.
And when the test came back positive, the then 36-year-old mother of two, said she already knew that her decision would be to have a double mastectomy. It was a decision she said her husband supported.
“He said, you don’t need your breasts, you don’t need your ovaries,” Gibson said. “You just have to be here for your kids.”
Three years later, after having both breasts and her ovaries removed, Gibson says she is proud of her proactive decision to fight breast cancer.
“My grandma got her breast cancer, and she had to go through radiation and ended up having to get a mastectomy anyway,” Gibson said. “And just seeing her, and everyone around me, go through it …why am I going to put myself through that?”
Procedure took an emotional toll
The procedure itself, Gibson said of the mastectomy and implants, wasn’t as physically painful as some may think. She said the process took an emotional toll, one that, even years later, affects her.
“It still gets emotional because they’re not a part of me,” she said. “I feel foreign and yet, nobody would know.”
Gibson says she wants to share her story so other women like her, ones who have the disease in their family history, know they have choices.
“I’m not lucky that I have the gene, but I kind of am, because I had choices that others didn’t have,” she said.
Now, Gibson says, her own children will both eventually be tested, but she is encouraging her 19-year-old daughter to wait.
Gibson said she told her daughter, “I want you to live your life, have your family and enjoy it. And then maybe when you're done having children, I would suggest getting it done.”
With her mother a 10-year survivor of breast cancer, Gibson says that for her family, thinking about the disease isn’t just reserved for national Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
“It’s all year, we don’t just define it in October,” she said.
But the family, which supports breast cancer research and fundraisers, will pull out their “pink gear” this month in the hopes of educating others and saving lives.
“Get tested. Stay strong,” Gibson said. “Your breasts don’t define you, and you have to remember that."