Teacher and golf coach Dawn Gibbs of Friendswood kept her bout with cancer quiet at first — she didn’t want to worry her students.
So, her bilateral mastectomy was scheduled the Monday after school was out in June of 2013.
“The kids didn’t need that burden,” said Gibbs, who got into teaching four years ago after a career in the oil and gas industry. “When I got the cancer diagnosis, I really didn’t tell a lot of people.
“I just told my family and my principal. I kept it to myself for a long, long time because I didn’t know what the next steps were going to be and what the prognosis was.”
The prognosis was good. A small malignancy had been discovered after a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. This type of cancer could likely occur in her other breast as well, so both breasts were removed and implants replaced them in surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
No chemotherapy or radiation was required. Gibbs returned to Westbrook Intermediate School in Friendswood the fall of 2013 appearing unchanged, except she had shrunk a bra size.
“I never felt sick; I never really felt like I had cancer,” said Gibbs, 48, who teaches 8th grade computer applications and career exploration. “It’s like, there was something in there, they cut it out and things are fine.”
A year later, Gibbs realizes the cancer changed her inwardly. “I feel like cancer gave me so much more than what it took from me,” she said.
“It definitely strengthened my faith. It gave me a deeper appreciation and admiration of these doctors and their brilliant mindset and skills and what they’re capable of doing.
“I had so many people praying for me; I was on prayer lists. It just made me look at things a little bit different.
“I kind of joke, but I really did say a prayer; I told God, I don’t think my face is pretty enough to pull off the bald head. I feel like maybe he agreed because I never had to go through the chemo. I never lost my hair.”
Now Gibbs tells her cancer story quietly, emphasizing the importance of early detection, giving a humble testimony of the best of outcomes. “I’d always wanted smaller boobs and I got them,” she said.
“I didn’t have to miss a lot of work. My continuing treatment is a medication. And you know what — the medication made me lose a little weight.
She teaches eighth graders about careers and hopes to steer some of them toward the health field so they can help others as she was helped. “Now, I want to draw on my experience to maybe instill the passion, the focus and the dedication to some of my students that they might pursue some sort of diagnostic career in the health science field,” she said.
Gibbs is back to playing golf again and making plans for the future. She’s still adjusting to the implants.
“I think my golf swing is better, but my game hasn’t improved,” she said.
“That’s yet to be determined.”