In her early 30s and with “a wonderful child, wonderful husband and a great career,” Dawn DeCook-Gibson says the last thing she expected was a breast cancer diagnosis. Following the initial shock of the news, Dawn, from Chandler, Arizona, sought out doctors at Mayo Clinic and was guided through her treatment and recovery by Donald Northfelt, M.D., her oncologist, and Barbara Pockaj, M.D., her surgeon.
“I was diagnosed with stage 2b lobular carcinoma breast cancer last year,” she says. “I was in shock … everything just seemed like it was perfect, and then the diagnosis came in. Honestly, it stopped me in my tracks.”
One of her family members had received care at Mayo’s Arizona campus and recommended that Dawn do the same. “She was adamant that I go to Mayo Clinic,” Dawn says.
Her treatment included chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and another round of chemotherapy. It concluded with six weeks of proton radiation therapy, for which she was referred to another facility. Today, she’s continuing a course of tamoxifen oral medication, which she’ll take for 10 years.
The hardest part, Dawn says, was telling her young daughter. But Mayo offered a child therapist, who helped help her through it. “She asked me questions about my daughter to figure out her temperament,” she says. “I wrote down everything she advised.”
Dawn told her daughter about her diagnosis before beginning chemotherapy.
“That was really hard, but we prayed through it,” she says. “She has more of an appreciation for life, as well, and it just has made our family so much stronger. I’m thankful for it, believe it or not.”
Her advice to others who find themselves in similar circumstance?
“I would definitely say, first and foremost, be your advocate your own proponent for your own health,” Dawn says.
She quickly adds, “Make sure you seek great medical care. I would say Mayo was just unparalleled amazingness. Everything about them is wonderful,” she says. “They want to cure you. And they’re going to do everything in their power to give you that hope, to give you that treatment that will lead you forward … I can’t imagine going anywhere else … it’s a blessing, Mayo is a blessing.”
In the video below, Dawn shares the story of her double mastectomy and her follow up care.