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Don’t Let Cancer Steal Your Smile

Posted on September 20, 2016, 1:00 PM

When asked about her #Reasons2StandUp, Kimberly Gibbs confidently responds, “me!” You can hear her smile and the resilience in her voice as she recounts the past year of her life since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “Cancer has taught me to live fearlessly, with the tenacity of a Greek Goddess, which transcends the unimaginable experience of my journey.” To live fearlessly for Kimberly has meant taking advantage of every moment of every day and continuing to laugh, a lot.

 

Kimberly with a smile on her face on her last day of chemo.

On July 18th, 2015, the day of her diagnosis, Kimberly made an important decision that set the course for her cancer journey. “I decided that despite cancer, I am still me,” Kimberly says. She was determined to continue living her life to the fullest and not let the words “cancer patient” define who she would become. For Kimberly, this meant surrounding herself with loved ones to help her through treatment, traveling, continuing with work, laughing and becoming an advocate for her health to help give herself the best chance of survival.

Kimberly also credits her “team” of friends for helping her get through the past year. “I lost my mom in 2014 and was pretty much her sole caretaker, it was overwhelming,” Kimberly recalls. “So when everyone around me started asking me what they could do to help, I decided to accept it and build a team of caretakers to be on my side.” Whether it was a ride to a doctor’s appointment, a friend to sit with her during chemo, a meal or something as simple as a card, every act of kindness made a difference in Kimberly’s life.

 

Kimberly with her team of friends, co-workers, nurses and neighbors who helped her through treatment.

One of the highlights of the past year included celebrating her 50th birthday with friends and family who came from all over to be a part of her special day. “We had a rockin’ party to remind all of my friends that cancer is not a death sentence,” Kimberly remembers. “To celebrate my day with so many people that are important to me was amazing, despite being sick and bald.” She also celebrated the day by paying it forward with a fun game that raised over $500 for a local non-profit cancer support group.

Having a supportive company and co-workers has also helped Kimberly get through the past year. As a Tech Ops IT for American Airlines, she says that having support from her company is incredible and that co-workers have become more like family. “I have one co-worker, Susan, who sends me a card every week and makes me laugh, even on my bad days,” Kimberly says. During a meeting she couldn’t attend last year, Kimberly’s colleagues proudly wore teal scarves (the color for ovarian cancer awareness) and sent her photos as a small way to show her they were all standing up to cancer with her. “People in our lives make the difference and sharing an illness with friends and work colleagues has brought me incredible strength.”

American Airlines stands with Kimberly and with the millions of others affected by cancer every day. Learn more about how they are supporting SU2C research through their Flying Kind campaign here.

Today, Kimberly continues her cancer journey with a smile and a promising prognosis. When asked what her advice was for others facing cancer, Kimberly kindly shared a few tips that were especially helpful during her journey. Accept help from friends and family. Be your best health advocate; ask questions and collaborate with your medical team. Get outside and enjoy life, don’t let cancer define you. Finally, “There will be hard days, I still have them, but whatever you do, don’t let cancer steal your smile.”

A few weeks ago Kimberly continued to celebrate living life to its fullest when she attended the 2016 Stand Up To Cancer live telecast on behalf of American Airlines. “The show was amazing! The staff, the celebrities, everyone there was so kind and interested in taking the time to talk with me.” Seeing the incredible stories and the kind of collaborative research Stand Up To Cancer continues to fund was also a highlight of her trip. “For me, ovarian cancer awareness is so important because the disease is hard to detect and it can go from 0 to 60 so quickly. Knowing that organizations like Stand Up To Cancer are out there getting answers and saving lives gives me hope for the future.”

 

 


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