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Beyond Boobs! Founder Shares Realities of Coping with Breast Cancer

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“The signs are consistent with breast cancer.” These were among the last words Lisa Lynch heard from her doctor while she held her husband’s hand, sitting in front of an x-ray of her breast. The world faded around her along with her signature smile. According to Mary Beth Gibson, founder of nonprofit organization Beyond Boobs!, the docudrama “The C Word” was “very real” and captured pivotal moments in a cancer patient’s life very accurately.
 
Gibson, a third-generation breast cancer patient, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 41 years old. After a double mastectomy, she is now in remission. Her organization Beyond Boobs! was born from a small support group she formed while she had cancer.
 
As Gibson watched Sheridan Smith play writer Lisa Lynch in the film, an adaptation of Lynch’s candid autobiography by the same name and derived from her blog “Alright Tit,” she remembered having the same look on her face when her doctor, "Dr. D," delivered the same news. In her blog "My Year of Healing," Gibson wrote a post reflecting on the one-year anniversary of her preliminary diagnosis: “One year ago today is when I first heard the words that would change my life forever... ‘You have breast cancer.’ Actually, Dr. D didn't use those exact words. I can see her now, standing by the ultrasound screen, pointing at a large spot on the image of my right breast saying something to the effect of, ‘This is definitely cancer that we are dealing with.’”
 
In the film, when Lynch’s biopsy confirmed she had stage three cancer, she was the one who comforted her husband and family because she was already in recovery mode following the initial shock. “Carry on as you are and I will deal with all of this on my own. Or you can pack it in now and do it with me!” Lynch said in the film.
 
Similarly, Gibson began coping from the first conversation with her doctor because she already knew what her testing results would say. She recalls having the same “you’re with me or you’re not” attitude that Lynch had toward her loved ones. “[Dr. D] was so certain in her delivery of this news that I never doubted for a second while we awaited the biopsy results that she was correct in her diagnosis. And she was,” Gibson wrote in her blog.
 
As the head of a national organization that helps women cope with breast cancer, she recommends different methods that help patients deal with their emotions in the most positive way possible. Though she dislikes the rose-colored approach of many support networks that treat cancer as a “gift,” she promotes a positive attitude and says humor is essential. “Laughter is healing,” Gibson said when discussing Lynch’s comical yet honest account of her journey. “I liked reading that she called herself a cancer bitch, but not cancer’s bitch.”
 
Among the American Cancer Society’s recommendations are for newly diagnosed patients to surround themselves with family and friends, seek spiritual support, and exercise. Gibson tells Beyond Boobs! members that it’s very important to allow others to take care of them and urges them to put themselves first. These priorities are emphasized because it can be difficult for women to allow others to nurture them, she said.
 
Many patients, such as Lynch and Gibson, also find solace in writing. Sharing their stories through blogs helps patients find comfort in the shared experience of coping with cancer. “When you write it, you don’t have to think about it,” Gibson said.
 
Reading can be equally comforting, Gibson said. Just as Lynch’s book “The C Word” became a favorite for counselors recommending literature that heals, Gibson's go-to book is “Love, Medicine, and Miracles,” by Bernie Siegel.
 
This October, Gibson welcomed breast cancer awareness month in Ireland and Scotland on a birthday trip she bought for herself when she “joined the half-century club this year.”
 
“My Mom died of breast cancer at 55 so she never made it out of this decade. It was a great reminder for me to stop talking about doing things and just do them!” Gibson said.
 
Find airtimes for “The C Word” on Link TV or stream it for two weeks on linktv.org.

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