Gwen Bibb and Charlie Lyon
Dan Poss

Inside the Calendar: A mother fights hard to keep smiling

Editor's Note: In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Sounders FC and the American Cancer Society released a 2016 calendar featuring Sounders players and Seattle-area breast cancer survivors. The calendar is currently available at all Sounders FC Pro Shop locations, and all proceeds will be donated to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Seattle, the local affiliate of the American Cancer Society. asked the survivors featured in the calendar to submit their stories, and the first in this series was provided by Gwendolyn Bibb (above, with Sounders goalkeeper Charlie Lyon).

In September 2014, I heard two words that would change my life and the lives of so many close to me forever - "It's malignant". Because I was only 37 and had no family history, I was completely shocked. Things happened very quickly and within the week, I learned that I have Triple Negative Breast Cancer, a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer that lacks a targeted treatment.

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Much has happened since then and my body has been through so much. I no longer have breasts. I endured many rounds of chemo, only to learn that my body wasn't responsive to chemo. I spent 7 days in the hospital with a terrible infection and was almost discharged to a skilled nursing facility. I completed 32 rounds of radiation. And I was done with treatment. Or so I thought.

Just 10 short months after learning of my disease, I progressed to Stage IV breast cancer. In spite of taking advantage of all the treatment available to me, my cancer has metastasized to my chest wall, lungs, skin and internal mammary nodes. My disease is no longer curable and I will be in treatment for the rest of my life.....which quite frankly, could be rather short if something doesn't work soon.

In spite of all this, I've fought hard to keep smiling and dig deep to find my bravery. I refuse to die before I die and my hope is that I can make an impact on the breast cancer world before I journey home.

Part of that impact is helping people understand what it means to live with metastatic breast cancer. Women don’t die from the initial lump they find. We die because the disease spreads to other parts of our body and eventually consumes it. I don’t get to celebrate years of survivorship. That is, unless a major research breakthrough happens that can save me.

My goal when I was first diagnosed was to make it to my youngest daughter’s high school graduation, eight and a half years. My progression to Stage IV and the lack of success I’ve had with treatment makes that goal highly unlikely. I now find myself bargaining for the end of this school year. My days are spent managing an unmanageable disease, planning gifts and writing letters for important occasions such as turning 16, getting the acceptance letter from college, wedding days and the births of my future grandchildren. Conversations with loved ones are long. Goodbyes with visiting friends are much more intense and the weight of the goodbye incredibly heavy.

In the last year, I know of 23 women who have died from triple negative breast cancer. Most of them died within three years of diagnosis. They represent more than 50 children. Think about that….in one year, more than 50 children that I know of have lost their mother to one subset of breast cancer. We have to end this. Please support breast cancer research so this doesn’t become another mother’s story.