Valdosta Daily Times

October 24, 2013

Mammograms key to early detection

Desiree Murphy
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Not all breast cancer stories are the same. For some, it can be a story of triumph and proof of the importance of yearly mammograms.

Twyla Gribble is a woman that can attest to their importance. During her yearly mammogram, she was alerted to a problem. The discovery led to a surgical consult, which then led to a biopsy. Initially, they didn’t feel a need for concern.

Returning for the results, still thinking it was nothing major, she stood alone as the doctor gave her the diagnosis: breast cancer.

She discussed her options with her husband, Anthony, son Michael, daughter-in-law Kelly, and other family members. After tragically losing her aunt earlier in life to breast cancer, she came to the conclusion of what surgery would be best for her. She chose to undergo a double mastectomy.

After having her lymph nodes tested in November and finding no cancer present there, her surgery was scheduled. She opted to have her mastectomies and transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap breast reconstruction surgeries done at the same time.

Two days prior to her surgery, her father, Clyde Hillis, suffered a stroke. He was hospitalized at the same time as her surgery. Before checking in for her procedure, she sat with her father. She recalls the uncertainty of not knowing whether either of them would successfully make it out of their medical situations alive.

“It was a long walk from his third-floor room to outpatient check-in,” says Gribble.

Both Gribble and her father recovered from their ordeals without any complications. Gribble was lucky that she did not require any chemo or further treatments after her surgery.

“When you hear cancer, the first thing you think of is chemo,” says Gribble. “I can’t comprehend what chemo would even be like and my heart goes out to those who have to go through it.”

Employed by 1st America Infusion Services and Home Medical Equipment, she feels blessed to have an employer that allowed her to be away from December to February to deal with her medical issues. She is employed as a certified pedorthist — an individual trained to adjust footwear and devices for feet and lower leg conditions, but is now training to help with the mastectomy fittings. Having dealt with breast cancer and going through the surgeries, she feels she can give women first-hand insight into their situation.

“If I could say just one thing to women,” says Gribble, “it would be get your mammograms.”

For a woman whose entire life is her family, Twyla Gribble couldn’t be happier to be given this second chance in life to spend time with her young grandchildren, Drew and Audrey, and to help others with her story.