Mary Gilbert (left) and her son, Corey, were ambassadors for Georgia during a trip to the District of Columbia in 2006, as part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Mary Gilbert, a 15-year breast cancer survivor, has not had any recurrences since her 1996 diagnosis. She said she is active with the American Cancer Society, a strong advocate of breast cancer awareness, and a voice of hope for those bearing the disease.
Gilbert said that when she gets her mammograms, she is hopeful nothing funny will be found, especially since her son is getting married in February. “So far, I’ve been blessed with no [breast cancer], and I’ve had friends who’ve had [breast cancer again],” she said.
She gets mammograms each year at Southern Crescent Breast Specialists, P.C., in Jonesboro. She said she trusts Dr. Davis Timbert, of Southern Crescent Breast Specialists.
“I often feel like a warrior fighting against the cancer entity,” Timbert responded.
Gilbert said she is getting ready to participate in the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Atlanta, Ga.—5K Walk.” The event is scheduled for Oct. 29, at 8 a.m., in Centennial Olympic Park.
Gilbert is the team leader for The Pink Kitties Team, which is enrolled in the walk. The team she helped spearhead has been working to raise money for breast cancer research, for this event, she said. The McDonough resident said another American Cancer Society event she is involved in, is “Relay For Life of Henry County.” She is part of the event’s steering committee, which held a meeting earlier this month. Planning has already begun for next year, she said.
She added that she is also heavily involved with the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program. Her responsibility is to connect volunteers to people who’ve been recently diagnosed. This serves as a way to give hope to patients that there is life after breast cancer.
She also speaks to the community about the disease, hoping to raise awareness. Most recently, she said, she was a guest speaker at Georgia State University, and at Southern Belle Farm in McDonough, and also spoke to members of the Young Professionals of Henry County.
“I talk about being a long-time breast cancer survivor, and how much it means, and encourage women who haven’t gotten their mammograms to get their mammograms,” said Gilbert.
She said, though she is active with the American Cancer Society, she had to step back from her Congressional District lead position for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. She said her age is catching up to her, and the position requires one to travel to the District of Columbia and talk to government leaders about the importance of funding for cancer research. She said there is a lead position for each Congressional District in Georgia.
“This year, advocacy-wise, I stepped back a little bit, because I just turned 63 and the trips to [D.C.] just kind of got to the point where it was hard for me to do all the walking,” she said. Dawn Guy is her replacement in that position, Gilbert said, adding that it was Guy, who was the nurse at her side in 1997, when her reconstructive surgery went wrong. The incident brought them together as friends.
Guy said she and the outgoing Gilbert have been close friends for 15 years. She said Gilbert has been a fighter since she was diagnosed in 1996. “You can have 100 patients, and they are not all your friends. But for some reason, Mary is my friend,” said Guy. “Mary will always be my friend, I will always be her friend.”
“She helped take care of me when I was trying to heal from that, and she has been a blessing in my life,” Gilbert said.
She explained that the federal government is the No. 1 funder of cancer research, while the American Cancer Society is the No. 1 non-profit funder. “The money goes to the [ U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the National Institutes of Health,” she said.
Gilbert said if a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer during its early stages, she has a 98 percent chance of survival. “This is why mammograms are important for all ages. There are young women who have been diagnosed with the disease, who have no family history,” she added.
“I encourage [women] to tell their mothers, grandmothers, friends, everybody to go get their mammograms, [because] mammograms save lives,” she said. “It saved mine.”