She’s a lover of all things fashion and beauty and has the most uplifting and radiant personality. She’s also a 27-year-old breast cancer survivor. Her name is Gabrielle Curb.
A few weeks ago when I returned to work, I wanted my first story back to be a feature of a breast cancer survivor in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I had been following Gabrielle’s story on Facebook for about two years. Throughout her entire journey, I watched how she exuded so much confidence.
We had about an hour conversation over the phone. Full of smiles, laughter and a few tears. Gabrielle is a true soldier. Here’s her story.
**This article was also published in The Bolivar Commercial newspaper in Cleveland, Mississippi**
Gabrielle Curb was 27 when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer on Feb. 27, 2015.
When Gabrielle first found out, she did not take the news well. She admitted that she lost all faith, but with the help and support of her family, she quickly gained it back.
After three visits to the doctor because of a sharp throbbing pain under her armpit, it was confirmed that Gabrielle was in the aggressive stage of breast cancer.
“When I found out, I was in denial, heartbroken, and I don’t know, I just wasn’t myself anymore,” Gabrielle said.
“You know they tell us to get mammograms when we’re like 40.”
According to the Young Survival Coalition, a website dedicated solely to younger women diagnosed with breast cancer, breast cancer in young women is rare.
When a younger woman is affected, the disease tends to be more aggressive.
During Gabrielle’s first two doctor visits, the doctors thought a cyst was what had grown under Gabrielle’s armpit. They gave her antibiotics, which worked only for a short amount of time. The sharp pains eventually came back.
“Because it was under my armpit, the doctors just felt it was a cyst or boil, and that it will come to a drainage,” said Gabrielle. “So I went back to the same emergency room and told them I’ve been using the same antibiotics, that the ‘cyst’ went down, but it came back.”
She said the doctors ended up giving her a higher dosage of the medicine.
At Gabrielle’s third doctor’s visit to a different hospital, the doctors decided to run different tests on her.
“When I went back, the doctors came in and took a biopsy, a mammogram to examine my breasts, they took ultrasounds, and that’s when they called me back with the results saying it was breast cancer,” said Gabrielle.
“After that, I just completely shut down.”
Gabrielle was at work when she found out the news and immediately called her older sister, Katrina Sanders in Cleveland.
“All of my family came and took care of me, and we all went to speak to the doctor so that we could take the next step as far the treatment and everything,” said Gabrielle.
Gabrielle was given the options of having surgery to get one side removed or getting all of her lymph nodes taken out.
She decided to go with a double mastectomy.
“I just decided to be breastless because I didn’t want a chance of it coming to the other side even though it was under my arm. I didn’t want a chance of it moving to the other side at all. I didn’t want to go through that dealing with all of that cutting again,” she said.
Gabrielle went through surgery at the Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson. She received her treatments at St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson.
She went through eight rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.
“Every time I went to go and receive my treatments, I was the youngest person in there, and I just didn’t feel like myself,” she said. “I used to hate seeing the older women go through that because they look so weak, and I didn’t like that.”
One of Gabrielle’s favorite things to do is makeup as well as her sister Katrina.
Because both are makeup artists, Gabrielle had her sister to apply her makeup before her surgery and every doctor visit she had after that.
“I couldn’t go into surgery without having my face beat (slang for beautiful) because I couldn’t wake up and people be standing around me, and I’m sitting there looking sick, bald, and my face not made,” Gabrielle laughed. “I just couldn’t!”
She said with getting both her breasts removed, it caused her to become unbalanced, which the doctors later explained to her.
“I had to go through a day therapy. I didn’t know that getting my breasts removed would cause you to be so unbalanced and your upper body would be so weak that you would lose your balance to walk,” she said.
Gabrielle said she is thankful for all of the support she received from her family and friends during that time. She added people she did not even know would reach out to her with encouraging words as well.
Gabrielle said, “After my support team just really showed me love, they would call, and drive down, they uplifted my spirits, and it made me realize, okay, ‘Let me pull myself together.’ They didn’t want me to deal with it on my own.
“My family took great care of me. They stayed with me and helped around the house, took care of everything, helped with my child and made sure he made it to school on time,” said Gabrielle.
Gabrielle has an 8-year-old son named Byron Brown who also kept her in good spirits throughout her journey.
Since Oct. 6, Gabrielle has been two years in the clear of the disease. She went on to complete her degree in Biology and Pre-Veterinary from Jackson State University and graduated in May 2017.
She wants to encourage all men and women especially young women to get examined regularly.
“Cancer does not have an age, race, or anything. As soon as you feel symptoms or feel your body changing, go get checked out. If you feel any lump, any bump, just go and get checked out because you never know what it could be. It could be anybody,” she said.