Lt. Col. Taysha Gibbs’ first routine mammogram saved her life.
She was diagnosed last December with Stage Four metastatic breast cancer and has had her Human Resources staff by her side every step of the way. Gibbs was holding a meeting on her porch when the call came in regarding what type of cancer she had. Though in shock, she was glad to know what she was facing.
“It was a little overwhelming,” said Gibbs, who joined the Louisiana National Guard in 1997. “It hit me for a minute, then I had to breathe and go on and know that whatever it is, God got me to and He’ll get me through it.”
God, her family, and her team at the National Guard.
1st Lt. James Wells, who has worked with Gibbs for the past year, said she is someone the team would “follow through fire.”
“She’s very charismatic and humble and makes you want to follow her wherever she goes,” Wells said.
As such, the team threw its support behind her immediately, sending gifts, letting her know they’re there for her, and wearing pink wristbands in her honor. Another team currently deployed to Iraq is flying a breast cancer awareness flag flying at its station.
“It just melts my heart because I wasn’t expecting all this,” Gibbs said. “I have so much gratitude and thankfulness for all this overall. It makes my heart smile.”
Read more: Soldier continues fight against metastatic breast cancer
The HRO also started “Pink Fridays,” according to Maj. Chayana Walters.
“Whatever she needs, we’re there. But it was always like that,” Walters said. “We got that family-oriented work space. So we’re family, and if anything happens with family we really [work] together and ensure that that person is mentally secure.”
Walters, who has known Gibbs since 2008, said when she learned of Gibbs’ diagnosis, her initial reaction was shock.
“She’s like my sister from another mother almost,” Walters said, “and it was awful, but I told her she was better than me because she took it very well.”
Gibbs is an inspiration to anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis – especially because of her mental attitude, according to Walters.
“Just in her reaction and how she goes through her day, it’s a beautiful sight to see,” Walters said, “and I’m glad to be here for her. I love her.”
Read more: Sailor credits mindset, support with helping her fight cancer
Gibbs chose to share her journey on social media in hopes of helping someone else, whether soldiers, airmen, guardsmen and women, or civilians.
“I don’t need self-affirmation or attention,” Gibbs said. “It’s for awareness.”
Roughly 700 female veterans – or one in eight – who are part of the VA health care system receive breast cancer diagnoses, according to the VA.
When Gibbs informed her fellow National Guard members about the metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, she said she made a point to tell them she was still capable of working.
Seeing Gibbs’ approach to the diagnosis has made everyone work harder, according to Wells.
“It makes us go the extra mile,” he said. “For her going through that, she has a family, has two kids and her husband. Just being able to persevere through these hard times.”
Brig. Gen. Keith Waddell, Louisiana National Guard Adjutant General, said Gibbs had done a “tremendous job” serving the country and the state of Louisiana.
“I feel confident that she will overcome this challenge just as she has done throughout her life,” Waddell said via email. “Geaux Team Taysha.”
Everyone faces challenges in life, according to Gibbs, and it’s OK to lean on others for support. She also reminded women to schedule yearly checkups and mammograms. And to know their family history.
“If you didn’t think it could happen to you, I’m a prime example that it can,” she said. “You can be healthy on the outside and something can be hurting you on the inside.”Read comments