“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
- Mark Twain
If laughter really is the best medicine, it’s no wonder that Carolyn King and Diana Gilbert survived breast cancer.
Laughing, after all, was the one thing the women say helped them make it through the battle against the disease, which took both by surprise when they were in their early 40s.
King and Gilbert were recently invited to participate in the Dallas Cowboys’ halftime performance Sunday, an event aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer.
“See, there are perks (to getting breast cancer),” King quipped.
Both ladies erupted into laughter at the statement, though they admit the struggle was not easy. Despite the seriousness of the disease, King and Gilbert have made it their mission to educate and support others facing the same experience - all with a perfect mixture of humor and compassion.
In late 1996, at the age of 42, King discovered a lump in her left breast. A mammogram showed no signs of the disease, but the mass continued to grow. In January 1997, during an annual checkup with her gynecologist, her doctor ordered a sonogram and biopsy, which determined that the lump was stage 4 cancer. King had a mastectomy, immediate reconstructive surgery and six months of chemotherapy.
Ten years later King is still going strong.
“I’m still here and kicking - just not as high,” she said.
Gilbert’s breast cancer journey began in April 1999 when she discovered a lump in her right breast while she was getting out of the shower. She was 43.
A series of tests confirmed the mass was cancer. The good news was that it was still in the early stages.
Like King, Gilbert had a mastectomy, immediate reconstructive surgery and four months of chemotherapy.
Soon after her diagnosis Gilbert received a call from King, whom she did not know.
“Carolyn (King) was my Reach to Recovery volunteer,” Gilbert said.
Reach to Recovery is a program sponsored by the American Cancer Society (ACS) in which volunteers who have battled the disease help those who are struggling.
During Gilbert’s treatment and recovery, King sent her cards, flowers and words of encouragement.
Today, the friendship is still going strong. The two shared their favorite story from Gilbert’s own road to recovery.
They recalled that before her diagnosis, Gilbert and her husband had planned a trip to Montana with friends. At first, Gilbert wanted to cancel the trip but eventually opted to forge ahead.
After several rounds of chemotherapy - and just before they were set to leave - Gilbert’s hair began falling out.
“Parts of my hair are scattered in every state between Texas and Montana,” Gilbert said. “When we got to the cabin, my husband shaved off the rest.”
The memory sent the two into another fit of laughter.
The two agree, however, that the journey back to health was not easy, but one that can be conquered.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat this,” King said. “Cancer is hard. The treatments are no fun, but they are doable.”
Laughter, modern medicine and faith seemed to have been the perfect cure for these women.
“Faith is what gets you through,” Gilbert said. “I knew this was in God’s hands.”
“And God puts those people in your life who you need,” King said.
As the women continue their journeys together, the two will meet again Sunday - this time on a football field in Dallas, where thousands of people will watch as 100 breast cancer survivors unite in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.