Sisters 'beating the odds' against breast cancer

October 18, 2012

Now, they want to help other women "Beat the odds of breast cancer."

When the women in Fran Gibson's family get together, the room is filled with laughter and love.

These close-knit sisters and now their daughters stand by each other through thick and thin, including breast cancer.

Barbara was the first sister to get the diagnosis.

It struck Mary Jo a few years later. She was the heart and soul of the sisters, organizing their many adventures.

"She was a very giving person," said Fran.

So, when what seemed like back pain turned out to be metastatic breast cancer, it hit the family hard.

"It had already gone from her lymph nodes to her bones," said Fran.

"We just jumped into caring for her right away," said Fran's daughter Gina Gibson.

As they cared for Mary Jo, the other sisters also took action to get tested.

Mammograms and ultrasounds were negative, but they pressed for MRIs.

"Sure enough, there was cancer there," said Fran.

"Within three months time since she got diagnosed, there it was right on me, too. So she saved my life," said Janie Vitale.

In the end, Anita is the only one of the 5 sisters not to develop breast cancer, and none of them carry any of the known genes linked to it.

Mary Jo died 4 years ago, but her family still remembers how she stood up to cancer, never feeling sorry for her plight.

"She looked him straight in the eye, and said - there's no boo-hoo here," said Fran.

Both generations are now vocal advocates for a healthy lifestyle, testing, and knowing your family history.

"You really want to pass on the education to your family members," said Colleen Guille.

"Early detection was everything," said Janie.

If you would like to join the battle against breast cancer, the American Cancer Society's annual Making Strides Run and Walk it this Saturday, October 20th at 8:00 a.m., starting at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park.

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