, December 19, 2014 | More Post by

Mother Confronts Cancer Again with Daughter’s Diagnosis

Mary McLean comes from a long line of women named Mary. She continued that particular family tradition when she named her daughter, Boober! Mary Ashby. To cut down on confusion, the elder Mary goes by Ms. Mary. Ms. Mary and her daughter share more than a name, though. They were also both diagnosed with breast cancer.

The first time around

Ms. Mary was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in November of 2002 after she felt a bump while performing a routine self-exam.

“I felt something that didn’t feel quite right, so I went to my family doctor,” Ms. Mary explained.

Ms. Mary will never forget how she felt when she heard the diagnosis. “It was chilling,” she said. “My main thought was that I had to try to have a positive point of view. I told myself that I was going to be OK.”

She was 60 years old when she was diagnosed. Ms. Mary went through chemo and radiation and had a lumpectomy performed on her left breast. She turned to a friend in South Carolina for support; the two had been members of the same church. Ms. Mary called her friend after receiving the news because she knew her friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a double mastectomy.

“She provided a lot of support and encouraged me to hang in there,” Ms. Mary said. “Sadly, she has since passed away.”

The second time around

In August of 2013 Ms. Mary’s daughter, Mary Ashby, felt a lump in her breast during a routine self-exam. Mary had always performed self-exams, but her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis had made her even more aware of their benefits. “Mary had been told before that she had lumpy breasts,” Ms. Mary said. “They told her she was too young to have breast cancer and passed it off.”

After Mary moved from Fairfax, Virginia, to Williamsburg, she found a lump in her breast and under her arm. She went to the ER and they sent her to a doctor, who found a lump in her breast and sent her to have a mammogram. She insisted they find out what was going on and a mammogram and biopsy were performed on her left breast.

Mary was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at only 35 years old.

“I felt that same chill I experienced when I was diagnosed,” Ms. Mary said. “It was like repeating my own experience.” Ms. Mary was relieved that doctors had delivered a diagnosis, even though the prospect of cancer was frightening. “We were happy to finally know what was going on,” she said. “After you find out what is happening, it is easier to deal with it.”

Mary underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as a mastectomy. Her husband and mother both accompanied her to appointments for treatment.

As a mother, it was difficult for Ms. Mary to see her daughter go through cancer treatment. “Lots of things go through your mind when you see your child sick,” Ms. Mary said. “I gave her all of the love, understanding, and support that I could give. I just kept saying ‘Lord, give me the strength to keep holding on.’”

Embracing Life2MaryShades

Ms. Mary is grateful that her daughter has a group like Beyond Boobs! to turn to for help and guidance. “They have been through the same things she has,” Ms. Mary said. “They understand how she feels from day to day.”

Ms. Mary doesn’t believe in pity parties and she encourages everyone to live life to the fullest, no matter what. “Many times people aren’t going to understand what you’re going through because they haven’t been there,” she said. “But you need to enjoy life. If you can afford something and want to do it, do it. It can be something as simple as going out to lunch, shopping, or attending church. Anything that gets you out and keeps you going.”

Ms. Mary credits her faith for helping her and her family through the rough patches in life. “The Lord has kept us thus far, and we believe that He will continue to guide us from here,” she said.



, December 05, 2014 | More Post by

More than Words:  Husband’s Support Speaks Volumes

Bo Gibson admits he is a man of few words. Yet he doesn’t need to say much to convey his deep love and affection for his wife, Beyond Boobs! co-founder Mary Beth Gibson. His tender tone when he describes the moment he first saw her says it all for him.

“I took one look at her dark hair and fair complexion and I fell in love,” Bo said. He even remembers what she was wearing that day – a long dress with little flowers on it. “That dress is still hanging up in our closet after all these years,” he said.

Seizing the moment

Bo and a buddy were doing landscaping work in Richmond when the woman in the house next door came over to ask them if they would remove a shrub from under her deck. The two agreed and after the task was complete Bo knew he couldn’t just walk away.

“When I see something I want I go for it,” he said. “I knew that I might never have the chance to speak with her again, so I asked her out right then and there.”

Bo and Mary Beth had their first date at a restaurant called Mulligan’s. The man of few words suddenly found himself talking with Mary Beth for hours. That night they ignited a spark that flared during the good times – 16 years of marriage and three sons, and lit their way through the bad times – a breast cancer diagnosis and a double mastectomy.

The enemy within

Bo was terrified when Mary Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had encountered the disease before when her grandmother and mother were diagnosed, but for Bo it was his first time helping a loved one face the disease.

“Whenever I had been confronted with a problem in life before I always fought it head on,” Bo said. “With my wife’s cancer diagnosis I felt vulnerable, like everything was out of my control.”

Even though Bo struggled with putting his emotions into words, he vowed to be there for Mary Beth in any way he could. He went to every chemo appointment with her and the two would watch funny movies to help boost her spirits and keep her focused on recovery.

“I wanted to be there for her during her treatment,” Bo said. “The physical stuff didn’t bother me at all.”

When Mary Beth chose to have a double mastectomy, he was by her side. She did not elect to have reconstruction surgery, but her scars could never alter Bo’s opinion of the beautiful woman he fell in love with. “I didn’t marry her for her boobs,” he said. “When she had her surgeries that was the last thing on my mind.”

Same love, new journeyBo&MaryBeth

The couple’s direction in life took another turn when Mary Beth started Beyond Boobs! in 2006. She wanted to provide support for young breast cancer survivors and promote breast health information for all and Bo supported her completely. “I thought Beyond Boobs! was a cool idea,” he said. “She enjoyed being with other women who all had something in common.”

Like many couples, Bo and Mary Beth do their best to keep the spark alive while juggling work and kids. Their three sons, Cole, Clay, and Lance, keep them on their toes. “When it comes to staying connected, we’re still trying to figure that out,” Bo admitted with a laugh.

Bo’s experiences with his wife’s breast cancer reaffirmed his belief that family is the most important thing in life. “From the bottom of my heart, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my family,” he said. “After everything that we have been through, my love for Mary Beth hasn’t changed. Every day is a good day for us and I can’t imagine being married to anybody else.”


Category: Blog

, December 01, 2014 | More Post by

Breast Cancer Can’t Break Bond between Mother and Daughter

Stephanie Graves remembers how she felt while pregnant with her first child and the doctor tried to determine the baby’s sex by the heartbeat. She wasn’t sure whether she would be having a boy or a girl but she just had a feeling she was going to have a daughter.

Stephanie was far away from her family in Germany when she gave birth to her first child in the States. She held her little girl and so many thoughts crowded into her mind.

“I wanted her to have a better life than me,” Stephanie said. “I wanted her to have a great career and be a great young lady. I wanted everything for her.”

A childhood full of great memories

It seemed Stephanie’s little girl, Boober! and 2015 calendar model Michele Yepez, was always making her mother laugh. One time the family took a trip to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. Stephanie made a detour to the restroom and when she returned Michele had scampered onto the stage at Festhaus and was performing the Chicken Dance, waving her arms and wiggling her bottom as the packed house cheered her on.

“Michele was an outgoing little girl,” Stephanie said. “She hated baby dolls but she loved animals, especially dogs. I remember her running over to the fence and sticking her little hot dog fingers at the neighbor’s Doberman. I was worried that the dog would bite her but he loved her.”

Michele’s family owned a little mixed-breed dog and he had a doghouse in the backyard. Stephanie recalled how Michele would crawl into the doghouse while the little dog would stand outside of it.

When Michele was a little girl she and her mother watched her favorite movie, Lady and the Tramp, a hundred times together on the couch. Michele knew all the movie’s dialogue by heart.

A mother’s worst nightmare

Stephanie had just hung up after wishing her parents a happy anniversary when her daughter called her that December day in 2013 to tell her that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I couldn’t even think,” Stephanie said. “I couldn’t function. It was the worst day of my life.”

Two days after Michele was diagnosed Stephanie went with her to a follow-up appointment. She went with her daughter to all of her subsequent doctor’s appointments, too. Stephanie did not go with Michele to her chemo appointments. Instead she took her grandchildren, Mathias and Elise, for the weekend so their mother would have time to herself to recuperate and rest.

Stephanie drove Michele to the hospital for her mastectomy surgery. “That morning I felt like I just couldn’t take her there,” Stephanie said. “I couldn’t bear that thought that my child was going to have a part of her body taken off. That was the second worst day of my life.”

Supporting the supporters

Stephanie grappled with guilt after her daughter’s diagnosis and during her treatment. She had had a breast biopsy prior to Michele’s and hers had been negative. “I wondered why did it have to happen to my daughter?” Stephanie said. “Why couldn’t it have been me instead? I was older and didn’t have little children to take care of like Michele did. Why did it have to happen to her?”

Stephanie relied on support from her mother and sister in Germany to help her through her daughter’s treatment and diagnosis. Her husband Ray was there for her to talk to and lean on. Her friends and coworkers also provided lots of love and support.

After everything she went through with her daughter, Stephanie’s advice for other moms facing a similar situation is to be there for their children. “Go to as many of the appointments with them as you can,” she said. “Listen to the doctor – be your child’s ears. You are stronger than you think at that moment.”Stephanie&MicheleCurrent


Category: Blog