SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KDLT) - Karen Gibson's in-home daycare is, loud, fun and filled with love. She wouldn't have it any other way.
Results from a routine mammogram put life and watching the kiddos on hold. It was stage two cancer.
"They went in to take the lump out, the lymph nodes out and the cancer had spread," Gibson said.
During those ten months of treatment, not only did those daycare families work around Karen's treatment schedule, they kept her encouraged throughout the entire process.
"I was really sick but they were very understanding. They were absolutely wonderful," Gibson said.
Support also came from Karen's family, including her husband and two adult children. It also came from the team at the Avera Cancer Institute in Aberdeen. "Amazing. They were family. They would sit and get to know you, and not just you as a cancer patient but as a person," Gibson said.
Avera Certified Nurse Practitioner Christopher Nelson is a part of the care team, which includes experts in Aberdeen and the region who review each patient's situation.
"We get everyone's opinion, and we come up with a treatment plan, a specialized, personalized treatment plan, that's best for the patient," Nelson said.
A nurse navigator was with Karen to coordinate everything.
"From their initial diagnosis, all the way through treatment to survivorship. These nurses help coordinate appointments, help coordinate their imaging, help coordinate their chemotherapy, and radiation," Nelson said.
And that specialized care, just a short drive from Karen's home is a proven benefit, rather than a long drive out of town according to Avera Surgeon Doctor Roger Werth.
"If services are available here, it's much more likely that patients are going to get the treatment they need and follow through with the recommendations from their healthcare providers," Dr. Werth said.
Dr. Werth says in the last decade, mortality rates have been on the decline due to early detection, and that's why getting a mammogram is so important.
It's all about saving a life. Karen's life.
"Very fulfilling, very rewarding to help patients along in their journey, fighting this disease," Dr. Werth said.
Karen is claiming victory over breast cancer and is back to doing what she loves, enjoying the kids at her daycare.
"There is always hope. Follow your treatment. Do what the doctors tell you and if you're having a problem, talk to them. They will guide you through everything. If it wasn't for them, I probably would not be sitting here right now," Gibson said.