- Surprising diagnosis with no family history of cancer -
There was no reason – absolutely no reason – for Natalie Gaskamp to get a mammogram.
She was a 3-mile-a-day runner with no family history of breast cancer and an active mother, including being a past board member of The Pines Montessori.
“No rhyme or reason for me to get a mammogram,” Gaskamp said, “but my doctor insisted, probably because his own wife was battling breast cancer. He kept telling me, ‘Better safe than sorry.’”
Gaskamp, a King’s Point resident in Kingwood, is the keynote speaker for the 12th annual In the Pink of Health luncheon on Oct. 18 at the Houston Airport Marriott.
Gaskamp hadn’t felt the lump, but the doctor had. Still she wasn’t too concerned. She’d experienced cysts for years.
“He had me come back a month later, told me the lump was still there and insisted I make an appointment for a mammogram,” Gaskamp recalled. “I scheduled a mammogram, then rescheduled it. I just wasn’t concerned.”
The mammogram she eventually got detected cancer and Gaskamp underwent a double mastectomy.
“My oncologists recommended it. Then I went through the rebuilding process for almost a year,” she said. “The oncologist advised hormone therapy, but I decided not to do it because you can’t have children for at least five years after the therapy. I wasn’t married at the time, but I knew I’d want another child, so I underwent a three-month chemo round of pills and shots.”
Fortunately for Gaskamp and thanks to the insistence of her primary care physician, the cancer was detected early so that she never suffered the severe consequences that chemotherapy often triggers.
While the surgery, breast reconstruction and chemo were harrowing and stressful, that whole experience allowed her to meet and eventually marry her husband, Clay Gaskamp.
“At my last surgery, he insisted on picking me up,” Gaskamp recalled. “Thanks to the anesthesia and medication, I was pretty much out of it when Clay was driving me home and I asked him if we were boyfriend/girlfriend – and then threw up in his car. He married me anyway.”
There’s more to Gaskamp’s story.
Two weeks after her diagnosis, her mother, Debbie Gordon, who lives near Austin, learned she, too, had breast cancer.
“My mom had a bump under her arm for years and like me, she’d had cysts for years, so she never thought anything about it,” Gaskamp said. “After what I’d gone through, she decided to get a mammogram.”
Gordon’s road to recovery was much bumpier than Gaskamp’s because her cancer had progressed so much farther.
“My mom really was my role model through all of this,” Gaskamp said. “We were going through this separately and yet we experienced it together. She had a much different treatment plan in Austin and her experiences were much tougher. I kept thinking, if she’s getting through this, I can, too.”
Gaskamp and her mom have been cancer free for almost six years. She and Clay, regional sales manager for Insperity’s Houston and Austin offices, are now raising her 20-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, Clay’s 9-year-old twin boys, and the newest addition, their 4-month-old daughter.
“Actually, we’re a family of eight because we always include our Vizsla puppy, Baylee,” she said.
Gaskamp, a native of Marble Falls just outside Austin, earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Concordia University in Austin. She admitted she’s not as exciting as she used to be. She’s about to start a new job as a private client financial advisor for Chase Bank in their New Caney and Conroe branches. She’s not quite back up to running 3 miles a day, but she’s loving being a new mom again.
When she speaks at the In the Pink of Health luncheon, she’d like her audience to leave with one crucial thought.
“There was no reason for me to get a mammogram, but my doctor insisted and I went reluctantly,” Gaskamp said. “Getting that mammogram made all the difference in my life and my mother’s life. I honestly believe, better safe than sorry.”
Hear her story of strength, endless energy and positivity at the 12th annual In the Pink of Health luncheon Oct. 18 at the Houston Airport Marriott. Buy tickets by visiting northeasthospitalfoundation.org or calling 713-397-3093.
For more information about qualifying for a free mammogram, call 281-540-6443.