Spivey’s beloved sister was diagnosed with melanoma also at age 69 and lost her battle three years later.
“I only had one sister and we were redheads. We were six years difference in our age, but we became very close as we got older. Experiencing my sister’s death as a result of a cancer that had no treatment at that time, I was encouraged with the advances of all forms of cancer, particularly breast cancer,” Gail said. “In my generation, we didn’t refer to breasts. We were aware the way God created women, but we didn’t discuss it openly. As the numbers have increased with breast cancer and other forms of cancer, we’ve become more open and much more aware.”
Spivey grew up in Warner Robins during her toddler years after her parents moved to the town for the war effort. She attended school in Houston County before enrolling at Mercer University in Macon, where she met her husband — J.W.
“I was as a cheerleader at Mercer, and J.W. was on the basketball and baseball team. We married after I graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s in psychology. I worked as a high school 12th grade psychology teacher at Butler High School in Augusta while my husband was in the Medical College of Georgia,” Gail said. “I gave up teaching after two years and worked as a social worker doing the evaluation for residential care for Gracewood State Hospital, which was the only hospital at the time equipped to house and take care of what is now referred to as the special needs population.”
The Spiveys welcomed their first son into the world soon after J.W. graduated from medical school. The family moved to Macon while J.W. worked as a paid intern at the Macon hospital before heading to Charlotte, N.C. for residency training in orthopedic surgery.