Pam had her annual mammogram and at the age of 60 was told she needed to come back for more testing after discovering an abnormal mass. Her entire life she had lumps referred to as mastitis in both breasts thus she had no reason for concern leading up to her routine mammogram.
Diagnosed with HER2-Positive Breast Cancer
Pam was diagnosed with Stage 2 HER2-positive breast cancer which was hormone driven. She followed up with a biopsy and markers placed in her left breast. Other tests followed including a pet scan, heart tests, MRI’s, colonoscopy, to ensure other organs were going to be able to withstand chemo therapy as well as reassurance the cancer hadn’t spread elsewhere.
Breast Cancer Treatment
In September, her doctors had her proceed with post-chemo treatments and unfortunately they realized they began those too soon following the surgery and her body wasn’t strong enough to withstand the chemo. Pam’s white blood cell count plummeted and she ended up with a scary hospitalization due to sepsis.
In total, Pam had 7 rounds of chemo (4 prior to surgery and 3 following), breast surgery, and 25 rounds of radiation which was 5x/week for 5 weeks total. She drove herself to and from radiation in snow and ice from Illinois to Missouri every morning very early for 5 weeks so she could make it to work in time each day after the radiation.
Family is Inspiration
Pam happens to also be my mother-in-law. I remember being on my way home from a concert with my husband when he got the call from her. I’d never seen that side of him. As soon as he picked up the call and heard her voice, he pulled the car into a gas station parking lot. The fear, the sadness, the helplessness filled his eyes. He always has an answer for everything and this information left him speechless. Motionless.
Pam is a fighter. She wasn’t going to let cancer defy her or stop her from her usual. She continued to work. She continued to carry on her normal routine without missing a beat and didn’t want others to change their routines for her.
There were moments when we were terrified. I’ll never forget those moments and seeing her so helpless and so sick. I’ve only ever seen her as a strong, independent and fearless woman. So seeing her in this state was absolutely terrifying.
Advice to Others With Breast Cancer
Pam’s advice looking back on this experience now 5 years later is that a positive attitude is everything. She reminded herself that no matter how tough her situation seemed, there was always someone else in worse condition. She would advise someone else going through breast cancer to continue working if they can as it helped her stay strong and distracted. She advises you to exercise if you can. And – above all, to rely on your family and friends. You need support and they want to help you, so let them!
Pam has been nothing short of strong, independent, and fearless. Five years later and she is still the feisty personality that she was before cancer entered her life. She didn’t let it defy her. She defied it.
Pam has been an inspiration to me, my family and my entire mission of Chrysalis. Without Pam’s experience and influence, I wouldn’t be where I’m at helping women recover from breast surgeries all over the US. She inspires me daily and I will continue my mission of helping women throughout their recovery periods with her lighting my fire.