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Pam’s Story (Breast Cancer)

Pam's Story 2 (Breast Cancer) LRMy story is one of hope and empowerment for women.

I have always been a trusting soul with the physicians whose care I am under and up until December of 1997, had never really questioned the advice I received from them. But, this situation was different. I had a deep knowing of something that wasn’t right. Questioning my highly qualified physicians may have saved my life.

It began in my shower, when I noticed a lump in my right breast. I wasn’t searching for anything, but felt the lump in just normal bathing. It’s as if time stood still. My heart began to beat faster as my mind began to race. I thought of my sweet friend Linda who was, at that moment, losing her battle with metastatic breast cancer. I though of my 3 precious little boys who were at our neighborhood elementary school. I thought of my husband sitting in his office at work tapping his fingers in that wonderfully irritating way of his, as he worked. But most of all, I thought of a beautiful baby girl sleeping peacefully in her crib on the other side of the wall. This baby girl had traveled far to join our family. She had been longed for and prayed for, for many years before she joined us. We had endured fingerprinting, probing into our financial and health records, and a study of our home life. She had endured the loss of her birth family, the first 5 months of her life with no forever family, and a long plane ride from Seoul, South Korea, to Atlanta, Georgia. My thought was, Dear Lord, this baby had lost one mother….please don’t let her lose another. What was this lump going to mean in the finalizing of our adoption and what was it going to do to the picture perfect life that we were living?

I consulted my GYN and had a mammogram. The mammogram showed no abnormalities. My doctors tried to reassure me that most breast lumps are benign and that my lump had no characteristics of cancer. It felt small and was moveable. Her words were, “lets watch it for a couple of months”.  My normal reaction would have been to smile and say “great” and go about getting ready for my favorite time of the year, the Christmas season. Instead I heard my voice telling her “NO, I want it out now!” She made an appointment with a surgeon and he was not suspicious of this lump, but said he’d remove it so I would not be worried.

My mother and one of my sisters traveled to Atlanta to care for our 4 children for the surgery to remove the lump. I will never forget the moment we heard that the lump was indeed cancerous. I remember looking at my husband’s face and he started to weep. I felt numb… tears, just numb. Then came fear, unbelief, anger and a flood of emotions I had never felt before.

I endured another surgery to check the margins and lymph nodes, chemo and radiation in the days and months that followed. These were hard times for our young family. I was in the prime of my life at 38 years old, and felt like this was all just a bad dream and that I would wake soon, to my wonderful, normal life. However, I did not wake up…..I had to walk through it…..and, strangely, my bad dream turned into a good dream for which I am very thankful.

Through this experience, I became a better person. I began to see life for the wonderful gift that it is, even when things are not working out as planned. My faith in God became stronger, my love for my family and fellow man grew. I began keeping a journal. Every evening I made myself write whether I felt like it or not. This journal is so precious to me now! I began to do random acts of kindness for strangers. It is impossible to despair, when you are doing good unto others! One of my favorite things I did was during radiation. Each night I would make little index cards with a Bible verse or a positive, uplifting, healing thought. I would tape a Hershey’s Kiss to each one. At the Radiation center, each person undergoing treatment had their own little cubby hole with our designer gowns awaiting us! When I changed into my gown I would hurriedly put a card in each persons cubby hole so as not to be “caught!” After a few days of this, I would hear people in the waiting room talking about their cards and trying to figure out who their mysterious “angel” could be! If nothing else, it gave them something else to think about while they were there instead of their reason for being there. It was finally figured out that I was the “angel” after a few weeks and after some exceptional detective work on the part of my peers! They thought that I had been an encouragement to them, but I believe THEY were the encouragement to me!

My advice to those just beginning their breast cancer journey is first and foremost…..TRUST your instincts when it comes to your own body! If your physician is not taking your concerns seriously, find another one. Second, after diagnosis, give yourself time to grieve, be angry, yell, be sad, cry….etc. Thirdly……don’t let yourself wallow too long. Start that journal, practice random acts of kindness to complete strangers, surround yourself with positive people and activities, memorize the smiles of those you love, start a beautiful garden of flowers to share or learn a foreign language…..and never lose your laughter!

It will be 14 years this December since my diagnosis. Our adoption was finalized, despite breast cancer and all my worry. My family is stronger than ever before…..and so am I! I learned that I am tougher than I ever thought I was. I learned the tremendous value of a simple smile, a kind gesture and a warm hug.

I hope that my story will encourage those who read it and give courage to someone just beginning their journey. I don’t know of anyone that would choose to have breast cancer, but I would not take anything for the wonderful changes cancer brought to my life. Live each day to the fullest and make it a masterpiece! And NEVER forget to……FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!

Submitted 12-17-11

The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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    I am a 1.5 year BC myself and another Survivor friend was just saying to eachother. We need to meet some long time Survivors to bring us Strength. Thank-you perfect timing for your story !!! A Big Hug to you Pam !!!

  2. Heather Baer


    I could have written this story except I chose to trust my drs. Fast forward a yr later and switch of physicians and I was diagnosed with Stage 3. Thanks for reminding women to trust their own instincts. How I make myself crazy thinking had I done that. Thanks for sharing!

    4th survivor this month

  3. Pam Pell

    Dear Heather,
    Please don’t make yourself crazy with the “what if’s” of the past. It’s our nature to do that, but it doesn’t change a thing and only makes us feel bad. I know many women who have been diagnosed with a stage 3 and are doing fine many years later! Medicine/treatment has come so very far since even I was diagnosed. I will pray for your peace and healing. Take care of yourself, think positive thoughts and never stop “fighting like a girl!” May God bless you…..with love, Pam 🙂

  4. Pam Pell

    Dear Donna,
    I’m SO glad my story was an encouragement to you! I’m glad you have a friend who is a survivor as well. It helps so much to have someone who truly understands what we are going through, and someone to share our feelings with…..because they probably have had similar feelings at one time or another! Keep lifting each other up with positive thoughts and laugh ALOT!!! Feel free to email me if you need to talk or feel the need for encouragement. I will ALWAYS be an encourager! 🙂 Remember to Fight like a girl! You’ll be celebrating your 14 years before you know it! with love, Pam 🙂

  5. Beverley Aloisi

    Thank you for your inspiring story, great to read about a long time survivor. After 4 surgeries and being messed around with treatments and indecisions your story gives me hope. Peace and Love to You and Yours. xxx

  6. Connie B

    I too am a 1.2 year BC survivor. High risk due to family history, but grateful that an MRI caught mine very, very early as my yearly mammogram was clean.

    Great blog and very inspirational. What you say is very true… trust your instincts and get a second opinion.

  7. Carol John

    Thank you so much for sharing this….we have very similar paths. I have 6 biological children and the last child is adopted . At age 38 I found a lump but went to a surgeon who believes lumps should be removed. He said that as it was moveable and painful, he was sure it was a cyst but was removing it nonetheless. I was extremely shocked find out it was malignant. I had a mastectomy, chemo & radiation and subsequently had my other breast removed as a precaution (I have a family history of breast CA). All that happened when I was 38 with 7 young children….last month I celebrated my 60th birthday surrounded by my 7 children, their partners and 8 grandchildren….I am so grateful, very positive and I thank God for so many blessings.

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