Teacher Counts on Prayer Support Throughout Her Cancer Journey
Medical expertise, the latest technology and evidence-based care protocols were all important to Pam White as she faced a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Yet one resource surpassed them all: Prayer.
“To me, nothing is more comforting than prayer. That's why I go to Avera.” - Pam White
Pam, a third-grade teacher in Aberdeen, S.D., was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2012, after her 33rd year of teaching. The cancer had spread to her lungs and liver.
She spent the first weeks after her diagnosis feeling scared, helpless, angry and sad. With Terry, her husband of 33 years by her side, she prepared for the fight of her life.
Pam says faith was her saving grace. “I ran straight to God and totally turned my life over to him. After eight weeks of being in shock, this gave me peace of mind. Every day I would wake up and decide that I would do the best I could and leave the rest up to Him.”
As a lifelong educator, Pam sought to learn everything she could about her cancer. “That first day was like being in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language,” said Pam of her first meeting with Mary Holsing, a cancer nurse at Avera Medical Group Oncology & Hematology Aberdeen.
“Mary held nothing back. She told us the good, the bad and the ugly, and was very honest about what the next months of Pam’s life were going to be like.” - Pam White
“Mary held nothing back,” said Terry. “She told us the good, the bad and the ugly, and was very honest about what the next months of Pam’s life were going to be like.” Her treatments would be given locally at the Avera Cancer Institute Aberdeen with Richard J. Conklin, MD, leading her care team.
Being able to receive her treatments locally meant the world to Pam and her husband. “Terry was able to be at every single appointment with me,” said Pam. “We were in this together.”
Pam felt the prayer support of her family, church friends, parish priests, hospital chaplains, Avera staff, fellow teachers and even her kids at school. “I think people prayed for me more than I prayed for myself. I know I was supported.”
She appreciated the fact that the cancer center in Aberdeen was right across from the school, and she could watch her students coming and going, and playing outside for recess. Being able to continue teaching while on chemotherapy may not have been possible if Pam would have had to travel for her treatments.
Pam’s latest scans show that she is now cancer free. Yet even those follow-up scans can be stressful, because there could be bad news. “I know the nurses are always there, ready to have my back,” Pam said.
“Dr. Conklin and his team saved my life. The cancer center in Aberdeen is my lifeline, and I will forever be tethered to it.” - Pam White
Pam continues to have biotherapy, and will continue this care for the rest of her life. “That’s what keeps the cancer from coming back. Dr. Conklin and his team saved my life. The cancer center in Aberdeen is my lifeline, and I will forever be tethered to it,” said Pam.
Pam and Terry are looking forward to seeing their only daughter, Amy, get married in July 2014 – something they never thought Pam would see when she was initially diagnosed.
And, after finishing her 35th year of teaching in the spring of 2014, Pam is planning ahead for her 36th year. “I love teaching. Those kids just lift you up.”
Pam supports a new cancer facility that is being planned for the Avera Cancer Institute Aberdeen. “I want to make sure others who are challenged with cancer can get the same wonderful, compassionate and state-of-the-art care I received from Dr. Conklin, Avera St. Luke’s and the care team. I will be forever grateful,” Pam added.
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