Pam Walker’s youngest son was two years old, she was only 39, when in the course of a regular clinic examination her doctor talked her into having a baseline mammogram.

Pam Walker’s youngest son was two years old, she was only 39, when in the course of a regular clinic examination her doctor talked her into having a baseline mammogram.

Then she received the telephone call to come back to the doctor’s office. The mamo of her right breast showed that it was filled with rice-like lesions. After a biopsy and a visit to the oncologist she was told her cancer was rare and aggressive, “You will not survive.”

Walker continues to explain, “there were no protocols in place to treat this form of cancer.” The mother of four was told she would not live another three years, to “go home and get your life in order.” So she did.

But, Walker is a nurse and as a nurse had seen a lot in her years caring for patients. It was a frequent story; someone in the end stage of cancer, has a mastectomy and elects to have a bilateral mastectomy so it wouldn’t spread to the other breast.

There was no radiation treatment at that time, she faced surgery and chemotherapy. She was told the best she could expect was that it might go dormant, there was no cure, “you will die from this.”

This past June was the 25th anniversary of that experience. Each anniversary Pam wonders, “How dormant is it going to be?” In the meantime she has watched her four children grow up and a lot has changed in medicine in the past 26 years.

Oh, she’s had her struggles with “chemo brain,” some memory loss and a deep depression. But she’s 65 years old and she’s still here. It took three years but with her family’s support, love and prayers she ultimately went back to work.

“That was a real challenge to me, having to re-learn some words and terms that I’d lost,” she admitted. She went back to nursing and as a nurse educator taught in Wahpeton at NDSCS and Devils Lake at LRSC. Some of the things she had to deal with on the road back to health included finding clothes that fit and looked nice on her, after having the double mastectomy.

At first she was adamant about not having implants, but thought after a while, maybe she would have something cosmetically done, “if I lived 10 years.” There were rib fractures as the chemo left her bones fragile, painful and then there was the early onset of menopause to deal with. She learned through it all to “not sweat the small stuff.” Now Pam “goes with the flow” and continues to evolve spiritually and emotionally.

Oh, she questioned God and religion in the midst of her struggles, who wouldn’t? “I learned that my life does exist,” she says. “I even have a bucket list, now.” One of the things on that list is fishing for walleye, something she has recently been doing a lot of.

You might have seen Pam on stage this summer in the Fort Totten Little Theater’s production of “Big Fish.” She was the witch with purple dread locks, a crystal ball and a solo musical number. She’s done more traveling lately, like visiting her sister at the lake cabin in Canada. She enjoys helping others because so many helped her along the way.

“It was a gift deciding to come back to Devils Lake after all these years,” she admits. Now she spends her free time working with the CHI St. Alexius Hospital Devils Lake Auxiliary gift shop, playing bridge, enjoying being a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church - spiritual renewal - meeting new friends and renewing old friendships.

“Moving to Devils Lake was coming home,” she stated. She moved back two and a half years before her parents, Norris and Delores Fagerlund, passed away, so she got to enjoy those last few years with them, as well, something she says she will never regret. “I sold my house in Fargo and moved back to Devils Lake. Mom passed in August of 2017 and Dad passed in January of 2018,” she said.

Her advice to all of us? Celebrate your life and if you don’t have a regular mammogram, do it for yourself and for those who love you because your life matters! And, oh yeah, “don’t sweat the small stuff!”