Conquering cancer with steadfast spirit

Pam Morris sees silver lining to cancer diagnosis

Pam Morris“Cancer was a gift to me,” said 62-year-old Pam Morris, of Leawood, Kansas. “It was an experience that profoundly changed my life. I had no idea that people could be so kind and loving. Would I have wished to have been diagnosed with breast cancer? No. But, the silver lining was the rewarding relationships that my diagnosis brought to me.”

Pam learned she had stage III HER2-positive breast cancer in August 2014, just before her 60th birthday. She went to her doctor after noticing a breast lump, but thought it was probably scar tissue.

Upon receiving the news she had cancer, she said, “I wanted my doctors to throw the book at me and then some! I wanted the most powerful treatment available so that I could beat this thing. And, my doctors at The University of Kansas Cancer Center didn’t disappoint me.”

Unwavering optimism

Gregory Crane, MD, medical oncologist at The University of Kansas Cancer Center – Overland Park, said Pam’s positive attitude never wavered. “From the get-go, Pam had the mindset she was going to beat this,” Dr. Crane said. “She wanted to fight it head-on and never looked back.”

Pam’s treatment was delayed temporarily when spots were found in her lungs. Fortunately, the spots were the result of a fungus and disappeared after the infection subsided. This cleared the way for her breast cancer treatment to begin.

Pam’s treatment involved six cycles of chemotherapy, hormone therapy, mastectomy and radiation. Doctors administered the targeted therapies PERJETA and Herceptin. “We see improved response rates with this combination of drugs,” Dr. Crane said. “The chemotherapy did its job, as we found no trace of cancer when we performed surgery. The radiation therapy was to ensure we didn't miss anything.”

“I knew they could do it,” said Pam. “And, they did. I never had any doubts. I loved getting my treatments at the Overland Park office. It was convenient, the care was great and I knew I was in the best place possible.”

Bearing witness

During the process, Pam’s husband, Jim, wrote and sent a series of emails to family members and friends, keeping them up-to-date about Pam’s condition. His accounts are intermingled with witty commentary, jokes and admiration for Pam’s strength and courage.

“We've been married 40 years in March, and I’d never really seen this side of Jim. It made me feel loved and cared for, even more. He’s my partner,” said Pam. “I approached my condition thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal. But, his emails showed me he thought it was.”

Pam and Jim, who have three children and three grandchildren, are retired and enjoy traveling, family and other social activities. They also support The University of Kansas Hospital with gifts designated for breast cancer genetic counseling and immunotherapy research.

“There are so many new and exciting things taking place at the hospital, and we want to see that continue,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities for funding breast cancer, but fewer for immunotherapy. And, we think that immunotherapy may have a wider reach –  it may benefit all kinds of cancer and help children. There needs to be so much more done to beat this thing called cancer. Every little bit will help!”

For now, Pam says life is back to normal. “It seems like forever since the cancer,” she said. “Now, it's time to get on with the fun!”

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

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U.S. News and World Reports 2019-2020