Standing up in the fight against cancer

— Pam Crom­well has be­come a lead­ing voice in the fight against can­cer. She took part in a star-stud­ded telethon in Los Angeles.

Pam Crom­well (left) pos­ing with Ju­lia Roberts (pho­tos provided by Deanna Every)

Pam Crom­well couldn’t have ima­gined six-plus years ago that she would be­come a lead­ing voice in the fight against can­cer.

Back in Feb­ru­ary 2006, Crom­well had a med­ic­al scare when she found a lump on her breast. She was oth­er­wise healthy.

“I thought it was a cyst. I went to the doc­tors, and they thought it was a cyst,” she said.

Upon a closer look, though, Crom­well was dia­gnosed with breast can­cer. She was just 29 years old.

Crom­well had a double mastec­tomy and en­dured rough chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­ation treat­ments. That wasn’t the worst of it. Doc­tors told her she had an ag­gress­ive form of can­cer that would spread quickly.

“They told me I had six months to live. I kind of went numb,” she said.

But there was good news to fol­low. Crom­well went in­to re­mis­sion after the treat­ments.

Doc­tors, however, told Crom­well that it wasn’t a mat­ter of if the can­cer would re­turn, but when it would come back.

Sure enough, the can­cer spread to her bones, and this time she sought treat­ment at Can­cer Treat­ments Cen­ters of Amer­ica’s Phil­adelphia site, at 1331 E. Wyom­ing Ave.

Crom­well ar­rived for the first time in early 2009. She un­der­went ra­di­ation treat­ments and is presently re­ceiv­ing hor­mone ther­apy once a month.

“They’re slow­ing it down,” she said of the spread of can­cer.

In Decem­ber 2010, Crom­well star­ted Pink for Pam, an ef­fort to provide can­cer pa­tients with ac­cess to ser­vices and in­form­a­tion on health, beauty and style.

Be­cause of her lead­er­ship role in the battle against can­cer, Crom­well was se­lec­ted to take part in Stand Up To Can­cer, a one-hour, com­mer­cial-free telethon that took place at the Shrine Aud­it­or­i­um in Los Angeles.

At the na­tion­ally tele­vised Sept. 7 event, she shared a “Dear Can­cer” let­ter as a cur­rent stage-four breast can­cer pa­tient.

Crom­well, a 35-year-old from Phil­lips­burg, N.J., said on stage, “I’m not even quite sure why I star­ted with the word ‘dear.’ I think it’s a force of habit when start­ing a let­ter. Some­times I don’t even think you’re real. I can’t see you, but every day when I take a shower or comb my hair, I see all of the ef­fects of you.

“I wanted to be the pretty one, the smart one, the suc­cess­ful one. Not the one who has can­cer. Not the one who has an ex­pir­a­tion date hanging over her head. Not the one with flawed skin, whose breasts are gone. Not the one who felt alone.

Well, can­cer, this is what you didn’t see com­ing. I found a treat­ment team, a com­munity, at Can­cer Treat­ment Cen­ters of Amer­ica. I’ve learned that it’s im­port­ant to find a place that re­spects me for who I am and shows me that people will stick around no mat­ter what.

“So, dear can­cer, I don’t know what my fu­ture will be, but I know that I will al­ways be a fight­er and I won’t be alone. No mat­ter how hard you try, you will nev­er take that away from me.”

The show was broad­cast on all four ma­jor net­works and cable chan­nels.

“The Su­per Bowl is only on one chan­nel. This was on sev­en chan­nels and in oth­er coun­tries,” Crom­well said.

More than $81 mil­lion was pledged dur­ing the star-stud­ded event.

Stand Up To Can­cer, foun­ded in May 2008, dir­ects money to sci­ent­ists and re­search­ers. The or­gan­iz­a­tion’s co-founder is Katie Cour­ic, whose hus­band, Jay Mo­n­ahan, and sis­ter, Emily, both died of can­cer.

The show’s co-ex­ec­ut­ive pro­du­cer was Gwyneth Pal­trow, whose dad, Bruce, died of can­cer a dec­ade ago.

Taylor Swift, Cold­play, Tim Mc­Graw and Alicia Keys provided mu­sic­al en­ter­tain­ment.

“We ac­tu­ally cried in each oth­er’s arms,” Crom­well said of her and Keys.

Crom­well got to walk the red car­pet and meet Ju­lia Roberts, Robert Pattin­son, Justin Tim­ber­lake, Samuel L. Jack­son and Rocco DiS­pirito.

A busi­ness ana­lyst who works in New York, Crom­well feels a call­ing when it comes to fel­low can­cer pa­tients. That’s why she star­ted Pink for Pam and at­ten­ded the event in L.A.

“I have a re­spons­ib­il­ity to get the word out. If you’re not men­tally strong, you won’t be phys­ic­ally strong,” she said of can­cer pa­tients.

Crom­well thanks the folks at CTCA for the spe­cial care they show her dur­ing her vis­its.

“I’ve been re­spond­ing great,” she said of treat­ments. “It’s a very sin­cere bunch of people. They’re spe­cially picked to be there, you can tell.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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