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 firstname.lastname@example.org