A year before she was diagnosed in 2004 with breast cancer, Pamela Hamm’s family physician felt something she couldn’t in her left breast.
Hamm took a mammogram and the results came up as “probably benign” with a recommendation to follow up six months later. She did not follow up.
“I thought it was a tactic just to get more money,” said Hamm, an Elizabethtown Community and Technical College employee.
It wasn’t until after Hamm noticed something that felt like a swollen muscle at the upper portion of her left breast and after her husband, Robert, noticed the lump that Hamm had another mammogram. Hamm went to have it done alone, not expecting any results. She later was told she needed to undergo an ultrasound and wait for a radiologist to read it. Hamm then was shown pictures from the procedures and was told to follow-up immediately with a surgeon.
“I was just devastated,” she said. “Things just went black around me. I couldn’t see anything around me. It was just really disheartening.”
Hamm was concerned about her children growing up without a mother. She was determined to fight.
Hamm underwent a sentinel node biopsy, a surgical procedure used to determine whether cancer has spread. It came back positive for Stage 1 cancer and it was recommended she start chemotherapy and radiation. Hamm went to Louisville Oncology for a second opinion before she underwent more surgery, which eased some of her fears.
“I remember telling my husband I could see the blue sky for the first time in a long time,” she said.
For the next several months, Hamm went through chemotherapy. She prayed to God every day and received support from her friends, family and coworkers, especially her husband.
“He stayed pretty strong for me,” she said.
After her first bout with breast cancer, Hamm was diagnosed again in 2009. She already was considering a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery at that time. When Hamm went in for an annual mammogram, she received a call from her doctor they found more cancer but felt confident it was in the early stages.
“Surprisingly, I wasn’t as devastated that second time as I was the first,” she said.
Hamm went through with the mastectomy and reconstruction. She opted for the Latissimus Dorsi Flap procedure, which was supposed to take eight hours but ended up taking 12. During her recovery, Hamm once again credited her husband’s support.
“He was my nurse, he was my support,” she said.
Hamm said breast cancer can still have an emotional impact on people close to the victim.
“You don’t realize what your spouse is going through,” she said.
Robert Hamm said he treated his wife the same during her bouts with cancer and made sure she didn’t go into “self-pity” mode. Robert Hamm agreed cancer affects more than those diagnosed.
“We get nervous and scared, too,” he said.
Robert Hamm said he made it a point to be positive and to stay away from places, such as social media where negativity may spread.
“Gotta stay strong and move forward,” he said.
Looking back, Pam Hamm encouraged people to follow up with doctors if they detect anything out of the ordinary.
“Always follow up if they feel anything whatsoever,” she said.