Despite all she’s been through, Pamela Fauntleroy has maintained a positive outlook on life.
Fauntleroy is a cancer patient who is currently receiving treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America Eastern Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia. She is one of more than 60 cancer survivors who participated in CTCA’s Celebrate Life event that was held Friday.
The day-long celebration included a dove release ceremony and a private tree planting where a tree is planted for each five-year survivor who completes treatment at CTCA. A ritual was known as “Hope Rounds” was also held, where the survivors and caregivers receive commemorative lapel pins to pass along as a symbol of hope to patients who are currently undergoing treatment at the hospital.
“It’s an overwhelming thing where you feel as though you have accomplished something. It’s like I did five, I can do another five more,” Fauntleroy says of participating in the commemorative celebration.
“It gives you a sense of hope, a sense of pride. You meet other individuals with different types of cancer and you can educate each other. I feel as though we are there for each other, to encourage each other to get strength from each other. When they have this five-year celebration to celebrate our lives, I think that’s a beautiful thing. You get to see people that you started out with and their progression,” said Fauntleroy, who hails from Swedesboro, N.J.
Fauntleroy was only nine years old when her father passed and 21 years old when her mother died at the age of 46. They both passed from cancer.
When Fauntleroy marked her 47th birthday on May 16, she exhaled because it meant that she was one year older than her mother was when she died.
“At this point, I’m thriving, I’m really happy. You really have to have that inner strength - that faith and you can’t let cancer become you. Most people deteriorate quick because they think of cancer as death but it doesn’t have to be. To me it’s a mindset,” she said.
After Fauntleroy had her second son, she felt that something was amiss when she felt a lump in her left breast. Since she had just given birth six months earlier, her doctor told her not to worry about it- that it was most likely the result of milk deposits. She didn’t push the issue and as time progressed, Fauntleroy realized that the lump was getting bigger.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 at the age of 38.
“My heart just stopped and I was just petrified, being as though my mother and father both passed from cancer,” she said.
Fauntleroy decided to undergo a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation, however the cancer returned before she could complete her reconstructive surgery. She was aggressively treated with chemo for seven months but the therapy did not seem to be working. At the time, she complained to her doctor about feeling like something was wrong. A MRI would later reveal that the cancer had spread to her femur, spine, factum and hip.
Fauntleroy then decided to switch teams and eventually began receiving treatment at CTCA. She has been receiving treatment at the facility for the last five years. She appreciates how the facility caters to her caregivers and having an oncologist who takes the time to answer her questions.
“I think at the Cancer Treatment Center you’re really viewed as a partner and that’s what I like about it. I feel like I’ve become a real empowered patient there and it gives me the strength to want to give other people knowledge. They don’t treat you like you are a number, you are a name there,” she said.
Fauntleroy gives back to CTCA by serving as a mentor and advocate of the hospital through the Patient to Patient Network – a program which connects current patients with those seeking information and opinions about the integrative and personalized treatment plans available at CTCA. She also participates in the center’s Cancer Fighters program – a program which enables her to provide assistance and encouragement to other patients.
As she has undergone treatment throughout the years, Fauntleroy said she was very open with her two sons about the process. Her 11 and 16-year old sons now serve as her caregivers.
“I didn’t want to hide anything from them because that’s what my mother did with me. She kind of shunned that away from us,” said Fauntleroy, who has a background as an inspirational writer.
Fauntleroy’s breast cancer is in remission, however she is still being treated for the cancer that spread to her bones. This week she began another round of 10-day radiation treatment. Despite it all, Fauntleroy has held steadfast to her faith in God.
“I just trust in God and know that he’s going to do what he says. God said ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you.’ You need faith to go through this,” she said.