There are thousands of stories on cancer survival. All are similar, and at the same time, all are different. Most are compelling in their own unique way.
This is the story of the Echelon Design Inc. Field Services Coordinator Pam Milburn, a 25-year veteran of the tradeshow industry.
In July 2012, Milburn started experiencing debilitating stomach and back cramps. After trying all of the usual over-the-counter remedies and stretching with no relief, Milburn went to see the doctor in need of assistance. A CT Scan of her entire torso was ordered. The doctor’s found a very large mass encompassing her left ovary and her entire uterus. After a number of additional tests, Milburn was diagnosed with stage four ovarian-based pseudomyxoma peritonei, a very rare and incurable form of cancer.
One of the oncologists told Milburn a few weeks into chemotherapy, “I did not put you on my rosters as my patient because I have not lost a patient in over 30 years. I had no intention of starting with you. I did not believe you’d live long enough to walk in my door. But now that you are here, I have to figure out how to keep you alive.”
Four different forms of chemotherapy were tried in an attempt to de-bulk the mass prior to the inevitable surgery. None of them worked. After five and a half months of unsuccessful chemotherapy the decision was made to remove the mass. By this point, the mass was the size of an average watermelon, a basketball width around and 1.5 basketball’s high. Along with over 3 gallons of cancerous fluid, over 30 pounds of surgical weight was removed.
Forty two staples and four days later on Christmas Eve, Milburn was released from the hospital. Since then, Milburn has to have a scan and a blood test every three months and will have to continue this schedule for the rest of her life. The doctors are positive that the cancer will return as there is still some fluid in her system. Milburn’s last scan was in June of 2014 and as of today she is cancer stable with a release to come back in 6 months. This seems to prove that the power of positive thinking has no end.
“I am going to do everything in my power to make myself as strong and healthy as possible in the hopes that round two (three, four and five) will not be as devastating,” said Milburn. “I also would like to help make women aware of this very quiet killer. There is no test for it. There are no signs that would be found in your annual visit to the doctor. The only sign was the discomfort. The words I heard from my doctor are words that no one should ever have to hear. It is important for awareness to be consistent as for we never know the moment all the effort pays off.”
She attends as many ovarian cancer fundraisers throughout the year, in conjunction to other events supporting cancer research.
Milburn’s co-workers at Echelon Design supported the entire journey, giving her time to heal with the safety of her position.
“Pam Milburn’s struggle with cancer and her fighting spirit have been an inspiration to her teammates at Echelon,” said Reid Harman, president and founder, Echelon. “We stand with Milburn and are happy to accommodate financially and through our participation, support ovarian cancer awareness and fundraising events. We hope that others will also help to raise awareness and financially support research that helps to end this horrific disease.”
For more information on Ovarian Cancer, visit http://nocc.kintera.org/illinois.