Pam White started as a Labor and Delivery nurse at Regional One Health in 1978. She had just finished nursing school, and other than a part-time stint in the early 1980s, it’s been a 39-year career that’s more passion than job for White.
She delivered three of her four children at Regional One Health, and she said her husband calls the hospital her home. She doesn’t disagree. In fact, she said other than the birth of her children, being a nurse at Regional One Health is the best thing she’s done in her life. White’s passionate about the women who have babies at Regional One Health, many of whom become part of a close-knit family.
But White’s caring focus turned inward in August 2016. If she thinks about it now White knows the hip pain she noticed that day actually had been an ongoing issue. But the pain never kept her from work until one afternoon when she couldn’t stand from sitting without screaming.
So she thought she’d get an injection and get back to work. This is a woman who once walked unassisted to the ER to have her blood pressure checked only to discover she suffered a stroke. That didn’t keep her from her Labor and Delivery home long.
But this time she needed a hip replacement, and as she prepared for that procedure she had all of her usual annual exams, including a mammogram. Two days before surgery she had a breast biopsy. It came back malignant.
“I cried and cried because I was afraid they wouldn’t do my hip,” White said.
They eventually did replace her hip, a procedure that went well. She had a partial mastectomy and bilateral reduction in June then underwent four weeks of radiation and today is cancer free.
White celebrated on Sept. 30 when she rang the bell at West Cancer Clinic to help kick off the annual Ride to Rosemary, a team cycling event that covers over 500 miles to Rosemary Beach, Florida, to promote cancer awareness, encourage a healthy lifestyle and raise funds for the WINGS Supportive Care Division. Her brother-in-law and retired physician Dr. David LaVelle rode in her honor, and kept a blog through the journey.
He wrote of the hope that White’s bell ringing signifies.
“Hope is important in every life. Yours, mine. Everyone. Medical care can deliver hope. Faith delivers hope. Riding a bike makes me hopeful. We need hope to live. Without it, we won’t last. So today I rode for Pam. And for Hope. May we all have a chance to ‘ring the bell.’”
LaVelle first rode in the Ride to Rosemary to honor his daughter who was diagnosed with cancer six years ago. White said this year’s Ride to Rosemary was a special moment for their family.
“Sometimes ringing the bell isn’t a big deal and sometimes it’s a really big deal,” she said. “It was amazing that the group as they left for Rosemary got to hear someone ring the bell. It was encouraging for them and put the icing on the cake for me. Here’s someone they can say that’s what this ride is about.”
White drove the more than 500 miles to Rosemary to meet the riders. It was an end-of-cancer treatment present from her sisters.
White hasn’t decided if she’ll return to work or retire. She’s still waiting on clearance from her plastic surgeon. She said that even though she works in medicine she wasn’t prepared for her breast cancer journey.
“I wasn’t prepared to be this exhausted physically and emotionally,” she said. “I’m not used to being a still person. I’m a get-up-and-let’s-go person. I’m an adrenaline junkie.”
But her Regional One Health family – both colleagues and former patients – remain an important part of her life journey.
“I love the teaching aspect of what we do and taking care of our people,” she said. “We become family with whoever is there. We become very involved with our patients. I had a lady in the U.S. for a conference from Uganda. She went into pre-term labor. She had to stay in Memphis until they released her to fly home. I still to this day get something from her two or three times a year. She considers us part of her family.”