Baton Rouge native Pam Alexander, 55, is a seven-year survivor of ovarian cancer.
Alexander and other cancer survivors from the Baker and Zachary areas will be honored at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event slated to begin at 5 p.m. Friday at BREC’s Zachary Community Park.
Like many walking the survivors’ lap at Relay for Life, Alexander’s journey from diagnosis to remission has been a long one.
In 2007, the mother of two sons was going through a divorce, having some financial difficulties and working as an assistant dental hygienist when she began to feel tired and weak at times. She suffered from a few headaches here and there, but nothing too serious.
“As women, we’re mothers, sisters, daughters, caregivers and homemakers, and we’re always on the go. We never take time for ourselves, so I just chalked the signs up to being stressed out, like a lot of women I know,” Alexander said.
Eventually, the Baker resident, whose parents are from Zachary, felt bad enough to go to the doctor and that’s when she was given the news: She had stage 3 ovarian cancer.
“I call it a silent killer. I had ovarian cancer and didn’t even know it. It’s my shadow that I never see but I know it’s not very far away and can come back at any time if I don’t take care of myself,” Alexander said.
After receiving the diagnosis, she set about making changes in her life, starting with her diet. She replaced unhealthy foods with vegetarian meals and plenty of greens. She created her own vitamin- and mineral-rich concoction that includes CoQ10, Vitamin B12 and flaxseed.
Alexander also turned to her faith, took some healing courses at her church, Greater King David Baptist Church, and credits the staff at Woman’s Hospital for her recovery.
After two years of pills, blood transfusions and surgery, her cancer went into remission. That was seven years ago.
“Today, I find time for myself, diet, exercise and make certain I don’t miss any routine check-ups. Mainly, I try to live a stress-free lifestyle,” she said. “I also believe that with cancer, like all things in life, you have to get to the root of a problem before you can solve it, and that’s how I faced my cancer.”
She credits her disease for making her and her two sons stronger. Since the diagnosis, both sons have graduated from Southern University Lab School. One attends Harvard and is earning his Ph.D. while the other is studying chemistry at LSU.
Despite being cancer-free for seven years, Alexander’s story doesn’t end wrapped up in a neat and happy bow.
Just three months ago, her 39-year-old sister, Alexis Denise Wilson Jones, died of stage 4 ovarian cancer.
Several of her grandparents’ siblings, she has since learned, have suffered from cancer.
“I mainly want people to understand that unless we get back to the basics in life, the simplest and healthiest of things, cancer happens to everyone regardless of race, social status or financial background,” Alexander said.
According to the National Cancer Institute’s data for 2010 to 2012, about 39.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.
Relay for Life is a worldwide effort to unite communities to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and take action find a cure for cancers. The event includes food, games and other fundraising activities.
To learn more about Relay for Life, visit relay.acsevents.org/ and enter 70791 in the top search field.