Teacher travels 600 miles for Dana-Farber care

In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship. 

In 2008 I discovered that my breast cancer, in remission for several years, had spread to my bones. I had just turned 50 and made a list of things I wanted to try that year: ride a helicopter, taste sake, attend a political rally. Going back into cancer treatment was not on the list.

My oncologist in Virginia suggested a consult with Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Center in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. After meeting with him I began traveling to Dana-Farber every six months for checkups. I went back on tamoxifen, a drug I had taken for five years after my treatment for breast cancer in 2000. Things seemed to be going well until last year.

Pam ZwemerWhen the cancer cells migrated to my stomach lining in 2011, I joined a clinical trial under Dr. Winer’s care. It is exploring the side effects of two oral medications, letrozole (a hormonal therapy that reduces estrogen production) and BKM120, thought to overcome the cancer’s resistance to hormonal therapy.

Dr. Winer coordinates my care with my oncologist in Virginia, Michael E. Lee, MD. I remember e-mailing Dr. Winer the night I learned the cancer had invaded my stomach. At 10:30 p.m., there he was, on my screen. During my visits I feel comforted by his presence. I know I’m in good hands.

Trusting my care team means I can keep doing what I love – teaching high school math. My school community has helped, raising more than $9,000 for my travel expenses.

Every month I travel to Boston on a Wednesday afternoon, see my care team on Thursday, fly home that night, and am back in the classroom Friday. I want my students to know that having stage IV breast cancer is only part of my identity. I’m still me.

Pam Zwemer chairs the math department at the Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va., and is a Dana-Farber patient.

Comments Sort By Newest

2 thoughts on “Teacher travels 600 miles for Dana-Farber care

  1. I have worked with Pam as a math teacher in Chesapeake. She is an outstanding person and teacher. Thanks for sharing her story.

  2. Pam you are incredible. I known you will overcome this. You are meant to be an inspiration for your students, colleagues, and all you come in contact with. You are amazing! I miss working and talking with you.

  3. Pam you are incredible. I known you will overcome this. You are meant to be an inspiration for your students, colleagues, and all you come in contact with. You are amazing! I miss working and talking with you.

  4. I have worked with Pam as a math teacher in Chesapeake. She is an outstanding person and teacher. Thanks for sharing her story.

Comments are closed.

Make An Appointment

For adults: 877-442-9599

Quick access: Appointments as soon as the next day for new adult patients

For children: 888-733-4662

All content in these blogs is provided by independent writers and does not represent the opinions or advice of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or its partners.

Latest Tweets

Dana-Farber @danafarber
Testicular #cancer is overwhelmingly common in young men, with the average age of diagnosis just 33. Know the signs… https://t.co/oJC4Rkiy1F
Dana-Farber @danafarber
While not all cancers can be prevented, there are a number of strategies & techniques that may help reduce your ris… https://t.co/LxCsNtq9Q1
Dana-Farber @danafarber
Our Yawkey Center for Cancer Care features 500+ works of art by artists like Andy Warhol. Take a self-guided tour:… https://t.co/PSEMt5JMVw

Republish our posts on your blog

Interested in sharing one of our stories on your blog? Feel free to republish this content! We just ask that you credit Dana-Farber, link to the original article, and refrain from making edits that change the original context. Questions? Email the editors at insight_blog@dfci.harvard.edu.