A dream built by Pam Lewis
Hello! My name is Pam and am living with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I have been dreaming about Bucking Cancer for the last 2 years while navigating my cancer journey. I am excited to finally be able to launch it and hope that I am around for a long time to be of service.
The mission of Bucking Cancer is to provide a safe space for people touched by cancer to feel seen, supported, loved, and empowered. A place to connect with horses, nature, and other people while finding respite from the worry and stress of a cancer diagnosis.
In June of 2020, in the midst of so many Covid-19 unknowns, I sat alone in the emergency room as a doctor told me they’d found a mass that was thought to be pancreatic cancer. At the height of the pandemic, my family couldn’t be with me and I remember sitting alone, crying, and thinking to myself, “This is the bad kind of cancer….the kind no one wants.”
As you may know, pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. I try not to give that thought much energy, but sometimes it’s impossible to quiet the mind. When I’d let it run, I’d quickly spiral to wondering about things that were impossible to answer. Would I be here for my daughter’s graduation? Will I see my next birthday?
To be frank — none of us really know the answers to these questions, but when you’re diagnosed with cancer you suddenly look at your life in a new light.
So while spending time with my daughter at the barn where we leased a horse named Calgary, I began to notice periods where I felt safe, connected, and “normal”.
I felt at peace when I was with the horses. I forgot about cancer, chemo, and thoughts of death.
I talked with the horses, brushed their dirty coats, cleaned hooves, fed them peppermints, mucked stalls, and gave them my love. The horses were like medicine as I felt the connection of my heart to the horse’s steady beat.
I was alive.
I was present.
I was awake.
I was grateful.
What a blessing it was to have that opportunity. And that’s when I realized I wanted to share my experience with others touched by cancer.
During my treatments, I was fortunate to be supported by so many people. I received thoughtful gifts, kind gestures, and supportive messages. But I frequently thought about the other cancer patients that didn’t have the support and love that I did and I wanted to share that generosity with them.
For me, horses are magically healing and I’d love to share that power with others. I am grateful to partner with Ali and Jason with Liberty Reins equestrian barn in West Linn, Oregon where this dream of mine has begun to take shape. Check them out at https://www.libertyreins.com/
After my diagnosis, I underwent my first surgery to open up my bile duct with a stent and the surgeon took a bite of the tumor for testing. I was fortunate enough to qualify for the Whipple surgery that only 20% of pancreatic cancer patients are eligible for. I underwent the complex 6-hour surgery that removed the cancerous tumor in my pancreas and other organs and innards. Google it if you are interested. It’s intense, to say the least.
Next up was chemo. My treatments were every 2 weeks and they went on for 6 months. That potion helped save my life. Don’t get me wrong, IT SUCKED!
But in February 2021, I had my first clean PET scan. In celebration, we immediately started looking for a horse. A few weeks later, we found our Mustang, Lazlo, who is now part of the family.
A year later, in February 2022, my cancer came back. I knew before the doctors because I could just feel it. It’s pretty incredible how the body often knows things before the mind has a chance to catch up.
I went through a second round of chemo in July 2022 and this time I lost my hair. It’s devastating when you lose your hair — not because of vanity — but because every day you look in the mirror and you don’t recognize yourself anymore. You see a sick person staring back at you each time.
After chemo, I completed radiation treatments in January 2023. I know cancer looms and I live my life with the daily reminder that tomorrow is not a guarantee. This drives me to be a better version of myself and create something special. No more sitting on the sidelines, staying quiet, avoiding risk and fear. I’m all in and want to connect with others and continue to grow this vision of mine.
For even more on my journey, you can follow my Caringbridge below.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.
ABOUT BUCKING CANCER
Our goal is to create a healing space where survivors can be in the company of horses. A place in nature where they can breathe fresh air and feel present. The emphasis is placed on being with horses, not riding. A place to put down the heavy bags we carry.
But we also know that not everyone wants a horse experience and may need something different or have other needs. Simple comforts like. . .
A caring, handwritten card
Flowers to brighten their space
A care package to know someone was thinking of them
A warm and fuzzy blanket
A grub hub gift card to help with meals
A small grant to help with the financial strain of cancer