A Death in the Family

Last May I had the pleasure of attending the first-ever ArtBra KC event in Kansas City. All of the models either had been or were still being treated for breast cancer, including my friend Pam Van Compernolle, who had metastatic breast cancer. It was a joyful experience. Pam was their first model and the face of ArtBra 2011.

This year’s event on May 4 was dedicated to Pam, who died on April 9. The program included “Warrior Princess,” a poem I wrote for her. Pam loved the poem, and I will always be grateful to the women of ArtBra KC for including it.

Everyone involved with ArtBra KC fell as hard for Pam as the rest of us did. On their Facebook page, they talked about how spunky she was and how much they loved her and will miss her. If you knew her, you’d know why. This picture of her modeling the Angel/Devil bra is pure Pam. She had the face of a beauty queen and the heart of a lion. She never once let cancer rob her of her joy and zest for life.

There’s so much more I want you to know about my friend, but it’s not time. For now, I want you to know that ArtBra KC is a role model for events the same way Pam is a role model for facing cancer with grace.

I’ve heard about women with metastatic breast cancer who’ve been discouraged from taking part in survivor events. I can’t begin to imagine how horrible and lonely that would feel. Metastatic cancer is already isolating enough. To be told you don’t qualify as a survivor is worse than being told you don’t belong; it’s being told you aren’t alive.

In contrast, the women of ArtBra KC welcomed Pam. They understand that metastatic breast cancer isn’t contagious.They also understand that until cancer claims them, women with metastatic cancer are here. They’re alive. They’re surviving.

Just like the rest of us.


22 thoughts on “A Death in the Family

  1. Oh, Jackie, I can’t tell you how sorry I am. Pam looks like a totally badass babe, who didn’t take herself too seriously, my kind of chica. You must all be devastated, all of you who loved her.

    Hugs. Kathi

  2. Jackie,
    I’m sorry you’ve lost a friend and the breast cancer community has lost a woman who lived with grace and courage. Metastatic cancer is on my mind this week in my blog as well. I wonder if faced with metastasis whether I would pull out the stops to keep on living, regardless of the quality of life. I’m glad more of us are talking about these courageous women because they’re every bit as alive as we are.

    • Thanks, Brenda. I’ve wondered the same thing many times but I know Pam would be my role model and guide in facing death, just as she was when I was first diagnosed. XOX

  3. Jackie,

    I am so sorry for you and especially for Pam. Her ROAR comes right through in the photo. I hope you can take some small measure of comfort in knowing you have a massive community of friends sending you virtual support and love.


  4. Jackie, I’m very sorry for your loss. Welcoming those with metastatic breast cancer with open arms seems like such an obvious and easy thing to do, not to mention the right thing to do. Why is it such a rarity then? Those living with mets should not feel as if they don’t belong. Thank you ArtBra KC for your welcoming spirit. Thank you, Jackie, for this lovely tribute. Pam must have been an amazing woman and friend.

    • Thank you, Nancy. I talked to a couple of the women from ArtBra KC who attended Pam’s celebration and I told them they deserve our praise. They don’t understand it either. All we could think of is it must be fear.

  5. Someone like Pam makes me believe it is possible to defy death. I don’t mean literally, since that is going to be the outcome for all of us anyway. I mean in spirit and in sheer life force. Look at that picture! That energy could never cease to exist. It is all around us.

    I am sorry for those of you who loved her and miss her presence every day. But thank you for such a moving post. It is a great tribute.

    • Marie, so good to hear from you and thank you so much for those beautiful thoughts. Pam definitely was a life force and she did defy death right up to the end. You captured her perfectly.

  6. Oh I am so sorry Jackie to hear of the sad, sad loss of your friend. I remember so well the first time we met online and I asked you to write a guest post for JBBC, you sent me this special poem, along with a fabulous picture of the two of you at your book launch party. It is just so hard to believe that such a beautiful, vibrant life force can be taken from us like this. Thinking of you x

    Link to your guest post on JBBC:

    • Marie,
      Thank you so much for your kindness and for including a link to my guest post. Vibrant sums Pam up perfectly. I’m going to miss her for as long as I live.

  7. I love that in-your-face-I’m-a-badass pose of Pam’s. Jackie, I’m so very sorry for the loss of this incredible woman. I read your poem, and it’s fantastic, such a moving tribute. And I agree that people with mets should be able to be part of survivor events and such. It’s isolating to not be included.

  8. Oh Jackie – what a beautiful, heartbreaking tribute. I love your poem and the way it brings Pam’s spirit shining through. I agree that it is unfair to exclude anyone from any survivor activities – it is a matter of individual choice. And all choices should be respected and supported.
    Thank you xox

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  10. I love this and wish I could have met Pam, but I am happy to know her spunk and joy for life through your words. Sending you big hugs for Peru as you grieve the loss of a friend and a wonderful human being. xo

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