Editor’s note: In honor of Physician Assistant’s Week (Oct. 6-12), we bring you the story of Brittany Holloway. She’s a PanCAN volunteer leader from our Columbus, Ohio Affiliate. Inspired by the extraordinary physician assistant who cared for her mom throughout her pancreatic cancer journey, Brittany is studying to become a physician assistant.
It was the Tuesday before my college spring break.
I was writing papers, studying for finals, and thinking about going to Florida.
My mom had complained of stomach pain that day, but blamed it on some bad food she ate. Her doctor told her to go to the ER to get checked out, just in case.
In the span of four hours, my mom went from having stomach pains to pancreatic cancer.
All of a sudden, my carefree senior year started to spiral.
Living 2,000 miles away from my mom made me feel incredibly helpless. If it weren’t for Pam, my mom’s amazing physician assistant, our experience would have been very different.
My mom was feeling helpless as well, but a strong will to live overcame her. She wanted to know everything about her diagnosis and was determined to fight.
Pam was the one person my mom knew would answer the phone or return voicemails at any hour. Pam had the right answers or would find the resources to answer my mom’s questions.
In the months after her diagnosis, my mom endured rounds of chemo and radiation, and was lucky enough to have the Whipple surgery, in which Pam assisted.
After making it through the procedure, we thought the worst was behind us. We had no idea what the challenging side effects of the surgery would be.
Through every step of the confusing process, Pam was there to offer advice and life-saving therapies. Pam advocated for my mom throughout her entire cancer journey.
Nothing made me feel better than knowing there was someone in my mom’s corner when I couldn’t be there.
I thought to myself ‘If I could change the life of just one person like Pam did for my mom, I know my career would be a success.’
Pam is the reason I’m studying to be a physician assistant.
My mom’s diagnosis led me to volunteering for PanCAN’s Columbus Affiliate in 2014. They welcomed me with open arms and quickly became my PanCAN family. I instantly bonded with other caretakers. I started out as the Volunteer Chair at PanCAN’s Columbus PurpleStride 2014.
At the same time, my mom became involved with PanCAN’s Orange County Affiliate. She quickly connected with other survivors.
In 2016, I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer but I treasure my memories of her.
Growing up with only one parent, we were very close. She was the best friend, cheerleader and parent a girl could ever ask for.
She supported me in every way, waking up early on Saturdays to drive me to soccer tournaments and making sacrifices so I could go to private school and later become a physician assistant.
Together, we enjoyed Buckeye football games, shopping and watching reality TV shows.
We loved to travel and each year we took one big trip – one of my favorites was the Siene river cruise we took in France.
When my mom was losing her battle with pancreatic cancer, the timing coincided with November Awareness.
After seeing billboards, football games and supermarkets turn pink in October for breast cancer awareness, I was motivated to bring that same kind of recognition to pancreatic cancer awareness. That’s also why I volunteer.
I miss the time I had with my mom, but I’m grateful to have those memories.
And I look forward to the day when I can care for my own patients the same way Pam did.