Walking a New Road

“This is serious…do you realize you could die?” These words spoken by Pam’s oncologist shook her into a new reality. Pam Woll-Hunter, at 63, was diagnosed with stage 3c Breast Cancer. In 2002, she underwent radioiodine treatment for thyroid cancer. When she felt the lump in her breast, a busy ten years later, she preferred to be in denial of the possibility of facing cancer again, having “no time for interruptions.”

“The news hit me like a freight train, I thought I had killed myself because I waited so long.” With the Medical team’s support, Pam shifted to the “present”, and  walking a road to recovery.


Review of cancer studies shows, “Exercise can decrease the side effects of anticancer therapy, and can aid in recovery and rehabilitation following chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.”  Breast cancer patients, walking a minimum of three hours a week, can boost survival rates by 50%.  These statistics inspired Pam to join the Livestrong Program at the YMCA Healthy Living Center and join the Fitness and Cancer Walking Program.  At first, one or two laps around the track, with trained medical program staff, was a challenge.  Especially when chemotherapy was draining her stamina.  Pam kept walking.   In due time, her laps and energy increased.


“When I walk, I feel a thousand times better and carries through to the next day. I feel  it physically working for me and it is amazing.”     Pam experienced the more she walked, the better her recovery and the more weight she lost. She began reclaiming her life and vowed to make it more meaningful.


This past Wednesday, Pam finished her last surgery, two years after diagnosis of stage 3c breast cancer.  She shed 70 plus pounds, by walking, changing her diet and finding more balance in life and work.   Pam is redefining her path once again.  Determined to stay healthy and prevent a reoccurrence of cancer, she dreams bigger goals.  Being inspired by other cancer survivors, who climb mountains, bike across the United States and run marathons, Pam aspires to a mountain adventure with Above + Beyond Cancer.

Pam recently registered as a  volunteer cancer survivor for the  Walking Program at the YMCA Healthy Living Center.  Convinced that walking was a catalyst for her  recovery, reclaiming and rejoicing in life,  Pam will walk beside newly diagnosed cancer patients, undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.  Offering the encouragement their spirit may need, to walk to recover, reclaim and rejoice.  She made a commitment for change; a commitment to live an active, nutritionally sound and meaningful life, hoping to inspire other cancer survivors, by example.

To join the Above + Beyond Cancer Family, the Livestrong at the YMCA Program or Cancer Fitness and Walking Program at the YMCA Healthy Living Center as a cancer patient or volunteer contact mary@aboveandbeyondcancer.org or call 515- 226-9622.

Mary Van Heukelom
Program Director

Mary Van Heukelom is a Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer who trains, educates and coaches cancer survivors to reduce the chance of relapse, through holistic personal wellness programs addressing all aspects of healthy living.

One Response to “Walking a New Road”

  1. Dan


    You should be so proud of yourself. What you have been through the past 2 years would break even the strongest. Not you. You persevered through it all, and look at you now. I’m so glad that we’re friends and that you never gave up. I knew that you could do it, even when you probably didn’t think that you could. Love you!!!!


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