A cancer journey: More than hair loss

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

Pam Battle Baker of Rutledge canceled her 2022 mammogram in Tennessee due to a move. With no family history of breast cancer, she wasn’t concerned about missing a year. However, breast cancer survivor Kim Brewer from Dozier encouraged her to prioritize early detection.

Baker had a mammogram done in Troy on Feb. 23. She was called in for another mammogram on March 14 where it was decided for her to have an ultrasound and biopsy that same day.

On March 17, Baker received the news that she had an HER2-positive tumor, known for its aggressiveness but also its treatment responsiveness, that had spread to her lymph nodes.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time to celebrate bravery, resilience, medical progress, and the importance of early detection and screenings when it comes to breast cancer patients like Baker and their families. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer became the most common cancer globally as of 2021.

Battle endured six rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries, the first of which took place Sept. 8 in Dothan on her 34th wedding anniversary. Always looking on the bright side, Baker celebrated by getting to enjoy good restaurants in Dothan.

Baker has experienced the typical challenges that come along with breast cancer: hair loss, grueling treatments, and uncertainty about the future. However, Baker’s perspective is clear – there is more to life than cancer, and there is more to cancer than hair loss.

“After the second chemo treatment, my hair began to fall out in clumps,” Baker said. “We’d talked about shaving it but hadn’t acted. During a visit from our son Coleman, who works all over the country as an underwater welder, I thought, ‘Let’s make it a family event.’ So, we did. Having Coleman join in was a comforting experience for us all.”
Baker’s resilience shone when she decided to shave her hair, turning a potentially somber moment into a heartwarming family experience filled with laughter, as her husband Larry realized he might not have a future as a beautician.

A woman of unwavering faith, Baker has shown that while cancer might steal her hair, it could not take her spirit, determination, or love for life.

“What little hair I have dries in two minutes, and the style keeps me cool,” she said. “What more could a girl want?”
Baker, who relocated to Rutledge with her husband Larry after living in Tennessee for just under 35 years, embraced her roots and ancestral connections to Crenshaw County long ago. Choosing Alabama as their home, the Bakers have felt the warm support of their local churches and their neighbors.

“We already knew several of our neighbors really well, but since the diagnosis, we have really gotten to know them and for that I am so thankful, and I am so thankful for them.”

Baker has deep roots in Crenshaw County. Despite living in Tennessee for the past 35 years and never residing in Alabama, she and Larry chose to make the Heart of Dixie their home after retiring from their respective careers.

The Baker’s decision to move to Alabama was influenced when they connected with a cousin found through genealogy research, Edwin Mitchell of the Springhill Community near Brantley. During the visit with Mitchell and his family, the Baker’s acquired an Australian Shepherd puppy, now a cherished member of the Baker family.

“As we were leaving the annual Mitchell Family egg hunt in Brantley and driving through the woods, I turned to Larry and said, ‘This place is stunning. We could live in Alabama’,” Baker said. “Living in the county my father was born in and where my ancestors resided since the early 1800s, and even further back on the Native American side, feels like a potent tool in my fight against cancer.”
Baker is currently battling breast cancer with unwavering determination and an indomitable spirit and as a devout Christian, she believes that her unwavering trust in the Lord has been her anchor throughout the storm.
“When I die, I will go on to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus,” Baker said. “What better place to be? I am going there one day regardless. What could make life more precious than knowing that if you have faith, you have everything you need?”.
As Baker continues her journey, soon to start radiation, she encourages others to prioritize their health and have regular mammograms, do breast self-exams, and to cherish every moment.
For more information and resources for cancer patients, visit the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/ or call the Cancer Helpline at 800.227.2345.