This episode celebrates those who have overcome their battle with cancer and influence those around them to do the same. We’re speaking with the one and only Pammie Jimmar, President of the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce and breast cancer survivor. This powerhouse is a mover and shaker in the North Alabama community and an inspiration to many. So, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’d like to invite you to check out our interview with this amazing survivor!
She Boss with Pammie Jimmar
Megan: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of She Boss and to say I am excited about this is definitely an understatement because I’m sitting here with a woman who I have admired for a very, very long time is Pammie Jimmar, who is the president of Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce. I love you so much.
Pammie: I love you too Megan.
Megan: So for those of you that don’t know, if you live under a rock Pammie is hands down one of the biggest supporters of small businesses. And anytime you see anything that is out there, especially in North Alabama, and supportive small business entrepreneurs, economic development, anything that’s going on in this community, you see Pammie, right there in every single picture behind every single email as part of every single team photo, and she’s just an overall Rock star. So I am so thankful that you’ve carved out time to chat with us and we’re
Pammie: Happy to do it.
Megan: We’re actually in a very new building right now, because Pammie has spent a lot of time at the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce, and recently made a big move. So I say before we jump into the move, let’s just start from the beginning. So give us a little bit of a background on who Pammie is that people don’t get a chance to hear about.
Pammie: Oh boy, Pammie don’t sleep at night of course. Pammie is so full of energy. Okay, so I was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia, spent most of my professional career in Macon, Georgia, working in convention sales and tourism. My husband at the time said, “It’s time to move back to Alabama” and I was like, “No, we can’t go to Alabama. I need to be with my family”. And he said, “You know, we’ve been near your family for over 25 years.” And right then it just set in and I said you’re absolutely right and I said, “Let’s do it”. Not knowing that he was thinking, maybe in a year or so, and the Pammie that I am, I moved right on and I was like, “Gotta get done. I gotta get a job”.
So, literally our president at the Macon County Chamber was Chip Cheery, which was my boss in Huntsville was moving to Huntsville. I picked up the phone and said, “Oh, my God, he’s going to Huntsville and I’m going to Huntsville”. And so he said to me, “Well, I don’t know if I’ve had any openings. But you know, I’ll be in touch with you.” And because I had a sales background, because I had been in with the Convention of Visitor’s Bureau for sixteen years, he did have a position where he wanted to create a small business department. And it was perfect. It was different, you know, had been dealing with meeting planners and tour operators and things of that nature. But it was still people skills, you know, if you have people skills that carry you a long way. So it’s just like flipping the page on something different. And of course, I was ready for the task. And hence, that’s when the Small Business Department starts to grow and was paying inception at the Chamber of Commerce.
Megan: That is awesome. I didn’t know that you and Chip were in a different market. That you were together and then you moved over.
Pammie: Yeah, he celebrated 10 years I think about two months ago. And so he was with the Chamber of Commerce, and I was with the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. We weren’t together. We had our own stand alones but we were in the same city. He’s with business and we were tourism and meetings.
Megan: So what spurred your husband to want to get to Alabama?
Pammie: He’s from Colbert County. My father in law image Emmitt Jimmar has been- I think he is the longest living commissioner or serving commissioner in the state of Alabama like 36 years. Since he’s retired now, but he was born and raised in Colbert County, and Leighton, Alabama.
Megan: So being a commissioner for that long he probably had some passion projects. What were his things?
Pammie: Oh, my gosh, he is strictly community and the people and on the flip side of that he was AEA too, Alabama Educational Association and so he represented all the teachers all dealing with education in this area. So it’s been great here in this area. Everybody knows him. They’ll come up to me, especially here in Limestone. They’ll come up to me and say, “Are you related to Emmitt Jimmar?” because he represented all the educators in this region.
Megan: That is awesome. Why didn’t I know that? So you have community support and small business in your blood?
Pammie: I do and my dad was a people person, you know, he didn’t have the education but he is the one that taught me that people skills are more important than anything because if you have the people skills and just might allow you take it. You know the technical skills you need too but you need the people skills so people have got to trust you. They’ve got to know you; people want to get to know you. We say that the old slogan that people use forever and I still use it, people do business with people they know, love and trust. That’s how it is. So I’ve always been taught that from a little girl.
My dad moonlighted at the officer’s club in Augusta. Dad had two or three jobs. I know he had two full time jobs, I know that. I love golf and that’s where I’m going to tell the story because everybody knows that Augusta is home of the Masters. My dad met a General- I’ll never forget growing up, he and his wife would come to Augusta for Masters every year, and he met him at the bar when he was bar tendering. And so the General just loved my dad so much and my dad was like, “Hey, you don’t need hotel because if you’ve been to the Masters, you can’t find any hotel when the guests arrive. And so he said, “You don’t have to get a hotel, you can stay with us. Nobody stays downstairs”. And so they stay with us for over two years. And so literally, I’m probably not supposed to say this, they will leave on Saturday and so the tickets will go to us on Saturdays and Sundays, I’ve gone to the Masters, since I was, oh, gosh, maybe 10 years old.
So he taught me those people skills, because he went to the golf course he knew everybody, VIP and that was unheard of. I mean, even as an African American back in the day, to be able to do that. But you have the people skills, to be able to just break all kinds of barriers.
Megan: I think that’s so important too, because especially now. As we were talking earlier, one of the things about this particular series is that we wanted to break down the barrier of what we view other women to be. Because as we’ve talked about, so often we look at other women, we admire other women, other men for that matter. And we make assumptions about maybe what their background was, or how they got to where they are now. And so really being able to kind of showcase that behind the mirror, so to speak, and really get to learn about people in that way is so important. But I agree people skills are huge. And that’s one thing that is hard to teach, necessarily, but it’s something that yields such a great return over and over again, because I agree with you being in the smallest largest community where we are. I mean, we’re in leadership right now and everything is this like a degree and a half of separation from each other. And it started at six and now I went to four and then it’s like, there’s really none because everybody just seems to be connected. And it’s so important with relationships, which I think is just huge. Even as a business owner as you’re starting your new business, I mean surrounding yourself with people who you can engage with and get to learn and really figure out what is it that I can help these individuals with and that I can learn from to just help propel me in that right direction. Everything that you guys have done especially at the Huntsville Madison County Chamber has really helped open up those opportunities to allow that to happen, which I think is just been so critical to the economic development. So out of curiosity, did you play golf before you started going to the Masters? Or was that what sort of sparked the interest a little bit?
Pammie: It did. I guess I started working at the Masters because when you’re in
Augusta and your kid that’s what you do. And so you were able to get a work permit back in the day. I don’t know if they still do that to let thirteen year olds work anymore. But back in the day, when I was growing up, I did get a work permit to work there at thirteen and all our parents regardless whether they weren’t able to go in and play golf you know at Augusta National but golf courses all over in Augusta, and so my dad played, my brother played and of course I always loved the game. And so yeah, I’m not great but I love the game.
Megan: It’s a fun game. It used to be very much a man’s game and I think that is completely changing.
Pammie: Oh, it’s so fun and it’s so relaxing to get the girls out on the golf course and eat all day.
Megan: And be silly on the golf course and laughing. So your journey has brought you throughout this industry of convention sales and hospitality management and doing all of these different things. Did you study that in school?
Pammie: Yes. Well kind of. So my degree is in business administration, with a concentration in marketing. So you know when you take all these tests in high school to see where your interests may lie? Mine always came back social work, right? And so I was like, “okay, social work, I can do that. I love people. I love helping people”. And so when I got ready to go to college, I said, “Well, maybe I don’t want to major in social work. But I do want to help people. So go ahead and major in business, administration and marketing”. I love to talk when my counselor saying, “Why don’t you try marketing?”. In the 80s, you know, marketing was just coming, people been doing marketing, but it started to really get really popular. And I said, “I do love talking to people”. So that’s how I picked the major Business Administration with a concentration in marketing.
Then when I graduated from college, I started working with Department of Human Services, with Family and Children’s Services. So they had rolled out a program, it was called Right from the Start Medic aid, and it was for women and children. So you were social services, but you also had to market the program and go to doctors’ offices, and get them to market the program to their patients. So it afforded me the opportunity to do both, still having caseload to deal with women that had children, but then it also afforded me an opportunity to get out in the community, to the medical community to get them to support the program.
Megan: When you are able to find something that sort of marries your two passions, you know, it’s one thing to do marketing for a company that sells tchotchkes or that makes products that I don’t know and then it’s another when you can see a true community and personal and emotional impact that that effort can influence. It definitely makes the job so much more worthwhile in my personal opinion, which I think why nonprofit is just so amazing. My first job was a nonprofit. And I had to market, had to sell all those things. So under qualified for that position, but through my people skills-
Pammie: You were like, “I got this, I got this”.
Megan: But when you can find something like that really marries those things that bring your true passion out, I think the end result is going to be amazing because you don’t do it because you have to do it, you do it because it’s something you just love to do. And you know, it’s the right thing. It’s hard work, but I’m sure it was great benefit for you.
Pammie: Yeah. And even when I was in Huntsville, with the chamber, with the small businesses, I didn’t know that world. But as I begin to meet the members and talk to the companies, for me, it’s more than just you’re just a member. For me, it’s about building relationships in the beginning. And this, I mean, I can say, you know, at the Huntsville Madison County Chamber, the members and the small business are like my friends, I mean, I’ve been there 10 years, so we were more than a transaction. And that was the beauty of it. I think that’s just who I am because people have to feel comfortable with you. And people have to like you, and I don’t feel that people would be a member of an organization if they didn’t support the mission, the people that that work there. You know it’s all in one, you have to have it all.
Megan: Well, and I think as a member of the chamber, I know personally, especially over the last year and a half that you all the team there and I’m sure it’s the same here has hands down the best interest of its members at play, which leads me to another question. I don’t want to focus too much on this but the pandemic and what that did, and those who have heard me talk just even a little bit know that as a small business owner, we started in 2018 and it’s 2021 and we have eight full time people with is amazing. And I attribute a lot of that not only the stellar team on camera, but organizations such as the Chamber who I didn’t know what I don’t know, right. And you guys helped me so much with that, and the catalyst did as well. But going through that process, no one was prepared.
I don’t think anybody was prepared for what’s going to happen. And I joke about it, but that that second weekend, March, you better believe that I took a punch to the gut, and I surround myself in a bottle of wine for the weekend and cry myself to sleep thinking that this is going to go down. And you know, that drive that drove me to start was refueled instantly, and it was, this is not going to take me down, or what I have to do, and honestly, I can truly say that had it not been for the constant communication from your team, the daily emails from Claire and the calls and just everybody being and Hillary Claymore being so helpful. God bless Hillary. She’s like, “I heard you couldn’t find the PPP, just give me a call and I’ll hook you up”. It was like she was a drug dealer.
Pammie: Hillary and I were on the phone, sometimes nine, ten, eleven o’clock at night. I would text her, “Hillary are you up?” She’s like, “Yeah I’m up”. I say, “Can I call you now?” “Yeah you can call me now” and there we are.
Megan: All of you are working behind the scenes to just figure it out. Figuring it out for other people, while you were still going through your own impacts from COVID and the pandemic- so just to think about that for a second. And I know there’s a lot of focus on health care workers for the obvious reason, and first responders and educators but there’s just in the same category, in my opinion, are individuals such as yourself and teams, that your organization.
Pammie: Yeah and the no sleep.
Megan: Because there wasn’t a day that didn’t go by where I didn’t feel confident in the resources that were being provided news because of that our business is where it is today, hands down. But I would love to get your perspective from behind the scenes on how you guys were able to just overcome some of those challenges, and what that meant for you at that time.
Pammie: Oh, my goodness, where do we begin? I never forget that we were all in the auditorium. And literally, when everyone had figured out that this thing wasn’t going anywhere, it wasn’t like it was here for a week or a month. It was not going anywhere. And it really starts to really hit home when the mandates start to happen. When we saw cities and states and federal government, everyone shutting down, you know, but business had to go on in some way, form and fashion. That was before even the loans and the PPP and IOK now I was nothing.
Megan: Yeah, I feel like some people maybe thought, “Oh, we’ve got a two week break. Just give us two weeks. You know, that’s all we need just stay at home for two weeks, which was like, great”.
Pammie: Yeah, and you still have organizations and businesses, especially in the federal government realm that are still not back in person. But we really it was almost like, and I say this, I don’t want to, maybe I shouldn’t say this because this word is very strong so I’m not going say it. It was kinda like we were on a battlefield. And we had to figure out how we- not that we were going to win but how are we going to navigate through this? Businesses were closing because they just couldn’t, you know, they had and I’m talking about permanently, because they could not I mean, they had employees to pay. They had benefits to pay. I meant just think of the food that had gone away that they had already spent money on. And what could we do as a team?
I remember, I never forget, we were in one of our team meetings, and we met every day to figure this out. And I just looked at Chip and the team and had to start crying. I said these smoking people, small businesses were calling left and right saying, “What can we do? What are we going to do?” And I remember Chip saying, “We’re going to we’re going to get through this”. But how are we going to navigate through this for our members because they are looking at us like what should we do with the voice of business? Yeah. So tell us what to do. And so I think the first thing was how do we protect ourselves? Companies were, especially the large companies too were like, “We don’t have masks”. Remember, you couldn’t find masks.
Megan: So many people were starting to make masks at home.
Pammie: Absolutely, we had that going on. So it was almost like everybody in the community was just pulling together, “Hey, I can sew”, the breweries, “we can make sanitizer” because Lysol, what is Lysol that you can find that? And so people started to- what was so cool about it was, if I made this type of widget, how can I help and support in this pandemic? People, companies just flipped and did whatever it took to get it done. That helped two ways, because that helped them keep the employees there by just feeding out different things that people needed. This is when we found out that a lot of the small businesses were not online. They could not take their model and put it online. And that was the most disheartening thing. Even the restaurants that were not at that level to have where you can go on there and order online and you could come to me, and I could come to your car and deliver because we still got to eat. People still had to eat, you know.
Megan: I think it’s so interesting that you say that, because a lot of companies don’t have the infrastructure resources, bandwidth skill set to be able to just flip a switch and pin it in that way. You know, now that that’s a big problem right now, with all of the funding that’s been sent down to each state level to be able to provide all of this COVID relief. It’s caught up in, you know, in state governments who can’t physically process applications fast enough, because they don’t have the infrastructure. You can’t just spin up a platform overnight, and pay for that and be able to respond. So it’s not about the unwillingness to do it, it’s about the inability to effectively roll it out.
Pammie: They do not know how. So I think if I’m not mistaken, I’m not going call the name, I’m going to say a chamber. One of our chambers that we are very close with in the state of Alabama, had met up with two young startup dads in Birmingham. And so as the pandemic was starting, they were like, “What can we do?” So they created a platform called, Get Your Gift On? Well, if you remember that one, so it’s still on the chamber site it’s called Get Your Gift On. So what they did was if you are a small business, and you weren’t able to have gift card on your website, because we were trying to help small businesses, if you can’t shop now, let’s just get this money into these businesses now, you can shop later. And so that’s the platform they created. And then they sold it through to chambers throughout the country, and to be able to the businesses that could to get the gift cards. And they also were able to- if a business did not have the bandwidth to at least get their business online some sort of way, we’re to help them out in that way, too. So that started and we were begging businesses just to put your business on this. If you do, at the very least, and we were trying to drive people to that site to be able to support the small businesses in the area, whether it was restaurants or retail.
Megan: Yeah, I’m an internal optimist. I like to always think about the positives. It’s not your challenge, it’s your area of opportunity, right? And I think that although there were and there still are so many devastating outcomes that have been as a result of this, the ingenuity has come out of the responsiveness and the need to adapt and the need to pivot and the need to be more flexible with a hybrid or remote environment. And really what that looks like this has been mind blowing. If you really sit back and you look at okay, this has happened, how are we going to respond? And although like I said, it continues to be devastating. There’s been so much innovation that has enrolled as a result of this which is mind blowing, and it’s just very admirable to see when you can bring bright minds together and on the spot work to figure out something.
Pammie: See how we are going to figure this out. And who thought we would be doing curbside delivery? Who ever thought? Everyone loves the outdoor dining and some restaurants were already doing it. But with the COVID, relief money, restaurants were able to use that money and get patios built and be creative with outdoor dining, and things of that nature. And the beauty of, you know- like the PPP was. If we were trying know, when the PPP would come out, or the second draw, or the state of Alabama when Governor Ivey had the $15,000 loans, and just any type of not loan, but grants, just to really let the small businesses know to really- the education because there’s an education component of receiving that money, also. And to make sure you set up a separate account, please don’t put that in your business account, set up a separate account, keep your receipts, make sure you use it for the correct- because it’s quick as I gave it to you, they can come right back, if you are not keeping your records and take it away.
Megan: In times of desperation we oftentimes don’t think about this. And I’m guilty of that. Yeah, I just, we just need to get going.
Pammie: It’s like preaching, I’m like education. So we started educating you on what you needed to do when you receive those grants, or those loans.
Megan: Yeah. It’s so great. So this may be a challenging question to answer. But I’m curious that we are absolutely not over the hump; I mean, we are still in the thick of it. But I think that we’ve adapted in a way that we will move on, we are moving forward, this is not going to take us down and we just need to adjust. But looking back, what would be your piece of advice for small business owners just in times of the unknown that potentially would benefit another future thing that may drop on our plates a couple years from now?
Pammie: I say prepare, preparedness. So I feel that a small business knows what it’s great at. I know I’m great at photography. I know I’m great at I don’t know, cooking. You have to have policies and procedures and a business plan and a marketing plan and a disaster plan. Lord knows a disaster plan ready. All of those should be in place. And I think what it’s taught us now is for small businesses to have a disaster preparedness plan. So our disaster preparedness plan, pre pandemic might have been if it was a flood, if it was a fire, tornado. So now we have a pandemic. So we know a lot right now. So what happens in five years if this happens again? How are you going to be prepared for when it happens again, so that you don’t close or you don’t sink? What can you do right now you already know that digitally, you need to be connected? There were small businesses that weren’t even on LinkedIn, or Instagram where they can least take pictures and say, “Hey, this is what we’re doing and we’re still open it”. There were businesses that couldn’t even do that. So if you don’t have the bandwidth to maybe take that business online, you got beat the lease on that social media, because social media was going crazy all over the place and in a good way. But that was really the only way that we were getting information out for a while. And so I think that is very important just to have these processes in place. So if it does happen again, we’re still in it, to just be prepared. I think that disaster preparedness plan should now include a pandemic.
Megan: Right, well, I mean, we’re all familiar enough with it now. And even going into this school year, it’s like, “okay, we saw what happened last year so we know now the precautions of not wearing a mask and doing these things. One thing that we found, this was after that weekend of crying my eyes out. We quickly realized just like you said, like, “Hey, we know what we’re really good at”. And there are a lot of things we’re not good at. But what we are good at is something that we can give to the community in a way to help them and they’re very organic. But we created these, like free classes to help people understand like, how to be on Facebook. And we were like, if we could just help like, honestly, I mean, like, because you can do some things in your sleep but those things are invaluable to other people And so, honestly, it was our my family in our team talking, just saying we need to do something. What can we do? Let’s just record what we do all day long. And give it to people for free and hopefully helping.
Pammie: Because remember I was always calling you like, “I made it. This is great. I built a website, can I can I promote this? Can I send this to some people?” You’re like, “absolutely”.
Megan: And I think hopefully, we did a small part just because I think in that time, that that’s when community is so important. And just thinking beyond what we can do for ourselves, but what can we do for our neighbors, our classmates and our family down the street, who doesn’t live on the internet and doesn’t know what’s going on.
The other thing, too, that I think is really important is that, at least from a business owner perspective, learning how you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. And so if 100% of your publicity of your brand is through, and I’m just using this as an example, billboard advertising, like you got to anticipate that people aren’t going to be driving around anymore, and they won’t see your business there. And they won’t know how to see it elsewhere. And so if you can be able to be flexible and have a presence in multiple places, I think it’s just really important to maintain that top of mind.
And then another thing that we learned was to be transparent, especially as a leader. As you mentioned earlier, with being the voice of business, and the voice of community, the community members look to you for guidance, and your employees look to your leaders for guidance. And so you even though we’re going to stress out and freak out, you also have to talk and be transparent about what’s going on the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes that’s hard. But it’s what needs to happen.
Pammie: It has to be. I remember, I guess maybe like a month ago, as we start to see a little uptick, and we were like, okay, because we were going back to in person businesses, in person meetings in August. And you just start to see a little uptick, and you are like, people are wearing masks, it’s going to be fun. Then all of a sudden, here we are.
Megan: Everything has gone back to virtual.
Pammie: Everything has gone back to virtual
Megan: But you know what, that’s okay. Because we just have to adapt.
Pammie: It’s an opportunity. I look at you know, there are some events that you can still do virtual. There’s some, I think the opportunity has been like, even like the professional development trainings because it’s easier. You don’t have to get in your car. You don’t have to find a parking space. I mean, there’s so much wasted time trying to get to you know-
Megan: To fully do all your hair.
Pammie: You put that picture right up there on Zoom, and you can you know, I’m here. And so that has brought more people to the table of your classes and your professional development, than you would have for people that just can’t take two hours out of the day. The networking part, of course, has been missed because we are people people and we love people. But I think you know, as this region in the community, people are like, “Okay, yeah, we do. But you know, we literally got to protect not only ourselves, but everybody else”.
Megan: We’ll get through this together. Our community will rally and the unity has been amazing. And you know, again, from the Madison County Chamber, your Limestone County Chamber You guys are just helping businesses. I want to switch gears a little bit because one thing we talked about was our every year and during the month of October Flourish turns our logo pink, not because we love pink, which we do. We love pink, but it’s also to raise awareness around something that impacts so many men and women which is cancer, primarily breast cancer. So, for those of you who have followed Pammie in her journey, she has rung the bell and she has been a cancer warrior and not only a warrior, but an amazing inspiration to so many people. And so I’d love to just if you wouldn’t mind, share your story a little bit more. And again, I think it’s not only a way for people to get to know you, you know a little bit more on a personal level, but also talk through some of the I never thought I would, kind of things that we all feel. My mom, this morning saw a picture of me, she’s like “Was that a mole on your back that I saw?”
Pammie: I bet she did
Megan: She did. She was awesome. I’m like, “Mom that was just my sports bra. I love you. Thank you so much”. But you know, she’s that way because her mom died a fifty four of breast cancer, and she has had cancer in her family. And so it’s just something that we can’t pretend and put it in quotation marks as far distant from us. So if you could just share a little bit of your story.
Pammie: So my journey began in February of 2018. I had it was a routine mammogram, as I hope everyone does every year
Megan: How old were you?
Pammie: I was fifty four years old. And I remember the receptionist saying to me, “Bluecross Blueshield is now accepting or allowing ladies to get the 3d” and I was like, “Absolutely I want to 3d”. And so she said, “Fine”. I did my mammogram that day, got the call back the next day and said, “Could you come back? We just want to retake it.” And I was like, “don’t say like we saw something” and they are just like, “we want to just redo double check”. And I said “absolutely”.
And candidly I told my mom, I said, “Mom, I’ve got to, you know, go back to the hospital because they want to redo the mammogram”. And so I did. She called me that was in the morning, she called me back. She said, “Can you come back over?” Gosh, I got really scared. I said, “Mom, they want be back. This is like the third time”. And she says, “Oh, you know, sometimes it happens”. She said “Go on”. And so I got there and she said, “I want to do a biopsy”. And I said, “oh gosh, then I start to freak out” and said, “Okay, now they want to do a biopsy, they may see something”. And I asked her I said, “Do you see anything?” She says “Well, we see something but let us just let let’s do a biopsy on it”. And they did because I’m really scared. And like I would have wanted mom to come with me but I was like, “Oh, it’ll be fine”. And I said, “Well, what are you going do?” She says, “Well, you know, we’re just going to go in and, you know, go…” and I was like, “oh, all of that”. Oh, God, I knew I needed my mom the whole night.
Megan: Were you awake?
Pammie: No, no, they numb the area. And so I was like, “Okay, I’m a big girl, I can do this. I can do this”. This has never happened to me at all. And because you hear your friends, you know, I had to go back I had to get a biopsy. And so it never happened and so that happened. She says, “We’ll call you know, once the biopsy once the results come back”. And I said, “Okay, fine. I wasn’t really stressing or anything and I got a call back from a radiologist. And a radiologist said, “Miss Jimmar, I have something I want to share with you. You know, your results came back from your biopsy, and it is cancerous”. I didn’t freak out. I said, this is what I said. I said, “Okay”. And they gave me options on what did I you know, who to call and things of that nature. What were my next steps? And I called home and I said, “Mom, I got cancer”. And she said to me, she didn’t cry. “I’m gonna cry”. She didn’t cry. She told me she said, “Just come home, we can deal with this”. I can’t believe I got emotional.
Megan: Well, it’s a bit of an emotional path. So, was your mom here?
Pammie: Yes my mom was here. My husband and I have twenty, almost twenty five years, had both said that we were both mutually agreed the October before I found that I had cancer that we were going to divorce. So that February, because if anyone’s going through divorce, it doesn’t happen right away. There’s a whole process. And so, I was going through the divorce and going through cancer at the same time. And so my mom was there with me. And she said “We’re gonna get through this”. And so, I found the oncologist, Dr. Sridhar, you know, I got to give you your props. As I call them, baby boy Sridhar because Daniel Sridhar was my oncologist and the amazing team at ClearView took care of me. And that’s when we started the journey. You know, I met with him, he told me, you know, I’ve had a series of tests. I said that year for the last two years I had been both product tested to death, literally, loosely say that. So we came up with a plan, came up with 16 rounds of chemo. He had said that it’s so small, and I did not have cancer.
Nobody in my family had it, perhaps thought my great grandmother had it when we picked her up from Montgomery. And she had a sore on her breast. She wasn’t going to the doctor, she was 94 years old. And so we really think that she did because at that point, she was 94. We just kind of kept- mom is in the medical field. And so she had the doctor, which was all our friends just come out to the house and kind of keep her comfortable with that. But my neither grandmother nor mother had it. And so that’s when the journey began. And he asked me, he said, I don’t want to- at that point it’s so weird because it started doing things like at one point, it was small, and then I would go back and it would grow a little bit. And then it was like two centimeters, it was very small. But that’s all it takes with cancer. And it could be one because it can start to metastasize. And so he said, “I want to I want to perform surgery”, He gave me options, I could have chemo radiation. He’d go in and remove it, a surgeon would go in and remove it. Or I could have the mastectomy. And of course me I’m like, “No, I don’t want to go that route”. I said, “Let’s just do it”.
So I had a bilateral mastectomy. And as I look back, rewind, probably right now probably would have done a double. Just because you start to- when you’re going through cancer, you’re not really in that moment. You know, because you’re so busy. It’s a race to save your life. It’s a race to get better. You’re not really in the mind frame if that makes sense. You’re not thinking like maybe the way you should be thinking you’re too busy worried by the chemo, the surgery and everything else. But I’m very hopeful and prayerful that I’m going to be fine. You know the support. And I say it’s so weird because I always tell my colleagues that “Yes, I work for the Chamber of Commerce, but you’re paying me from the chamber”. Like literally, that’s who you are. And so the community just rallied around me, mom, and I never had to cook a day in our lives when I was going through cancer. And these were just people in a community that were more than friends that were more than business owners. They were friends, it was just amazing. I got the opportunity to speak at Pink Ribbons and White Linen, with, of course, the fundraiser for Clear View, the Russell Hill Foundation, which was great. It gave me the opportunity to tell my story. I was always transparent, I would put it on- I kind of stopped this Facebook, I would just give updates. But I went through the really detail through the Caring Bridge, which is a site for cancer patients.
And so I put my Caring Bridge address out there. But people that wanted it, they could go and log in and they can keep up with me every day. Because I just heard so many stories where I didn’t think I was an inspiration to anyone you know, but it just kept your inspiration. Keep going, keep going. And the more you have cheerleaders and the positive mindset you have, you can beat it. You literally can beat it, but when you start to gloat in it. Am I going live? Am I going to die? What of my kids? Depression sets in and it’s hard to fight but if you say, “Oh, I’ve got this, I’ve got this bringing on my hair comes out. It’s okay it’ll grow back”. You know I’ll never forget.
Megan: I mean that’s totally a trend.
Pammie: I know, right? Mom says, “Are you gonna wear a wig? I’m like, “No way, I’m not gonna wear a wig. I’m gonna shave”. And I never forget we had the pictures. I put the pictures out there to see my journey. I got my hair shaved by my son’s Barber. And they’re my hair fell. I never forget I was at a function and I never forget. And my hair started coming out from the chemo. But I was determined to keep this up. Because I had whole shave and I had this little curly up here and I never forget, it was just like flapping. And I said, “If the wind blows, it’s gonna fall on the ground. Literally, it’s gonna come right off”. I’m going to be sitting there and it’s going to- there’s the bald head there and I was like, “Just stay on a couple more functions”. I got a couple more functions to go to. And literally it stayed on. And so it finally just, I call it a rooster top, I finally shaved my rooster top off. And I said, “You know what? I’m not gonna hide behind these wigs”. And I understand ladies who wigs. I support them. I said, “You know, I’m gonna keep this hair. I’m gonna just rock it. I’m gonna wear my eyelashes and my makeup, my lipstick. And I’m gonna rock it”. And it just became an inspiration to even more people just because I was embracing it, you know? It’s not going to take me down I’ll take it down. But meanwhile, I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to fight it and just positive energy. I am a Christian so I’ve got to say in the Lord. I mean, he literally kept me and brought me through this journey. He really did and prayers yeah, so many prayers. And positive energy was fed into me, I had nothing. There was nowhere to go but to beat this and to be successful.
Megan: It’s amazing what a positive outlook can do. I mean, it can absolutely change the outlook of it. My dad had cancer and went through radiation all last year. And it was awful to watch because it just, it just sucked the life out of you and just causes so much depression. Oh and it’s sometimes very hard, I would imagine seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. That you shared your journey with everybody is so bold and so strong and such a perfect and indicative representation of who you are as an individual beyond just what you’ve done for community because not only has it helped business, but it’s helped women. And all of that, what was the biggest surprise of the journey that you went through with breast cancer that caught you off guard, kind of knocked you off your feet a little bit that you didn’t anticipate?
Pammie: The process and still in the process, I think that there’s an- and of course one day, I’m here with Sonia Robinson. And we’re going to work on this. Yes, because we said that we’re going to work on this. I feel when you have been diagnosed with cancer, you get in a mode of you and colleges and other the medical team. How are we going to save this person’s life? When there are a lot of things that, you know- there’s a surgeon that’s involved there’s an oncologist, as a surgeon involved. There’s, you know, you got to pick a surgeon. After that there’s another journey of continuing your radiation, there’s another journey of, “Do you want implants?” You know, that’s a whole other journey that I really wasn’t even thinking about that time. There’s like- the whole thing is a process. And in my mind, the way I think I’m like, “Let’s do it. Let’s get it done”. And so, knowing upfront that this is a process, that’s not going to be done in a year or two, or maybe three years and for me, it’s a mindset. If I know that up front, throughout the whole journey, I’m good. But, you know now I’m probably on a journey to three, four now. With the decision, there’s another plastic surgeon we have to see. We’ll talk with the surgeon that’s going to remove the breasts. There are so many decisions there to make; ‘Do you want implants?’ ‘Do you want the flap surgery’ and the flap surgery is what I’m doing. And most people don’t know about it, or most people don’t really want to do it because it is very intensive. It is an eight hour long surgery. They don’t do it here in Huntsville. The plastic surgeon that I saw in Huntsville told me I can go to UAB, or I can go to Vanderbilt. They’re the ones that do it. And I chose UAB. So I’m still on a journey from 2018 to almost 22 and I’m still on this journey. COVID had a lot to do with the pause last year, but I picked back up on it this year. So I have my expanders in. Because I am going for the- I’ve chosen the flap surgery where they’ll remove the fat from my belly and take that fat, transfer it up. He told me he said “I’m gonna have to break your chest”. And I’m like “What?” I told him, I said “Stop. Don’t tell me anything else. Just take me to the OR beat me up and knock me out. And we’ll talk later”. And so I told her I said “Just stop right there”. So they’ll do that because they have to take- remove the fat from the belly, bring it up to make the breast. And then that’s eight hours because they have to sew all those blood vessels together in your belly, sew all those blood vessels together in your breasts. And then you know from there, there’s another journey because from there, there’s a cosmetic component of it. And I told him, “Y’all know, I’m totally transparent”. He said, “You don’t have to do that if you want to”. I was like, “Look, I’m 56 years old. I need all, everything that needs that goes with that, I’m gonna need that”
Megan: That’s like the nipple tattoo step, right?
Pammie: Yeah. I’m divorced you all. There is a saving life out there and somebody out there for me some time right in the future. But I told him and he just laughed. He’s amazing. He’s like, “Okay”, I said “Yes”. And so, there are still a couple more surgeries, but I’m ready for it. And then so this is hilarious. You all know I’m transparent again. So he has to go to the left side. And he has to make the left breast match the one that he made. And so I’m looking forward to that most definitely. I’ll tell you what I say off camera because it is hilarious but yeah, I’m looking forward to that. So I’ve got like three more surgeries. And then, that journey hopefully will be no more.
Megan: Yeah. You know, I would venture to think that the journey of overcoming and fighting cancer really never ends because of what it does to you personally and emotionally. Like any horrible journey that one goes through, we have some similar things in common. And it’s an opportunity to grow and set an example for those around you to overcome challenges. And you can’t pick and choose what happens to you in life, but you can sure pick and choose how you react. So, Pammie, I cannot thank you enough, you’re just the best. And again, we are so excited about this series. Because, again, we get to meet people like you and talk with people like you. But, you know, Pammie is one that again, I have admired from afar for so long, both professionally and through friendship. She’s amazing, and you’re an inspiration, and we all want to be Pammie when we grow up. But she’s also faced challenges that we have all faced. And it’s again, it’s not about what it is and what those challenges have done, but it’s how you overcome them. And how you use those to just grow and be a better mother, partner, friend, business leader, and all those things. Thank you so much.
Pammie: You are more than welcome, appreciate it and keep shining because you and your team are doing amazing things. I’ve even heard the name come up a couple times since I’ve been here. So keep shining. You’re doing a great job.