One month

One month ago today, December 20, I was in the parking lot of the Wolfchase Galleria mall for the first time, using the first day of my holiday break to do some Christmas shopping. It was packed to the gills. No parking spaces anywhere. I hate crowds.

In the middle of a torrent of cars, I got a call from my sister Kelly. My dad had taken my stepmom Pam to the emergency room at Baptist Medical Center in Jackson. She had been sick for a few months, but now was too weak to walk.

The doctors had said she had pancreatic cancer. It had spread to her liver.


I don’t remember any Christmas music in the mall, though it surely had been playing.

I don’t remember seeing Santa, though he had to have been there.

I just remember walking around, staring at my Christmas list and trying to remember how to read.


That was the essence of that Saturday for me: bewilderment.  If I had to imagine one of my four parents playing the delightful old timer in a rocking chair one day who had outlasted the other three, it would have undoubtedly been Pam.  She is the epitome of a health nut. The Clarion Ledger featured her last March in an article about healthy living. I’ve always looked to her for guidance on matters of common sense healthy living.  It didn’t make sense.

Now, things have become a little more medically clear, though not really what I’d call understandable: Pam has stage four pancreatic cancer. Doctors have told us she has months to live.

This past month, I haven’t really known how to process this in a “shareable” way. Yes, I’ve retreated into my silly little blog for preoccupation. And I’ve contemplated writing about it, but of course nothing I write feels good enough to “pay tribute” to her astonishing life. So let me just share what my brother Andrew wrote about her. Nothing I write will be better than that. Hopefully you can access it that way.

But I wanted to go ahead and start the process of writing about Pam, because she means a lot to me, and if I’ve learned anything through this, it’s been to not stay quiet about people you love. Let them know you love them, today, because you won’t always have that chance.

So here’s my take on the first month of this thing. This is by no means a summary, a capstone, or a goodbye.

I am always struck by how positive the atmosphere is inside Pam’s hospital room. She is not one who will be defeated. Sometimes I have dreaded walking into the room- my own messed-up perceptions of facing Pam in a “lesser than” state- but she is always bright, always cheery, always doing so much better than I expected. Had it been me, I worry about the mood I’d have set.  But Pam’s amazing faith and radiant spirit have taught me what true victory looks like. She really is a woman of God whose soul is prepared. She shows no fear. She glorifies God in her battle against despair. She is ready to go Home.

And that part hasn’t been easy. My Dad, my brothers, the rest of my family- they could use all the support they can get. Thankfully, a family friend set up a site to help coordinate meals. I’m sure they would be appreciative for any help. The password for Pam Comans is “pray.” Also, Pam has expressed another tangible way for folks to help: by donating blood.

Hopefully as we learn more and understand more, I’ll have more to share about this.

But right now, we graciously appreciate your thoughts and prayers.



  1. Pattye

    James, I am so sorry. But also, so proud. Cancer sucks. The end. But I am touched and blessed by the courage you show in this writing. Pam is lucky to have you as a son. I will be praying for you all.

  2. Betty Gail Danielson

    I am a schoolmate or Author and am praying for you all. My mom was somehow able to give us 9 good years after a diagnosis that gave her 6 weeks to 6 months to live. I was in 4th grade when one evening (I think we had already been told but don’t recall the specifics) I heard her on the phone saying “They said it could be six weeks…it could be six months.” She, through it all and the multiple treatments and chemotherapies and surgeries, took things with peace and grace and prepared us and glorified God. God be with each of you. I’m praying for you all. We don’t know what strength we have until we’re called on to use it.

  3. MariLynn and Roger Fuhrer

    Roger and I are standing in prayer for all of you during this time. Pam is a wonderful lady and a good friend. She shows her love for her Lord in how she lives and in her words constantly. She is a role model for us all in Godly living. May God give you all His peace and comfort as you share this precious time with Pam. As a friend and cancer patient once said to me “living or dying, either way I win”. God always triumphs over death.

  4. Pingback: Lessons from Pam | Comansense

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