Pamela Dunker passed away recently following a no-holds-barred battle with ovarian cancer. As her primary care-giver, friend, soul mate and husband for 32 years, my own grief process has put too many things on the back burner, but this should not be one of them.
Speaking for our family, I wish to extend profound appreciation for the support and friendship shown Pamela throughout. Since her diagnosis, Pamela, was the recipient of care and support rare in this fast paced society. Time and again, I have witnessed the community of Juneau reach out to one of its own. Though there are too many to address in this context I would be remiss in not mentioning certain exemplary ones.
Juneau School District staff, which Pamela was a member of for 22 years, was remarkable from day one. Pamela and I stayed in Washington for eight months of surgery and chemotherapy. I could not have stayed with my wife during this terrifying period if not for the respect, support and understanding of this fine group for one of its own and Pamela would want you to know it touched her heart and lifted her spirits. Juneau has many reasons to take pride in this caliber of humanity teaching our kids.
Anyone who knew Pamela will attest to her total immersion in researching every facet of Interpreting for the Deaf. Cancer was no exception. Fortunately we were guided to a wonderful local physician able, and willing, to expand his own knowledge of the vast universe of cancer while deftly consulting with out-of-state oncologists. This is no small deal in a city with limited oncology services and calls for a commitment fewer are able, and willing, to make. Pamela found, in Dr. Richard Welling, honest dialogue, respect, tender care, knowledge and compassion.
If not for Bartlett Memorial Hospital's Infusion Therapy Unit Pamela would not have been able to stay in her hometown with family and friends for much of the remaining time of her life. This meant everything to her. The expertise, comfort, information and one-on-one attention provided Pamela by RN Tamera Simone-Collins was invaluable. It takes a unique dedication to provide the requisite care of chemotherapy while maintaining the privacy and dignity of those subjected to it. For Pamela, my hat is off to you Tamera. Well done. I encourage any future endeavors by the hospital and community to assist in this pivotal branch of care-giving and vanguard to the good fight.
Too many must face the final curtain, though. The process of dying is shrouded by uncertainty and a reluctance to discuss it. It is understandable to distance oneself from the topic altogether and this may often further alienate those dealing with it. Fortunately we have in Juneau a group of professionals whose mission includes embracing those facing it and travel alongside for the journey. Hospice & Home Care of Juneau is staffed with such professionals.
They bring personal experience, empathy and home care to those of us who choose it, and have charted these waters thus enabling us to steer our own course. Pamela was able to do so with dignity, surrounded by family and friends, as was her wish. Thank you Hospice & Home Care of Juneau.
In closing, Pamela would want to stress to all the importance of early detection. In its earlier stages ovarian cancer is the great chameleon. It hides. Listen to your body. Take that extra measure. You do not want to take this journey if you can avoid it.
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