Author Archives: Pamela


Seeing pink is about more than breast cancer awareness or checking one’s boobies.

For me, the color pink is a reminder that I have breast cancer.

Pink is reminder that I have 2 scars on my left breast where a 1 centimeter tumor and 2 lymph nodes were removed.

Pink reminds me of the fear that shot through me when I received the call from my Doctor telling me I had breast cancer.

Pink reminds me that I have a type of breast cancer that is known to metastasize within 5 years.

Pink reminds me of the four chemo treatments that I underwent that caused my hair to fall out, my nose to bleed, my bones to ache, and my ovaries to shut down.

Pink reminds me that I still have radiation and years of hormone replacement therapy in front of me.

Pink reminds me I gave up foods that other choose to eat every single day because there is a link to consuming them and cancer.

Pink reminds me to fight.

Seeing pink on my family and friends reminds me how much they love and support me.

Seeing pink on a stranger reminds me that they probably know someone who has breast cancer.

Pink reminds me that I’m not alone in this.

The color Pink, especially in the month of October, will forever be about my fight with breast cancer.

The next time you see pink, I hope you see it a little differently.


~ Written October 2013 during breast cancer awareness month.


Pamela Head Shot


Pamela Besteman, co-founder of Beat Cancer Boat Club, is a Rower, Runner, Coach, Yogi & Cancer Thriver. She helps rowers, coxswains and coaches take their training & racing to the next level with the Yoga Edge


I Fell Apart but Got Back Up Again

On January 22, 2013 I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. If you’re wondering what that is, don’t worry, I was too. In simple terms, Breast Cancer. It caused my life to flip upside down and inside out.

The news crushed me. How could I have cancer? I am healthy. At the time I was training for a marathon and felt fantastic.

I’ve been asked many times how I felt and what emotions were running through me when I heard the news and the best way I can describe my feelings is it felt like I lost a race I was supposed to win. I know many athletes know what I mean.

You’ve raced all summer long and race after race against similar people and are on a winning streak. You feel great. You are doing everything right regarding nutrition, training, recovery, everything. And then the big race comes and something happens. You catch a crab off the line or find yourself in the buoys not knowing how you got there. You find yourself behind. You do whatever it takes to get back into the race, but nothing seems to work. You cross the line out of a medal. Defeated. The feelings of anger, frustration and confusion rush through your body and mind. You have a tough time trying to make sense of what just happened.

 I felt Defeated. Confused. Beaten. Frustrated. Searching for answers.

Now I want to back up a bit and tell you how the cancer was found.

Since I moved I needed a new Primary Care Physician so I set up an appointment in early January. It was during this appointment that my new Doctor found a very small lump in my left breast during the exam. I asked where…she then had me try to find it. I couldn’t at first. In fact multiple times after, when prompted by doctors to show them where it was, I couldn’t find it! It was that small!


She sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. Two days later I found myself getting my first mammogram. The Doctor came in after reading the picture and told me she couldn’t see anything. It was standard procedure for her to do an ultrasound so that was next and BAM, there it was! The lump actually looked a little like a running man. Yup a little running man in my breast. The reason I’m telling you all this is because so many women believe that early detection of BC can only happen with mammograms. I’m here to tell you that mammograms are not the only way. Mine couldn’t be seen right away! If it hadn’t been for my PCP the lump might not have been found to begin with.  I was later told by a different radiologist (one who happens to be one of the best in the area for reading mammograms) that if my file was in a stack of mammograms the diagnosis would have been missed. It was only because she already knew what she was looking for that she was able to find it. That is scary stuff!

In the days, weeks (still!) following my diagnosis I read every book, blog, website, magazine article that would help me make sense of what was going on within my body.

Ready for Surgery

Ready for Surgery

I struggle daily with the how and why questions. After every shower I look in the mirror and am reminded when I see the scars from surgery. Every time I open the fridge to find something to eat, I think is this going to help or hurt me? When I sit down to enjoy a beer, I actually struggle really enjoying it thinking that will this beer push me closer to the next cancer scare. My days are like the 30 Seconds to Mars lyrics from the song Alibi “I fell apart, but got back up again.”

Sometimes I wonder, Why this? What am I supposed to learn from this? Didn’t I learn enough during the years I struggled with depression? Why now? Right when I feel like I’m coming into my own as an entrepreneur/ personal coach.  Right as my husband and I are excited about the new life we have begun in California. Right when we are ready to start a family. Why?

Hurt. Afraid. Wounded. Confused. Scared. Mislead. Did I do something wrong? Is this something from a past life come back to resolve? WTF???

I know someday I’ll be able to write about how cancer has changed my life and I found my purpose. But for now, I’m can only write about how it has changed and impacted my life. My purpose post cancer…that is still to be found.

I share these thoughts with you not to have you feel sorry for me, but to share my cancer story. It isn’t just about going through surgery, chemo and radiation then moving on. There is more, so much more. I know others have experienced this on so many different levels.


As an athlete who prides herself on taking care of her body this has been a major blow. How do I trust my body again?


What I have decided to do is write, read, run and row when I feel good, get on the mat when I am willing and simply heal one day at a time.

So I leave you with a video of Alibi by 30StoM. (I like the album cut of this song better.)

Pamela Head Shot


Pamela Besteman, co-founder of Beat Cancer Boat Club, is a Rower, Runner, Coach, Yogi & Cancer Thriver. She helps rowers, coxswains and coaches take their training & racing to the next level with the Yoga Edge



Head of the Charles Racing Plans Change Due to 2x Partner’s Cancer Diagnosis

The story starts a year ago. About this time last year, Pam and Brian were offered an opportunity to move to California, and they took it. Who wouldn’t? I’ve known Pam since college, and we met through rowing, of course. One of the cool things about the sport is that one can row for as long as they want. Since college, we have continued to row together. When both of us landed on the East Coast, we started racing the double together pretty regularly and with success. In 2007, we raced together at HOCR for the first time. We were in the Champ double. At 34/35 and being lightweights, we were out of our league, but we did respectable. Since that day, we’ve been waiting patiently for 2013. It’s the year we’d finally be old enough to enter the masters double (40+) at HOCR. Little did we know what 2013 would have in store for us, more so for Pam.

Pam and Michelle racing the Championship 2x at the 2007 Head of Charles Regatta

In January, Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news rocked our worlds. What’s going to happen – surgery, chemo, what? We’ve always had the mentality of what’s broke, what’s the plan, ok, let’s go! The entire process seemed to take too long and understandably so. There were a lot of factors and things to work out. Thankfully, training has been a part of our lives for a long time, and it continues to help us through the process. Slowly, it became apparent that we would not be racing together at the Charles. We had talked about racing the Alumni 8 together. She would cox and I’d likely stroke. This would have been a blast, but we weren’t sure if there would be an 8 or that it would even get an entry. Pam and I talked often about what to do, what was going to be best for both of us. So much was unknown.

This is when the decision was made to enter the Senior Masters (50+) with a mutual friend, Paula. Pam was 100% behind this, and I thank her for it. I know Paula because of Pam. Sure, our paths would have crossed, but we wouldn’t be racing together this weekend if it wasn’t for Pam introducing us. While we are racing, Pam will be getting ready to cox the Grand Valley Women’s Alumni 8. I can’t wait to cheer the entire boat on.

Over the past few years, maybe since 2007, Pam and I have raced a quad at HOCR. The quad is a special event in which all the money raised benefits the permanent endowment of the HOCR and helps ensure the continued success of this event. I went into this fall, thinking I’d take Sunday off from racing. So much for that idea. A group of us put our heads together and decided to race a quad. We are racing as Beat Cancer Boat Club in the Mixed Quad event (bow #5). We decided what better way to show support for Pam and everyone else fighting cancer. All of us know people who have won, lost or who are currently fighting their battle with cancer.

Beat Cancer Boat Club is a community of rowers who have faced cancer as supports, survivors and thrivers. Our goal is to support each and every rower facing cancer, to share their stories and to encourage more to share theirs.

Pam and Michelle at the 2007 HOCR

Pam and Michelle at the 2007 HOCR

I’m honored to be wearing pink this weekend. Without realizing it, the amount of pink in my wardrobe has quadrupled. I will proudly wear my Beat Cancer Boat Club shirt and my tall pink socks as we fly down the river this coming weekend!


Michelle Nielsen

Written by Beat Cancer Boat Club Co-Founder Michelle Nielsen. Michelle is a rower, runner, crossfitter, coach, iphone photographer, project manager, accountant and help desk guru. She is also best friends and 2x partners with Beat Cancer Boat Club Co-Founder and Breast Cancer Thriver Pamela Besteman.