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…afterwards, her pathologist called to say it wasn’t good news; the next day, her doctor sat her down to tell her she had 18 months to live. “They couldn’t operate or start treatment for another six weeks, as I’d already had surgery and my body had gone through so much trauma. I was told to start preparing for treatment and to organise my will. I coped from minute to minute. I went home to ponder this 2in-thick folder [of information] they give you.”

She describes the cancer and its treatment as a “full-time job” and says, to her surprise, that it was a lonely one. To begin with her mother tried to be with her for as much of the treatment as possible, but had to go back to Colorado to work. Her boyfriend at the time didn’t turn up for her first session of chemotherapy, but promised to come to the second. “He didn’t come. He just abandoned me and I didn’t see him for another five years,” she says, without a hint of self-pity.

“In 1988 the C-word meant: ‘Oh my God, you’re going to die. There is no hope.’ You learn who your friends are when you have cancer.” The friends who did come forward, she says, weren’t the ones she was expecting. “Those that came to my bedside were Steven Seagal, Carl Gottlieb, my mentor, and the president of the Writers Guild and film director Tamar Hoff. They were truly amazing. But a lot of people couldn’t cope and just fell away.”

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Grier counts herself “lucky” and says that what she learned is that “cancer isn’t choosy. People in the cancer ward come from every ethnicity, every socio-economic background – it doesn’t matter – cancer is the common denominator.” She credits a combination of eastern and western medicine for her recovery. Her doctor sent her to a Chinese herbalist after her diagnosis, where she was prescribed “herbs and tinctures. It also taught me to drink hot tea with my food to get rid of toxins.”

This regimen, combined with yoga and chemotherapy, is what she believes “saved” her. Although she has been in remission for “years and years now”, Grier believes that getting better and staying better is a “life-long” process. She’s an avid believer in the green movement and says her recovery is “based on the environment – fresh well-water from the ground, fresh air, trees and plants, and wild animals.”

Pam still does movies, and is an advocate against a number of diseases including HIV. She also has not one, but two doctorates! Yes, it’s Dr. Foxy Brown! She received her Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2011. That same year, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Langston University

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Pam Grier: Tougher Than Rape, Cancer & Hollywood  was originally published on

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