South Mississippi Strong: One woman’s inspiring journey to recover from a brain tumor

Pam Piaszik has spent years recovering after a brain tumor but continues to devote time to her community in many ways.

South Mississippi Strong: One woman’s inspiring journey to recover from a brain tumor

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A coast woman living with debilitating health issues for most of her life hasn’t let those setbacks keep her from helping others. Pam Piaszik’s amazing attitude and giving spirit make her South Mississippi Strong.

The 52-year-old Gulfport woman is well known at the the Gulf Coast Red Cross office. She’s one of their most generous blood donors, donating three to five times a year.

Pam knows firsthand how lifesaving donating blood can be so she donates to the Red Cross up to five times a year.
Pam knows firsthand how lifesaving donating blood can be so she donates to the Red Cross up to five times a year. (Source: WLOX)

“Every time I donate I save three lives and that’s huge," said Pam. "It’s a blessing that I can give.”

We caught up with her at a recent blood drive in Biloxi, and her story touched our hearts.

The fact that she has donated six gallons of blood since 2001 is remarkable, but the fact that she does this while living with her own debilitating long-term health problems make it even more incredible.

Pam’s health battles started when she was only 32 years old. It was the 90′s and she was living her dream: married to the love of her life Harry and raising two young boys.

Pam and her husband Harry were raising two young boys in the 90s when she was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor, turning all of their lives upside down.
Pam and her husband Harry were raising two young boys in the 90s when she was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor, turning all of their lives upside down. (Source: Pam Piaszik)

That happiness came to an abrupt and terrifying halt in 2001 when Pam was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“It was very, very traumatic," she recalls. “I took a couple of days off work, dug in the garden, which is always therapeutic to me, and I prayed. I said, ‘Why me, God? What am I going to do?’”

Pam’s tumor was a non-malignant acoustic neuroma. By the time it was diagnosed, it was pressed against her brain stem. Doctors said she would die without the high-risk surgery necessary to treat it. Pam had the surgery but the recovery was a hard one that took several years.

“I had to re-learn how to walk and speak,” she said. “I lost the sensation on most of my tongue, making it difficult to talk. And learning how to walk again was difficult. When they removed the tumor, they removed the hearing nerve which was damaged by the tumor, as well as the balance mechanism so I had to figure that out.”

Today, Pam is getting around well and is working again but she has paralysis in her face, no hearing in her left ear, and vision problems. She also continues to teach her brain to work and do certain things.

“I had to reprogram my brain to retain short-term memory and long-term memory," said Pam.

While her recovery is ongoing, it’s her determination and attitude, along with plenty of support from her family, that has helped her pull through the difficult times since surgery.

“I’ve come out of it determined to do the best I can do,” said Pam. “I feel God blessed me and kept me here for a reason. I take every day as a blessing and look for ways to help pay him back for him keeping me here to raise my children.”

Pam he continues to work to get better and stronger, focusing on her abilities rather than her disabilities.

“I’ve done my best to focus on the positives, not the negatives," she said. "Otherwise I’d get depressed, and that doesn’t do anybody any good. So I stay positive.”

Staying positive and helping others has become her way of life.

“I’m thankful that God has left me here and that I am able to give and it’s a blessing to give to others.”

In addition to donating blood on a regular basis, Pam and Harry both volunteer with Rotary International and Mercy House. Their boys are now in college.

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