Rachel Zoe’s Sister Shares Her Inspiring Breast Cancer Survival Story

Billy Farrell/BFA.com

When Rachel Zoe’s sister, Pamela Glassman, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45 following a routine mammogram, her life—and her family’s life—changed forever. The most common women’s cancer worldwide, breast cancer affects one in every eight women in the U.S. We sat down with Pamela to learn about her experience in the hopes her story can inspire, and give hope, to others.

On Her Experience

Pamela following her surgery.

"After my routine mammogram and a breast biopsy, I received my diagnosis. Many painstaking weeks of consultations and countless tests followed, waiting to determine if I carry the breast cancer gene (I do not). Because the cancer was both invasive (not contained) and aggressive, it was decided I would undergo a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy. During my surgery, the doctors removed the 7 main lymph nodes in my armpit and thankfully found that the cancer hadn't spread to my lymphatic system. I didn't need chemotherapy, but underwent 7 weeks of daily radiation, and was prescribed Tamoxifen, which I'll take for 10 years to prevent the cancer from returning."

On Reacting To Her Diagnosis

Pamela with her sister, parents and daughter.

"My first reaction was shock, fear and sadness. I quickly learned I needed to shut out the fear and stay strong and positive for my children and my family. Of course I had moments of feeling down, but I had a tremendous support system and incredible friends who were always by my side. My mother, and grandmother, are also breast cancer survivors so their guidance, doctor recommendations and positivity was invaluable."

On What Surprised Her Most

Pamela's children Sophie and Luke.

"There were many surprises. I was amazed by my own strength and resolve to overcome the illness. I was truly blown away by how focused the doctors were on keeping my head in a positive place. For all of the time and energy they spent combatting the disease, they spent an equal amount quelling my fears and bolstering my hope. To no surprise, the hardest part of the experience was telling my son, Luke, and my daughter, Sophie. They were in middle school and high school at the time. I broke down, and we all cried together. They quickly became my rocks and biggest cheerleaders throughout the entire process, which lasted 4 months. They rose above the fear and showed me strength, encouragement and laughter."

On The Support That Helped Her

Team Zoe preparing to cycle for the fundraiser.

"Surrounding myself with great friends and family was critical. I had to let them help instead of trying to tackle everything on my own. My children accompanied me to New York for my surgeries and took me to my follow-up treatments. They held my hand. I was so very grateful that my parents, sister, friends and coworkers were all extremely supportive and helped me throughout my diagnosis, surgery, treatment and recovery. They provided meals, rides, companionship and laughter. They sent flowers, balloons, sweets—anything to cheer me up and keep me smiling."

On How Her Outlook Has Changed

One of the many "Get Well Soon" gifts.

"I think that a cancer diagnosis, or any illness or tragedy, changes people, hopefully in a positive way. My experience encouraged me to make changes in my life that I had wanted to make for a while–like selling my house, moving to a new city and ridding myself of the people and things that caused stress in my life."

Her Advice For Women Everywhere

Pamela with her daughter Sophie.

"The number one thing I learned is that the mammogram saved my life. I was diagnosed because of the routine yearly exam, and although my cancer was aggressive and invasive, it was caught early, so I was lucky. If you do receive a positive diagnosis, seeking the best care possible is hugely important, and emotional support is critical. Surround yourself with the people you love and trust and ask for their help, even if that means something as simple as making you laugh. I firmly believe that maintaining a positive outlook helped me overcome my cancer."