PAM GRIER: “THEY ONLY GAVE ME 18 MONTHS TO LIVE”
Pam Grier was born in Winston-Salem, NC, one of four children of Gwendolyn Sylvia (Samuels), a nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier Jr., an Air Force mechanic. Pam has been a major African-American star from the early 1970s.
She may be best known from her role in Foxy Brown, a 1974 American blaxploitation film written and directed by Jack Hill. It stars Pam Grier as the title character, described by one character as “a whole lot of woman” who showcases unrelenting sexiness while battling the villains.
One life-changing experience that Pam Grier had to fight through was her diagnosis of stage-four cervical cancer in 1988. Grier was in her late 30s, a self-described “health-nut”, running six miles a day, not eating meat and avoiding unhealthy habits. After a routine cervical PAP smear, her doctor informed her that there were abnormal cells in her test results. She was scheduled for an minor operation to remove the abnormal tissue and was told she would be fine. But, after the procedure, the next day, her doctor sat her down to tell her she had 18 months to live. The cancer was more widespread than previously thought so she underwent a second procedure to remove more cancerous tissue.
After the second surgery, her doctor recommended adding Eastern medicine to the already prescribed traditional Western drug treatment. She met with Chinese herbalists who provided her with a more balanced treatment, and she also researched various methods of healing.
According to Ms. Grier “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 continues to credit the combination of eastern and western medicine for her recovery. The Chinese herbalist she saw after her diagnosis, prescribed herbs and tinctures. She learnt to drink hot tea with her food to get rid of toxins.
Around this time, she also saw a Bill Moyers documentary that showed a Chinese medical treatment dissolve a malignant tumor on a Chinese woman’s back. It was a life changing revelation for Pam.
She visited Chinatown and met a variety of people with different economic backgrounds who subscribed to Eastern medicine. “It was all new to me,” she says. “It was fascinating to me that so many people were so much more progressive and open than I had been. I learned a lot along the way.”
What Grier learned was that other cultures’ health theories could also benefit her. She retooled her eating habits and incorporated more organic foods in her diet.
She also started to practice yoga and included other health principles into her everyday routine. She learned about thermal theory—that if you drink ice-cold water in the morning, it boosts your metabolism. Grier says. “Simple things like that have awakened and informed my way of eating, and now I use moderation to minimize certain foods in the diet we know aren’t healthy.”
A celebrity cancer survivor, 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.