Pamela Rand Massey passed away on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at the age of 73. Almost a decade ago, Pamela was handed a death sentence, but it was one she was unwilling to accept. Pamela turned what should have been a knockout fight with pancreatic cancer into a 10-year battle. While some people may say that cancer won the fight, those who knew Pamela tell a much different story. Knowing how precious every moment was, Pamela was relentless and determined in her fight, making every moment count. Time and time again, she not only beat the odds, but thrived. During those 10 years and right up to the end, Pamela was the catalyst who epitomized the phrase “live life to the fullest.” She brought her family closer than ever, and no one will soon forget the impact she had on them during those precious years.
Throughout her career, Pamela focused her professional passions simultaneously: as a health care administrator who oversaw the development and management of rehabilitation services organizations in a series of large, prestigious institutions; and as a 40-year volunteer for the Arthritis Foundation who advocated for and pursued methodologies, standards of care and community based services for the tens of millions of patients living with arthritis.
Pamela’s last position was the Director of Rehabilitation Services at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. Her work there epitomized the strengths, vision, leadership skills and impact she brought to all of her rehab services efforts. She was recruited to MD Anderson in 1995 when cancer’s medical classification was changing to chronic disease – 50% survival at 5 years. She was charged with building a rehab system designed to interact with MD Anderson physicians and to deliver after-treatment services that would improve the quality of patient lives while in their care. There was no precedent for such a mission or norms for how to deliver such an outcome. From 1995 through 2009, Pamela led by example and built a nationally leading rehab system of nearly 150 personnel that interacted professionally with every major clinical division at MD Anderson. She also brought her energy, vision and experience to the national community of medical professionals including the American Physical Therapy Association’s Oncology Section where she served as President Elect (2001), President (2002-2004) and as Past President (2004-2006).
Pamela’s engagement in Arthritis care began in the mid 1970’s. She served on the Arthritis Foundation’s National Public & Patient Education Committee. She was instrumental in developing the Foundation’s first patient-education and self-help tools, many of which are still in use today. For the next 20 years, Pamela served on numerous patient education, quality of life, governance committees and task teams. There she brought her unique blend of medical knowledge, passion for arthritis patients, and leadership to create meaningful results. She served on committees and governing boards for Arthritis Foundation Chapters in Pennsylvania and Texas, and later for the South-Central Region Board. In the late 1990’s she assumed important roles on the Arthritis Foundation’s National House of Delegates and Board of Trustees, and most recently she served on the National Board of Directors from 2008 – 2014. Her strong mission focus and governance knowledge helped propel the organization through pivotal organizational changes, always keeping the needs of the patient as her top priority. Even as her illness progressed, Pamela remained steadfastly committed to the Arthritis Foundation’s work. She was an instrumental leader in the organization’s transition from direct program delivery to the more flexible, personalized patient programming and engagement which is now the framework for the Foundation’s Live Yes Arthritis Network. It is certain that Pamela’s body of work touched and improved the lives of millions living with arthritis.
In 2011 the Arthritis Foundation honored Pamela with their highest and most coveted Charles B. Harding Award as Volunteer of the Year. In 2019 the Arthritis Foundation created a new national award, the “Pamela Massey Patient Partners Award”, to institutionalize her work and to carry her legacy forward. Each year, this award will be used to recognize an allied healthcare professional from within the volunteer ranks of the Foundation whose career contributions have directly impacted the lives of patients living with arthritis.
Pamela’s unprecedented longevity as a pancreatic cancer patient is a tribute not only to her tenacity but to the quality of her care. She tapped every corner of MD Anderson’s legendary strength over the long and challenging path of her illness. Among the many, Pamela would like to pay special tribute to Dr. Robert Wolff, Professor of Medicine in the Department of GI Medical Oncology, and his physician assistant Kelli Nugent who managed and directed her care for all 10 years of her disease. When a final attempt at treatment failed, she settled into the home she and Michael had designed specifically for her final days. There she was surrounded by nature, the love and support of her Palmer Church community and the compassionate care of Houston Hospice. At the center of her final days was the incredible love and devotion she received from her family. Her sons and daughter-in-law spent hours with her every single night during her time in hospice. Her sister Ginger left her busy life in Maine to devote herself 24/7 to Pamela’s care throughout that time. Words cannot do justice to the help all of this has been.
Pamela was born on March 6, 1946 in Augusta, Maine to Ernest and Virginia Harris, received a BS in Physical Therapy from Boston University in 1968 and an MS in Administration from the University of Pittsburgh School of Allied Health in 1977.
Pamela is preceded in death by her parents Ernest and Virginia Harris. She is survived by her husband Michael, her sons Justin and Jordan, daughter-in-law Ashley, her beloved labradoodle Miss Jackson, two sisters Ginger (Hariph) Smith and Jackie (Bob) Mangini, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Pamela had many loves in her personal life, but these stand out: her beloved husband Michael; her sons Justin and Jordan; her family in Maine; the State of Maine, particularly Boothbay Harbor and Ocean Point; cooking; and traveling. Her partnership with Michael extended over more than 40 years, and they worshipped and supported each other both professionally and personally. They cherished years of Sunday family dinner and games nights. Pamela was a devoted mom and did everything she could to teach her sons the power of family, the essence of good judgment and compassion for their fellow man. Trips to Maine were numerous over the decades for family and for visits to her treasured Boothbay Harbor and Ocean Point. She cooked extensively for all kinds of occasions. She adored collecting, cataloguing and cooking recipes from a wide variety of sources ranging from 40 years of Bon Appetit to a bookcase full of cookbooks. And just during her 10-year pancreatic cancer fight alone, Pamela and Michael went on land and sea travel adventures all over the United States and the world.
Pamela’s funeral service and reception will be held on Saturday, May 18th at 11 am at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church at 6221 South Main Street in Houston. Valet service will be provided. The Arthritis Foundation has established a fund in Pamela’s name -- the Pamela Massey Patient Partner Resources Fund – to provide the Foundation with working capital for the online education and self-help tools required to support and grow Pamela’s lifelong mission.
The family encourages contributions to the Arthritis Foundation’s Patient Partner Resources Fund created in Pamela’s name. Your contributions will provide critical Stage I funds for the ramp-up of this permanent capital fund. It will enable bold new steps by the AF into online interactive programming. 10’s of millions of arthritis patients will be able to achieve both a higher quality of life and lower medical costs as they take charge of this chronic disease.