Pamela WilsonSurvivor & Force of Nature
By Rebecca Anderson-Brown, Kate Bast, Lisa Bauer, Shelby Deering, Elle Duncombe-Mills, Jenie Gao, Emily Leas, Marni McEntee, Candice Wagener & Rachel Werner | Photographed by Hillary Schave
There are those who have seemingly lived a thousand lifetimes. Their careers are expansive, their talents are many and the challenges they’ve conquered are inspiring. Pamela Wilson is one of those people.
She has held top corporate jobs and opened businesses, including Madison’s popular Iona Boutique. She’s shared personal life stories on her blog, Pdub XO. And she has competed in professional poker tournaments—and won.
Wilson calls herself a “fashion influencer, poker player and philanthropist.” And now, she can add “breast cancer survivor” to the list.
Diagnosed with stage 2 invasive lobular breast cancer in 2015, Wilson opted for a radical mastectomy and radiation treatments. With her cancer compounded by Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare paralyzing disorder she developed in 2009, she and her husband Monty decided to close Iona and focus fully on recovery.
“After your treatment, you’re left with all of these feelings. Your body has changed, and you look different, and you feel different. You go through this grieving process,” Wilson says.
Now in remission, she wants to help other women facing breast cancer and recovery. In late 2016, she started a nonprofit called Stepping Stone Foundation, which donates 100 percent of raised funds to the UW Health Breast Center to help individuals facing financial hardship due to breast cancer.
Ever the dynamo, Wilson has big plans for 2017. Through fashion fundraising events, she is striving to raise at least $50,000 for Stepping Stone Foundation. She’ll train as a patient survivor advocate. And in July, she’ll compete in a World Series of Poker Main Event.
Looking back, Wilson says, “I think my combination of being analytical, very hardworking, sincere and extremely intuitive is what has made me so successful in my career, with my relationships and even my poker success. My health crises have made me even tougher and have taught me great lessons along the way.” –Shelby Deering