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At 76, Aunty Pam is a marathon runner and a breast cancer survivor

By Morgan Dyer

At 76, Yorta Yorta Elder Aunty Pam Pedersen is a mother, wife, social worker, marathon runner and a breast cancer survivor.

And on Sunday she will pound the pavement yet again when she competes in the ‘virtual’ Mother’s Day Classic.

Event organisers have had to adapt this year, given the COVID-19 restrictions. Participants are asked to walk or run 4 km, anywhere they want, on or before Mother's Day.

Aunty Pam started competing when the classic began in 1998 (this will be her 23rd outing in the event) but little did she know she would one day become one of the one in eight women she was running for.

Because in 2016 Aunty Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I used to have mammograms all the time but this time I got a letter back and I knew something was wrong,” she said.

“My husband Erik and I went to the doctor in Melbourne and he (the doctor) showed me the lumps.

“So, while my husband was in tears, I asked the doctor what I had to do next, which he replied ‘surgery’.

“I told him I was too busy, and he would have to wait because I was organising the Dreamtime round at the MCG,” she said.

Aunty Pam is the daughter of Sir Doug Nicholls and if she is not running she is sitting on the Children’s Koori Court, County Koori Court, Melbourne Magistrates’ Court or the Adult Parole Board of Victoria.

She is also a committee member for the AFL's Sir Doug Nicholls Round, an AFL Dreamtime Working Group member, and is involved with the Carlton and Richmond football clubs.

Which is why Aunty Pam could not and would not let cancer beat her — she was simply too busy.

“I got the surgery a few weeks later,” Aunty Pam said.

“After I got home from hospital it only took me about five or so days until I was back running 5 km.

“But then I told doctors again they would have to wait to start my chemotherapy because it was National Aboriginal Week,” she said with a laugh.

While undergoing chemotherapy Aunty Pam could not travel and missed competing in the Gold Coast Half Marathon, so instead she ran the 21 km around Melbourne.

“I do these things while I can because I always think in the back of my mind that the cancer could come back,” she said.

“I just like the feeling of achieving.

“I feel I’m a role model for my people and I’m really proud of that.”

This Mother’s Day, Aunty Pam will pull on her joggers for the sixth time this week and run in the classic.

“I have given my medal to my husband and he will present it to me when I cross the virtual finish line,” Pam said.

“Nothing can stop me.”

Aunty Pam says if she can do it anyone can and has called on Greater Shepparton people to run or walk on Sunday.

“I usually get quite emotional seeing everyone come together on the day,” she said.

“But I think I will be more emotional this year because we can’t run together.

“So please, if you’re not doing anything, go for a walk around the lake or walk in the street to support the Mother’s Day Classic.”

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