When people hear the name Pam Grier, several quotes and sayings from many of her Blaxploitation films may come to mind. Grier, now 70, was the queen of the 1970s tough-girl movies where no matter how rough the battle, she and her crew always came out on top.
But being a black woman in Hollywood hasn’t been Pam Grier’s toughest fight.
“I was very quiet,” Ms. Grier recalled her childhood, and she stuttered when she did talk.
Growing up, Grier was a good student who dreamed of becoming a doctor. “When I was a young girl, I never thought of acting,” she remembers. “I never thought of television, of fans, movie stars, signing autographs. It never crossed my mind.”
One life-changing experience that she had to fight through was her diagnosis of stage-four cancer in 1988. Grier was in her late 30s, a self-described “health-nut”, running six miles a day, not eating meat and not abusing my body in any way”. She’d gone for a routine cervical smear and got a call from her doctor’s surgery who said they’d found abnormal cells in her test results. She was booked in for an operation to remove the abnormal tissue and told she’d be fine. But, afterwards, her pathologist called to say it wasn’t good news; the next day, her doctor sat her down to tell her she had 18 months to live.
Even though her adopted sister, Krista, died of breast cancer, the news of her own cervical cancer diagnosis came as a shock.
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