Denham Springs woman diagnosed with cancer, loses everything in house fire

DENHAM SPRINGS – Two traumatic life events in two months for Pam McCallister would have been a lot for anyone to overcome. Despite what has happened, The Denham Springs resident said she is moving forward.

In April, McCallister said she visited her doctor to check out what she thought was a swollen gland. It was initially diagnosed as an upper respiratory issue, but it was much worse — cancer.

“It’s tongue cancer,” she said. “I went with just a swollen gland. It was diagnosed as upper respiratory, and it didn’t go away. Five days later, I went back, and they ran a lot of tests, then it came back as tongue cancer.”

After the cancer diagnosis, McCallister was scheduled to begin radiation. However, a roadblock delayed the start of radiation.

“They noticed something in my gums, and I had to have around 20 teeth pulled before they would begin radiation,” she said. “I will have to do 33 rounds of radiation. It’s a six-week-long thing. It’s five days of radiation and one day of radiation and chemo for six weeks.”

On May 31, McCallister said she dozed off to sleep around 10:30 p.m. at her home in the Southpoint Neighborhood. A smell woke her up as another tragedy struck.

Video courtesy of Pam McCallister

“So I got up, and everything was black. The smoke was so thick and black,” she recalled. “I started screaming for my son because my youngest son is disabled. He lives with me. His room is at the end of the hall. I had my puppies; I lost most of my babies. I got out and went back again, and I couldn’t find them. I’m not sure what happened. When I walked past the kitchen trying to get out, I saw a few flames by the microwave by the stove. It came out of nowhere. One minute everything was fine, and the next, it was just black. It didn’t take long. The fire department didn’t get there for 25 minutes, so it was engulfed by the time they arrived.”

McCallister’s son alerted neighbors across the street to the fire. They called 9-1-1.

“My neighbors across the street helped me; Will and Heather. They called 911 for me. They’ve been super great.”

She said she lost everything in the fire. Her son Jonathan Arnold created a gofundme to help raise money.

“OMG, I have an amazing support team,” McCalister said. “I have four children, three sons and a daughter. Right now, I’m staying at my oldest son’s house since the house burned down. My daughter is talking about coming to be with me. She is up north right now. Between them and my neighbor, Will, across the street, they have been awesome. They’ve been there bringing me clothes. I didn’t have anything. All I had was the pajamas I was wearing after the fire.”

Despite the recent adversity, she said there’s nothing else to do but push ahead.

“One thing hits you, and you’re starting to deal with that and starting to, like, OK, now I’ve got to deal with this, and you move forward, and the next thing you know, something is right there coming at you again, and it knocks you off your feet,” McCallister said. I’m moving forward. I don’t know what else to do.”

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