Pam’s Purpose: Heart Petals Helping Heal for the Future

In This FOX 21 Special Report, You'll Meet a Woman in Duluth Making the Most out of a Life Changing Situation

DULUTH, Minn. – Thursday, November 15 is World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day.

In Duluth, Enger Tower will be lit purple, and awareness will be raised across the world. But it doesn’t stop the facts from sounding the alarm.

This year, it’s estimated more than 55,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Health officials say more than 44,000 will die from the disease.

In the Northland, a woman is looking to make a difference and keep her friend Pam’s legacy alive.

“She is always watching over me. Every time I run out of an idea of what to do, she’s right in there and she’s giving me that new idea,” said Diana McMillin, creator of Heart Petals.

Crafting and companionship, helping Diana create thousands of ideas.

“We would get together and just do different kinds of arts and crafts, sometimes at my house, sometimes at her house,” said McMillin.

A typical day for two ladies who just love to have fun and cherish good friendship.

“The funny thing is when we first met, we just worked together. We didn’t become really close friends until after she was diagnosed,” said McMillin.

This friendship, flourishing from the office. Both Diana and her friend Pam spent much of their time together working at Engwall Florist in Hermantown.

“She and I would drink the same drinks, and she started not liking them and wondering why she didn’t like foods that she used to love all the time. Her tastes were changing,” said McMillin.

In November of 2012, Diana’s dear friend Pam was told three life changing words; you have cancer.

“It’s pretty much a death sentence. Statistics show 71 percent of people diagnosed with it die in the first year,” said McMillin.

The undesired disease was attacking Pam’s pancreas.

“In the beginning it wasn’t too hard, she was just Pam, but then slowly she started deteriorating from the chemo and watching her lose all that weight; it became a hard thing to watch,” said McMillin.

But Diana watched, wished and prayed.

“She said that she was extremely worried about her children and passing on something to them,” said McMillin.

Crafting and helping Pam take care of her children allowed these ladies to move forward; fighting the disease not alone, but side-by-side.

“I was doing everything I could to help her make it through this process,” said McMillin.

Until April of 2014. Pam, passing away after a tough battle which tested Diana’s faith.

“The day that she passed, I was not a happy camper and I was upset,” said McMillin. “I decided that’s it, I’m done praying about this.”

It’s a moment no one likes to recall. Yet today, Diana chooses to discuss this defying moment in her life and friendship. After all, Pam is now the reason why so many cancer patients today have a pair of hopeful Heart Petals.

“Knowing that earrings were something we did together, it became natural to try and do something with them,” said McMillin.

Pancreatic cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer related death in America, surpassing breast cancer. This fact is why Diana strives to make a difference one pair of Heart Petals at a time.

“I would prefer to remember her and I having a great time together and having fun,” McMillin said.

Diana often sits in the same room with the memories of Pam, picking materials, clipping and putting on the finishing touches, knowing a smile will stem from her small gesture.

“Anytime I sell a pair of earring that’s just a little more help in the fight against pancreatic cancer,” said McMillin.

“We have earrings that are sitting at the front desk that all of our patients are welcome to take at the St. Luke’s Infusion Center,” said Tracy Durovec, RN at St. Luke’s Infusion Center.

Not only are cancer patients able to take a free pair of Heart Petals from the St. Luke’s Cancer Center, but folks at home can also purchase a pair from numerous locations across the Northland.

“I would tell anyone who has cancer, anyone who knows anyone who has cancer to support them in every way that you can. Be there for them, any little thing like a text message, a phone call,” said Durovec.

Positivity is a practice taken seriously by Durovec and her team in the St. Luke’s Infusion Center.

“I come in with a smile every day. We meet wonderful families, wonderful patients,” said Durovec.

She tells FOX 21, it’s small pieces of joy such as Heart Petals, helping to make the biggest difference in the everyday lives of people living with cancer.

“I think the more positive you are going through your treatment and the more positivity you have around you, your outcome is going to be better, you’re going to feel better during your treatment,” said Durovec.
Sadly, as optimistic as Pam poised herself to be, the disease ultimately took her life.

“Anytime I can find a shop that’s willing to help me a little bit and spread the word, I’m now a happy camper,” said McMillin.

It’s opportunities like this that are helping Diana move forward, yet never forget the importance of staying strong and thinking positive.

“I’m not just there to help pancreatic cancer; I want other cancer patients to get that benefit of just a little smile,” said McMillin.

One pair of Heart Petals at a time. It’s a treatment Diana is happy to give, and grateful to share.

Diana is currently selling her Heart Petals at local businesses in the Northland.

She’s always welcome to businesses reaching out if interested in becoming a vendor.

The earrings are sold for $15.99 per pair in the store, with vendors receiving five dollars, two dollars going toward pancreatic cancer research and the rest of the proceeds going back into making more.

Click here to contact Heart Petals.

Heart Petal Locations:

  • Engwalls Florist – 4749 Hermantown Road, Hermantown
  • Golly G Occasional Shop – 4776 Hermantown Road, Hermantown
  • Homestead Gatherings – 4328 East Superior Street, Duluth
  • Mirror Images Day Spa – 925 East Superior Street, Duluth
  • Sally the Stitch Witch – 2028 Piedmont Avenue, Duluth
  • Tangels Salon – 5931 East Superior Street, Duluth
  • Inspired Creations – 4908 Miller Trunk Highway, Duluth
  • Yellow Bike Coffee Shop – 5094 Miller Trunk Highway, Hermantown
  • Indianhead Floral – 1000 South River Street, Spooner, Wis.
  • St. Luke’s Hospital – Oncology Department (free for cancer patients)
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