Pam’s book, From Behind the Mask, for me is not so much about the person Pam was before, even though that is important to understand. This is about the person Pam has become.
On the face of it (no pun intended), Pam and I have little in common. What we obviously share is that we have both been involved in dramatic, life- threatening events. We have both been very badly burned and we have both survived. In fact, we have more than survived – we have thrived.
Being badly burnt is devastating. Getting through the immediate aftermath and the endless rounds of surgery is one thing. Dealing with the psychological damage it leaves afterwards is something entirely different. You’ve got an altered body image and when Pam got injured, being a young woman, it caused the biggest part of her angst; we live in a society where women are judged on their looks.
We met in 2002, via the Healing Foundation where both Pam and I were (and still are) ambassadors. It was at a time in Pam’s recovery when to the outside world things were going well, but Pam knew she was getting caught up in a web of drinking and it was complicating all of her thinking and decision processes. She asked to come and see me privately as I think she realised she needed help and wanted to open up with someone she knew had been through a similar experience and a person she could trust. She was reticent to talk at first, but being a forthright, chatty kind of guy – who knew all about recovering from burns – I decided to be bold and asked her some pretty penetrating questions. I soon discovered that drink was causing her biggest problems. As someone who had “been there and done that” I could really empathise with what Pam was going through and I wanted to help and support her if I could. I was glad that she let me and we have been firm friends ever since.
So, for me, this book is the story of a woman whose journey through a terrible ordeal, that would have put paid to a lot of other people, has been the taking of an incredible journey and the making of an incredible person.
Pam told me, not long after the tenth anniversary of the crash, that she had been asked to write a book about her experiences. When I encouraged her to do so she told me “I want to be completely honest with any reader and how can I do that until I am certain I have definitely come out the other side”. Well she must be certain now as here is the book which, knowing Pam, will have had a lot of care, love and effort put into it.
The Paddington rail crash dramatically altered Pam’s life, but she has triumphed over terrible adversity and come through. By reading this book you will see what I mean, you get to see the real Pam ‘warts and all’. She is searingly forthright about her negative attributes as well as her positives. That is what I love about Pam – her willingness to stand up to her fears and face the future, rather than be bowed by the weight and pressure of the past as well as having a relentless optimism and zest for life.