Linda Adams is a pretty optimistic person by nature, taking each day in stride and enjoying life in Ponte Vedra Beach as a grandmother of three.
But she was definitely rattled when she received a diagnosis of Stage 1 breast cancer in June 2015.
“You go through all these emotions — we both did — ignorance, fear, denial, knowledge, acceptance,” said her husband, Bill, in a recent interview with The Record.
For Linda, it meant doing a lot of soul searching, and also a lot of research — on types of breast cancer, treatment options and reconstructive surgery.
Now, nearly three years later, Linda Adams is cancer free and, with medication, just has to be monitored closely. But the experience she went through — her journey toward health — made her want to give something back to others.
In 2017, the Adamses began their own charity, the CancerKare Fund, launching it with a gala fundraiser at the community center in their Nocatee neighborhood. Calling it a “Night of Wine & Roses” (pink roses are handed out to breast cancer survivors, red to other women attending), the couple was able to get sponsorship by many local businesses including Claude’s Chocolate, Kuhn Flowers and the Coastal Wine Market & Tasting Room. Live entertainment, a silent auction and a lottery rounded out the night’s activities.
In its first year, Bill and Linda Adams were able to raise $5,000, which they contributed to the DONNA Foundation supporting cancer research. The hope with future events is to eventually net proceeds in the tens of thousands and use it to propel their own charity forward, helping to offset treatment costs for those with breast cancer.
“Bill and I have always believed that life’s lemons should be made into lemonade,” Linda said. “This event is our lemonade.”
The second annual CancerKare fundraiser will be Jan. 25 and tickets are still available.
A steady hand and a smile
The first obstacle Linda Adams encountered in her battle with breast cancer had to do with the diagnosis itself. At first, the mammogram that looked suspicious in one breast was discounted by doctors as being indicative of cancer. However, an MRI she got at Flagler Hospital proved otherwise.
“I was referred to Dr. Routhier. She pointed to the MRI and said, ‘You have breast cancer’ and Bill just went white,” Linda recalled.
A needle biopsy showed that she was lucky the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes and wouldn’t need radiation.
She next had to decide whether she would elect to remove the tissue of both breasts in a double mastectomy or just the cancerous one. On the advice of doctors, she decided against a double mastectomy, undergoing reconstructive surgery afterward at Ponte Vedra Plastic Surgery.
Throughout the process, she received tremendous support not only from her husband but her entire medical team. Linda is also grateful to St. Augustine-based Pink up the Pace, which paid for her MRI because she was uninsured at the time.
That’s why the Bill and Linda eventually want to focus on a similar mission in helping patients pay for imaging services and other treatments they can’t afford.
“That’s the last thing you should be worrying about when you’re going through this,” Linda said.
Another goal of the charity is to honor those in the medical field for excellence in breast cancer care at each of their galas. This year’s “Breasty” award recipient is Dr. Christine Routhier, who guided Linda through her journey with a steady hand and a smile.
“Her approach is just so calm and positive. … She took a lot of the fear out of what was going to happen,” Linda Adams said.
The couple also present an annual “Fight for Life” award to a local woman who has shown strength in her own battle against breast cancer. This year’s recipient has not yet been named.
Said Bill Adams, “Linda and I have found out that there are so many stories out there like this that it’s overwhelming.”