Crystal Adams sits with her mom Phyllis Lee, twin daughters Hayley and Brittany and
Family in united fight against breast cancer
“She's been my best friend for 27 years, and I spent a summer wondering if I would suddenly have to learn to live without her”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For one Dawson County family, the battle against breast cancer was a family affair.
“I didn’t do breast checks,” Crystal Adams, 45, explained. “I was laying in bed, the night before Easter, and felt it. I actually kept feeling it for days. Has it gone away or am I just feeling things?”
Within a week, Adams saw her doctor, had a mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy, which revealed an aggressive form of Stage IIB lymph node involvement by metastatic poorly differentiated carcinoma.
“When she was first diagnosed I remember it hit us like a ton of bricks,” daughter Hayley, 24, said. “My first thought was I don't want to lose my mother. I'm not ready for that. I just couldn't comprehend that we were going to have to take on this battle.”
Adams underwent 16 weeks of chemo, eight treatments every other week.
“We watched as mom lost her hair,” Hayley said. “We had moments when we had to remind her that there would come a day when all of this would be in the past. We had breakdowns together, celebrations, goals, and we learned to create a new normal as a family.”
“Some days it seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel was so far away. Most nights during chemo I went to bed crying because I knew that there was only so much I could do to encourage my mom, help with the pain, and remind her that she is beautiful.”
Brittany, Hayley’s twin sister, was impressed by their mom’s attitude.
Crystal Adams poses with her battle flag, a week after her surgery. Proud of her peach fuzz,
“My mom, in true ‘Crystal’ fashion, decided to show cancer that she was in control by inviting her closest friends to an intimate ‘Shave the Head party,’” Brittany said. “It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and have ever been a part of. She sported a five-minute pink mohawk and had a little fun making funny faces to the camera.”
Adams, a teacher at Georgia Cyber Academy, had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at Northside Hospital Forsyth in September. The mother of three attributes her good spirits to the love, support and encouragement of her family, friends and doctors. Her family received training in tending to Adams’ postoperative needs. Her mom, Phyllis Lee, and Brittany learned how to give Adams injections.
“I didn’t have a choice,” Adams said. “I either had to do something about it or it was gonna mess me up. Between friends and family, everybody has just completely been wrapping me up in love. It’s been very easy. There are so many times I’ve told Troy [my husband] how I can’t imagine a person going through this alone or having nurses come in and take care of them. I have family here, tending to me, loving on me.”
The couple met in college.
“She's been my best friend for 27 years, and I spent a summer wondering if I would suddenly have to learn to live without her,” Troy said. “Each examination, I worried and feared and dreaded. Even hearing that things were improving, didn't relieve the fear. So, now that we are almost to the finish line - I've seen how strong she is and how a storm can make a couple even closer.”
“It hasn’t been just me from the get-go,” Adams said, tears filling her eyes and her voice quivering. “The girls have been here. It’s been absolutely amazing how God worked everything out since the beginning. I’m a stay at home teacher and my mom is visiting from Newnan. I have had one or both my daughters here with me the whole time. Rhys [my son] doesn’t come around a lot because of school—he’s a cadet at the University of North Georgia. When he does, he tries to keep everything light-hearted.”
Adams did the BRCA testing, the results indicating that her cancer is not genetic. However, doctors have recommended that Brittany and Hayley start having annual mammograms at 30.
“The lesson I learned generally is that breast cancer will take hair, it will take second base, it will take lives, and it will take other things, but it will never take the woman,” Brittany said.