Giving Back After Loss with Nate Adams

EP 129 – Nate Adams – 9/3/21

[00:00:00] Adam Walker: This program is supported by Amgen. Amgen strives to serve patients by transforming the promise of science and biotechnology into therapies for patients with serious illnesses, learn

[00:00:20] Adam Walker: From Susan G Komen, this is real pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room, caring or a parent through breast cancer. It can mean sometimes handling the kinds of responsibilities that your parent wants handled for you and having to manage your own emotions while supporting them.

[00:00:41] Adam Walker: At times that can prove to be challenging for everyone involved, but it can also create some beautiful life moments and lessons. Our guest today lost his mom to breast cancer in may of 2012. And now it gives back by serving as director of learning and development at Susan G Komen here to share his story and to honor his mom’s legacy is Nate Adams, Nate, welcome to the show.

[00:01:04] Nate Adams: Awesome. Thank you, Adam. Thanks for having me. Well, man, I’m, I’m,

[00:01:07] Adam Walker: I’m really glad to talk to you. I love talking to different family members that have been affected in so many different ways by breast cancer. So let’s start with your family’s story. Can you tell us, and just walk us through your mom’s breast cancer journey?

[00:01:21] Nate Adams: Yeah, so I think like anybody who’s probably impacted by any type of disease, right? You think you’re just kind of the normal family, nothing really exciting going on. Um, And then one day, uh, I came home from college, uh, with my, with my now wife and my parents kind of sat me down and pulled us in, in 2008 that my mom had breast cancer.

[00:01:47] Nate Adams: And, um, it was definitely kind of a surprise. It’s not what I thought we were going to hear that weekend, but, uh, she, you know, started to go through the treatments and, um, But thought it was, it wasn’t a huge deal. And she went through them through about 2009. Um, you know, she did chemo and, and all the, the typical procedures, she ended up getting a double mastectomy as well, just to be safe.

[00:02:16] Nate Adams: Cause we, we thought we caught it in time and then turns out in 2010, we discovered that it had metastasized to her bones and to some of her other organs. And um, so she started treatments again. And, uh, in, in 2011, we, we actually. Had found out that it had traveled to her brain as well. So, um, she had to have some additional surgeries and have a piece of her skull removed, um, in order to do some procedures.

[00:02:50] Nate Adams: And, uh, at that point, you know, swelling never kind of went down and things never got back to where they really need it. To be in order for them to move on. And then, um, she eventually went into in-home hospice, uh, in 20, late 2011 and, um, passed in 2012.

[00:03:10] Adam Walker: Wow. Well, thank you. Thank you for sharing that story.

[00:03:12] Adam Walker: I know that’s difficult. And so I want to, I want to step back for a minute. You mentioned that you were in college at the time and you came home and your parents set you down and walk in, kind of told you, I wonder if you, because that’s such a difficult process and because every family sort of handles that in their own unique way.

[00:03:29] Adam Walker: I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about the nature of that conversation, how they approached it, just so we can understand that, that part of this story.

[00:03:38] Nate Adams: Sure. You know, being a college student, right. You’re, you’re very self focused and self centered. And, you know, I heard the news and. I, I really wasn’t affected that much.

[00:03:54] Nate Adams: You know, I, it, it didn’t really hit me. What kind of a big deal this was, you know, I’m from small town, Oklahoma, you don’t know many people that, uh, had had breast cancer. And the one individual that I did know that had breast cancer, um, You know, with my limited knowledge fought extremely well. Did treatments, uh, responded really well to treatments, uh, and is still alive to this day.

[00:04:23] Nate Adams: Um, she was a really close friend of my mom’s actually. And so, you know, when my parents told me, I was just kind of thinking, okay, so like I had this perception that a, you know, we were invincible. Uh, I come from a family that has a lot of medical background and. I was just under the perception that breast cancer wasn’t that big of a deal.

[00:04:46] Nate Adams: Like if you just, if you just fought hard enough and you just believed enough and, and you, you. Yeah, put forth the effort. You know, anyone could get past that. I just kind of had that really naive, a young, young person, invincible mentality about it. And so I was really nonchalant about it. And I think that when they sat us down and told us, you know, I could see the pain and the anguish in their eyes, but it, it didn’t really hit me until a few years later.

[00:05:20] Nate Adams: This was a serious thing. And, and you know, now seeing the forest through the trees, I wish I would have done a few things differently, but, um, it was definitely something that I probably didn’t take very seriously.

[00:05:36] Adam Walker: Well, you know, I think we all look back on it. So many parts of our lives and think that same thing.

[00:05:41] Adam Walker: So I don’t, I don’t think you’re in any way unique in that respect, but I appreciate you sharing that because I recognize how difficult that must have been. Um, so, so you mentioned that your family’s in healthcare, and I imagine that meant that there’s a lot of, there are a lot of caregiver roles and a lot of caregiving, uh, available from your family.

[00:05:59] Adam Walker: Tell us about what it was like during those times for you as a young man. I mean, were you the one taking care of your.

[00:06:07] Nate Adams: Yeah. So, I mean, my dad, of course he was, he was like the real hero here because he, he was, uh, he’s uh, he was a hospital administrator, so he was running a hospital. Uh, and you know, that’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

[00:06:20] Nate Adams: And then also being there to take care of my mom and, and take her to appointments, you know, in Houston or San Antonio or wherever it was, he was always there. And, um, I think it really ran him ragged at the time. Uh, and he’s, he’s, he’s a pretty strong man. So he handled it really well. And I think hit it pretty well, but, uh, I, I did have to serve as, as caregiver at times for my mom, much, much fewer than he, he, he did of course, but, um, it was hard, you know, and I think seeing someone that always took care of you and now you’re taking care of them and, you know, as my mom’s cancer.

[00:07:03] Nate Adams: You know, went to her brain. We definitely saw her change and yeah. At times even kind of revert back to like a childlike state. And I remember there would be times where, um, I would either go to, you know, I would, I would meet with my dad in Houston at MD Anderson and we would swap out for a few days because I was in college, you know, I, it was okay if I was missing some class, I was okay with that, uh, to go spend some time with family.

[00:07:32] Nate Adams: But, um, you know, It was really hard. I found myself having arguments with my mom about the smallest things. And now that I’m a parent, I kind of, I, it, it was almost like, you know, a kid I was taken care of, but I was, I was 21, 22 years old at the time. And it was, it was really hard. We’d have arguments. Know, she wanted donuts for dinner.

[00:07:55] Nate Adams: And I would say, mom, you, you need to eat more than just the dose for dinner. And, uh, it was tough and, and we would have arguments and, and when she had a piece of her skull removed, you know, my dad was like, make sure you wear, she wears her helmet when you’re taking care of her. If, if you have to go somewhere and so she wouldn’t want to wear her helmet and we would have arguments about that.

[00:08:15] Nate Adams: And, um, one, one time specifically, I remember. For dinner. She did not want what we had and she wanted a pancake and, you know, being a college student, I was very, very not good at cooking. And I call my, my girlfriend, who’s now my wife. And I said, Hey, you’ve got five minutes. Here are the ingredients I have.

[00:08:38] Nate Adams: What can I like, how can I make a pancake? She wants a pancake just. Water flour, maybe some sugar. I need a recipe for a pancake cake. Call me back in five and sure enough, he did it. She, she Googled it and found it and I made her pancakes and she was really happy, but it was, it was just so challenging.

[00:08:56] Nate Adams: Like I have so much respect for people that are caregivers, um, either just for family or that’s their full-time gig because it took such a toll for me. I wasn’t prepared for it. Um, and. I, I, I was glad I got to spend more time with my mom in those situations, you know, and get to spend some time with her.

[00:09:18] Nate Adams: I wish I would have done it more, but it was, it was so taxing and so hard at that age. Um, Yeah, it was just something I’ll never forget. Uh, some of those, those long weekends or days I spent with her, um, and covered for, for my dad while he was working, it was, it was just really tough.

[00:09:39] Adam Walker: Yeah. Wow. I can, I can only imagine.

[00:09:42] Adam Walker: Uh, and thank you. Thank you for sharing that. So. So you mentioned care, um, advocating for care is just so important. Uh, can you, can you share a little bit about how an action by your brother allowed your mom to be, uh, to be at a significant event in your life?

[00:09:59] Nate Adams: Yeah. Um, bless my brother because, uh, he is a doctor and I’m an MD.

[00:10:05] Nate Adams: And after my mom had started going through treatments for, um, You know, having, uh, the cancer moved to her bones, um, you know, she was going through treatments and there were some things that just still weren’t right. And she had gone to numerous appointments at numerous places and we just felt like she wasn’t getting any better and they didn’t know why.

[00:10:32] Nate Adams: And we started noticing. A real change in like her cognitive functions and her ability to focus and, and she would fall asleep a lot. And then there was just a lot going on and my brother had done quite a bit of research. Um, and he told my dad, Hey, when you, when you take her next time, you, you make them do a brain scan because I think something is going on, uh, with her brain.

[00:11:01] Nate Adams: And I think you really need to check that. And so my dad did that, um, follow my brother’s advice and they were kind of opposed to it and they didn’t think that it wasn’t, you know, it’s not going to reveal anything, but they finally relented and did it. And sure enough, that’s when they seen the tumor in her brain and that everything had really metastasized there as well.

[00:11:24] Nate Adams: And they were able to take action. And so they think they caught it just a few months, probably before. She would have passed. And so she ended up having a surgery and like I said, they removed a piece of her skull and it relieves the brain pressure and we’re able to get a majority of the tumor out at the time.

[00:11:42] Nate Adams: Uh, and that allowed her to attend my wedding and see me get married. So I know that was, that was one thing I was always worried. Yeah. As, as I got, you know, a little bit more understanding about how serious this was that, you know, will my mom gets to see me be married. Will she get to see me have kids at some point?

[00:12:01] Nate Adams: And, and though I didn’t get the ladder. Um, I was, I was really fortunate that. My brother advocated for that and, um, push for that so that we were able to get her some help. And, um, a few months later after that surgery, she was able to attend the wedding. And, um, and so we have pictures from that day and I got to dance with her.

[00:12:23] Adam Walker: Man, that sounds beautiful. Uh, and that’s, so that’s so important. We talk about on this show all the time, this, the importance of being willing to advocate for yourself when, you know, when you know, there’s something going on. Um, and so it’s, it’s, it, it is important to work with medical teams. It’s also important, so important to advocate.

[00:12:40] Adam Walker: I’m so glad that your brother in your family did that. So, so tell me how, how has your experience changed? How you parent and how you just live your life in general?

[00:12:52] Nate Adams: Well, it’s definitely, it’s definitely made me more, uh, I mean, I’m sure it’s cliche to sound that, to say this, but you know, you, you live a little bit more in the moment and, um, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re not as willing to, I don’t know, spend time on the things that, that bring you down.

[00:13:11] Nate Adams: Um, and the, uh, Those types of things alive, you know, the drama you want to enjoy the time that you have together as a family and live in the moment. It’s also made me obsessed with maybe too much, maybe in a negative way, uh, taking pictures and videos of my own kids. Um, because I remember when my mom passed, uh, I looked back and.

[00:13:39] Nate Adams: I went back home after she passed a few weeks and started combing through photos and videos and, and trying to get them turn them digital so I can preserve them because I knew, you know, I want to kids at some point I wanted them to be able to see her. And, uh, not only in pictures, but videos to like hear her voice and see her mannerisms.

[00:13:59] Nate Adams: I thought that was so important. So, um, You know, I know now with my kids, I’ve got three little ones and I try to just capture every moment that I can with them so they can watch it later. Um, and then, you know, same thing with, with us, with my wife and with me, like I want them to see us. And I was like, I think we live in a time now where technology is so cool that we have the ability to document all of those things that people can see them, uh, later on in life.

[00:14:29] Nate Adams: And, you know, my kids. Constantly ask about their grandma and what was, what was she like? And where’s she at and what is she doing? And, um, but it’s nice to be able to like show pictures. So I think just really capturing moments. And now, as I’m older, I think about the things that stick most with me and my family or not.

[00:14:53] Nate Adams: You know, the, the toys I got for Christmas or the things that I, I received from them, it was the memories that we had. It was the family trips. It was the destinations that we took. It was the experiences that we had, even if it was just like swimming in the pool all summer, you know, as a kid, like, those are the things that I remember.

[00:15:13] Nate Adams: And so I want to make sure that. Uh, I parent that same way too. You know, they’re not going to remember the toys that I gave them or the items. Um, they’re going to remember these fun experiences that we had as a family. Uh, and so I try to live that out because I want that to stick with them as long as I possibly can,

[00:15:34] Adam Walker: man.

[00:15:34] Adam Walker: I love that. And that’s so beautiful. And, and it, honestly, it makes me think, you know, as a parent, I’m a parent as well, and, and we tend to, to take photos and videos of the kids. And just the kids. Right. And that like, cause we want to count. We want to remember them as kids. It never really occurs to me that they might want to remember us at this age as well.

[00:15:53] Adam Walker: And maybe, maybe we should be in some of those videos, some of those photos as well, not just, not just behind the camera. Um, that’s a really, really beautiful thought. I appreciate you sharing that. Um, so, so Nate, last, last question. What advice would you give to a listener that might have a family member currently undergoing tree?

[00:16:13] Nate Adams: Cool. Um, I mean, it’s tough and I forget every experience is different. Um, I think from, from my perspective, I would say

[00:16:26] Nate Adams: don’t, don’t pass, uh, opportunities to. Spend time with that person. You know, once again, I think, uh, I was a, a very selfish college student at the time. You know, I was living my life. Um, I didn’t want to go back to my small town. Uh, I was enjoying being, you know, almost four hours away and it almost seems like an inconvenience to have to go back home and, you know, and.

[00:16:58] Nate Adams: Even before my mom had, you know, I knew she had cancer. I felt that way, but after her diagnosis, you know, it didn’t change a whole lot for me. And I wish, I wish I would’ve spent more time making the Trek home and spending more time at home. And, um, you know, I have a degree now that I don’t do a whole lot with, I definitely wish I would’ve spent more time with my, my mom, uh, when I had the opportunity and, um, And I think some of that too was, you know, just the feeling of being invincible on that, oh, she’s going to overcome this.

[00:17:32] Nate Adams: And then it eventually turned into a feeling of trying to just run away from it, I guess. And I think that was part of the reason why I didn’t want to go home towards the end too. It’s just so tough to see my mom, you know, in a hospice bed, in our living room, every time I’d go home. And so. I think I even tried to just avoid it, but you know, now, you know, looking back, I, I wish I wouldn’t have some of my most lucid memories.

[00:18:03] Nate Adams: I feel like with my mom, Arwin. You know, she was bad to Britain. And, um, those are some of the things that I remember the most versus, you know, when she was first diagnosed. And so I wish I, I wish I had more of those memories. I wish I had more pictures and videos of those times. And even, even some of the silly things that she said, I know it wasn’t her.

[00:18:25] Nate Adams: Um, Those, those were things that, you know, my wife and I still talk about. And we, we, we just remember her by that. It was just so, so funny. And she had, she still had a sense of humor. It was just different. And those are the things I remember. And I wish I would have spent more time trying to capture that and, and living in it and enjoying that moment, uh, with her and just making the most out of it.

[00:18:50] Nate Adams: Uh, so that’d be the first thing. And then I think the second thing would just be, um, advocating. Of course, I think is so important because it did, I think preserved my mom’s life. Just, you know, maybe just another year, but man, a year is a long time when you think about it. Um, so I’m super thankful for that, but I also think just understanding what people are going through.

[00:19:12] Nate Adams: I didn’t fully understand either what she was going through because we didn’t know what resources existed. We didn’t. You know, I didn’t have someone sit down and talk to me about it other than my parents. And of course they did the best job that they possibly could, but I didn’t always understand why my mom couldn’t get up some days.

[00:19:32] Nate Adams: I didn’t always understand why she couldn’t do something as simple as walked the end of the driveway. I just thought, just do it. Like it’ll make you feel better. Just do it. I was just, I didn’t think about all the different things that are happening. Um, From a biological level when someone is going through this, you know, there’s, there’s anxiety, there’s depression.

[00:19:54] Nate Adams: I think about my own family. And if I had to sit down and tell my kids now that you know, one of us could possibly die from, from a disease. Oh, it would rip me apart. And so, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t really put myself into that person’s shoes when my mother. Sat me down and told us, told us that I’m sure she was thinking the same things that I think about now, which is, you know, well, I get to see my, my, my son get married.

[00:20:22] Nate Adams: Well, I get to see my grandkids. I’m sure that crushed her. And, you know, I just didn’t think about things from that perspective. So I think it’s so important to, to. We consider it and be understanding whether it’s family or whether it’s a friend, um, and just be there for them to listen and understand, uh, you can, you don’t, you don’t truly know what they’re going through.

[00:20:46] Adam Walker: Yeah, no, you don’t. You don’t. And Nate, I’m, I just want to say to you, thank you for being real, for being authentic. Thank you for, for sharing your story and, and even your own struggles throughout it. It’s been honestly inspiring. Um, and, and just really profoundly, uh, Eyeopening to me in so many ways. So thank you.

[00:21:06] Adam Walker: Thank you for on my behalf, but also on behalf of our listeners as

[00:21:09] Nate Adams: well. Thanks for joining me today. Of course. Thank you so much.

[00:21:14] Adam Walker: Thanks to Amgen for supporting this podcast. To learn more about Amgen’s mission, to serve patients with a cutting edge science-based approach, follow Amgen biotech on Instagram and Facebook.

[00:21:35] Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to real paint a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen for more episodes, visit real for more on breast cancer. Visit Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter at AGA Walker or on my blog. Adam J