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Relay for Life brings community together

Cancer survivor finds restoration in her garden

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Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2012 9:25 pm | Updated: 9:32 pm, Thu Aug 9, 2012.

Teresa Adam’s doctor told her she could be the poster child for mammograms.

A routine mammogram in November 2011 revealed a tiny lump no bigger than a pea. Self-exams “might have missed” it, said the Half Moon Bay resident.

Immediately, she had a lumpectomy and biopsy, which revealed cancer.

But there was good news too: it had been caught very early, at Stage 1.

Adam took six weeks off her job with a local bank, for 18 radiation treatments through that December. She says it wasn’t too bad.

“You have to have a positive attitude,” she said “I was tired, but I kept going. You have to make sure you listen to your body, take a nap (when you want to) and keep doing daily things.”

Adam will share her cautionary tale with others who want to hear it at this weekend’s Relay for Life from 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 11 to 10 a.m. Aug. 12 at Hatch Elementary School.

She will begin the relay with the survivors’ lap, joined by a team of fellow professionals from the First American Title Co. supporting the Relay’s beneficiary, the American Cancer Society.

Both an estimated 24 teams and individuals will step out for this fifth annual local Relay. Organizers hope to raise $100,000 for the cancer society.

Proceeds from the Half Moon Bay relay will stay as close to home as possible, said Coastsider Kellie Morlock, relay entertainment and marketing chair.

Donated food will be available at the relay. Walkers can take a break on basketball courts set up for the occasion. There will also be raffles and a survivors’ tent where cancer survivors can relax with a massage.

Live music will resound from an adjacent stage from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday. Singers and ensembles due to perform include the Robin Campbell Band, Mike McCall, local hula dancers, a Chinese melodrama troupe. Sez U from the East Bay, Nomi Harper, Blue Blanket Improv, Kevy Nova, “Auri’s Open Mike,” Blame It on the Dog, Mark Kostrzewa, and Morlock with singer Peter Alexander.

At dusk on Saturday comes the lumenaria ceremony, when the track will be illuminated by sandbags holding small candles lit to remember those lost to the disease. Donations of canned food will also be welcomed, for Coastside Hope.

“It’s very inspirational, very moving,” Morlock said. “I volunteer because it’s meaningful and you see people honoring those who have passed, and survivors.”

By Saturday, survivor Adam will have helped publicize the relay with posters festooned with purple ribbons — a color that, with pink, represents cancer-fighting efforts.

While in treatment, to handle stress and literally plant seeds for her future, Adam planted a garden.

She and husband Charlie had had a tree removed from their back yard, leaving an eight-foot-by-25-foot hole. Adam thought that might be a nice place for a bench, path and meditation garden.

A four-year member of the Half Moon Bay Garden Club, Adam and Charlie went to Rice Trucking-Soil Farm for a truckload of white gravel for a pathway that defined the garden.

After a few trips to the Half Moon Bay Nursery, Adam had seeds and seedlings to make the garden resplendent with “cancer colors” of pink and purple. In late spring she planted cosmos, which grew into bushes about 3-feet high, studded with pink, purple and white flowers. She also put in old-fashioned pink carnations, pink geraniums and lavender.

Four pink nylon pinwheels twirling gaily in the breeze added spunk, and a concrete angel added spirituality.

The plants attracted honeybees, bumblebees and hummingbirds, so the garden teems with life. “It’s really peaceful to me,” she said. “Sitting in the garden and just talking, was healing.”

Since her treatments, Adam moved into a new job more in keeping with her passion for business development and her early-rising lifestyle. In February, her doctor gave her a clean bill of health.

Her garden will help grow new human generations. Adam’s 1-year-old nephew is starting to walk, and she expects a grandchild in November.

“I can visualize me sitting on the bench reading them stories,” she said.

She says cancer “makes you look at life differently,” that her job changes have given her more of a work-life balance and that the garden has given her a bright outlook on her future. “It means to me that life goes on and life can be beautiful. Just like the flowers are in the garden.”

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