At 46, John Adams has been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Doctors believe he may have two weeks to two months to live.
But Adams, director of finance for St. Luke’s Magic Valley, Jerome, and Wood River, has chosen to focus on his family, his faith – and transcendent time with both.
“I’m scared at some level,” said Adams, “but I am grateful for the past two weeks.
“I have slowed down and spent time with my family.”
A family Fourth of July was particularly special. All five of Adams’ siblings “gave up their family plans” to visit him and his family in Kimberly, Idaho. He treasures that togetherness during these very difficult days.
Adams took on his St. Luke’s role in May. By mid-May, he knew there was something wrong with his health. He wasn’t feeling well and was experiencing weight loss, pain and diarrhea.
“I self-diagnosed it as something else, so I was trying to change my diet, change my exercise patterns,” he said. “At some level, I knew that cancer was a possibility.
“I tried to ignore the cancer thing.”
He couldn’t ignore the pain he was having. On June 1, Adams went to the emergency department at St. Luke’s Magic Valley, where he had a CT scan to see what was going on.
“My doctor looked me in the eye and showed me the CT scan and said, ‘See all this. This is cancer,’” he recalled. “That’s when it sets in, and for like three hours, you are trying to digest it.”
Adams went to St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Twin Falls the day he was diagnosed.
“Even that day, I went from ‘there is no hope’ to the oncologist saying, ‘Chemo is brutal and your diagnosis is brutal, but let’s do a full-court press and see what comes out the other side,’” he said.
“So, that’s the message that I told my wife. I told her that I’ve got cancer and we are going to dive right in and figure out what to do.”
Adams started chemotherapy June 13 and within a few days, started to feel the side effects. It was during a period of extreme pain that he experienced “30 minutes of peace in an ultra-spiritual moment,” where God let him know he “was going to die, but everything was going to be OK.”
“I had a spiritual experience that helps me find some peace that there is something bigger going on than just this blockage,” he said. “This experience said that we probably need to stop the chemo.”
After being admitted back into the hospital for sepsis, he met Dr. Timothy Enders.
“Dr. Enders was my voice to tell my wife. My wife heard his tone of voice and then she held my hand.
“He said, ‘There is something else going on here. Can I be truthful with you? It’s my medical opinion that the cancer has spread so much in your liver that the chemo isn’t going to stop that.’ It was hard for my wife to hear that. But, he said it in a kind and compassionate manner in a way that I couldn’t even say it to my wife.”
Adams and his wife, Cherice, made the difficult decision to forego further treatments and move directly to hospice care along with St. Luke’s expert medical care, pain and symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support.
Many people have asked why he isn’t trying to beat the cancer.
“I don’t want to die,” he said. “I’m worried about my family, but I go back to those experiences and I can be at peace with my decision.
“Palliative care talks about quality of life versus quantity,” Adams said. “So, when this conversation comes up, we go back to that discussion.
“I think all of my friends that have great intentions,” he said, “but they want me to be their story to brag about. ‘If you just listen to me, you can have this procedure.’ I say, ‘I appreciate you saying that, but this is about me and my family.’
“It’s quality of life.”
Adams is grateful for the many St. Luke’s staff members who have cared for him thus far. As he has shifted from being solely a St. Luke’s employee to becoming a St. Luke’s patient, Adams is thankful for being able to receive exceptional health care close to home.
His faith and large, loving family are central to his journey. Adams has six children. His daughter is due with their first grandson on Aug. 11. He hopes to live long enough to be able to see his grandchild.
“If I get to that date, I will make another goal,” he said. “The doctor said the same thing, that he doesn’t have a crystal ball. In his medical opinion, it will be two weeks to two months. If I get to two months, I get to see my grandson.”
Talking with your health care provider
St. Luke’s providers want you to know you can reach out for answers to questions and for care, even if you might think something will go away on its own or that it’s not worth a medical professional’s time.
“If you have a new physical symptom that doesn’t seem to improve the way you think it should, it’s always worth discussing with your medical provider,” said Dr. Timothy Enders, a St. Luke’s Magic Valley hospitalist.
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.