Dotty Adams: Avid Traveler, Humble Breast Cancer Survivor

By Gina W. Urban

Dotty Adams’ calendar is filled with vacations and family trips as well as the mission trips she takes with her church, North Boulevard Church of Christ.  The latter excursions have taken her to such faraway places as Egypt, Israel and Turkey.  “I love to travel and I love to help people,” she says straight out.  “Those are two of my passions.”


Dotty Adams is determined, direct and practical… and a breast cancer survivor.
The date she found out is emblazoned in her memory: February 10, 2014.  Adams went to her doctor, Elizabeth LaRoche, for her annual mammogram. Following the mammogram, Dr. LaRoche notified Adams that they found a spot, and asked her to repeat the mammogram three days later.  That second screening confirmed the spot.
“I was never worried.  I never cried.” Adams said.  She was confident that “…God is going to take care of this.”


Adams is the 2016 honoree for Saint Thomas Rutherford Foundation’s fifth annual Wine Around The Square (WATS) event, benefitting the Power of Pink program.  Power of Pink is Rutherford County’s premier fundraising program for breast cancer detection and treatment, and provides breast cancer education and diagnostic care to Rutherford County women who are uninsured, underinsured or indigent.


“We’re so pleased that Dotty Adams agreed to share her breast cancer survival story with us in support of this year’s Power of Pink fundraising campaign,” said Anne Davis, Saint Thomas Rutherford Foundation Director.


According to Davis, Power of Pink co-chairs Patty Marschel, Rita Ash and Caroline Lampley were touched by Dotty’s personal experience and thrilled she agreed to be the spotlight of this year’s efforts to raise funds for others to have needed diagnostic testing. 
“Dotty is a strong person and depended on her family, deep faith and close friends when she was given her diagnosis,” Davis said.  “Her story spotlights the importance of early detection in our collective fight against breast cancer.”


This year’s WATS event takes place Saturday, September 17, on the historic Square in downtown Murfreesboro.  The outdoor event features wine, premium liquors, beer, cigars and food pairings, with live music playing as participants stroll through downtown Murfreesboro’s businesses and unique local shops.  More than 1100 people enjoyed the 2015 WATS.
Tickets to the main event are $60 per person, and every dollar raised from ticket sales goes directly to provide breast cancer screenings to women who would not otherwise have access to them.


“In the first four years of Wine Around the Square, more than 2,000 local women received a Power of Pink-funded mammogram,” Davis said.  “During that period, 15 of those women were diagnosed with breast cancer.  When people buy a ticket to this event, they can feel very good that their contribution to Power of Pink truly saves lives.”


Adams’ medical journey lasted from February through August 2014.  After that second mammogram, Dr. Lisa White performed a biopsy and confirmed the cancer needed to be removed.  Adams insisted that she first make her previously planned trip to Michigan to visit daughter Andrea Brown and her husband David.  David Brown is a microvascular surgeon and Andrea is a registered nurse.


During that visit, Adams’ family urged her to get treatment immediately; they didn’t want her to wait another day.  At their insistence, she met February 23 with Dr. Alfred Chang at University of Michigan Hospital.  With her mother’s directness, Andrea looked at Dr. Chang and asked, “When can you do the surgery?”


Adams had a lumpectomy at University of Michigan Hospital during that visit and returned to Murfreesboro February 28.  “I was fine,” Adams said.  “I had no problems, no after-effects.”
The results of the Michigan biopsy came back March 16 and indicated Adams’ medical condition brought with it a risk of the cancer’s recurrence.


In typical fashion, Adams was very practical in deciding her next step.  “I didn’t want to go through this again,” she said.  Her choices were mastectomy, chemo or just to chance it.  “Because this was my health, I chose chemo.”


Adams has nothing but praise for the doctors who treated her.  Her doctors affiliated with Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital include Dr. Lisa White, Dr. Yanjun Ma and Dr. Brian Lee.   “All of my doctors were very good,” she said.


Her oncologist, Dr. Ma, handled her chemo, which involved four treatments, one every three weeks.  Adams’ hair fell out after the second treatment and she found the treatments made her tired.  “I’m not Superwoman,” she conceded.  Chemo ended on June 23rd; radiation began a few weeks later.


Dr. Brian Lee, radiation oncologist, directed that treatment.  Adams had radiation daily for several weeks; she had her treatment on the weekdays and still was able to travel to Center Hill Lake on the weekends.  Mid-treatment, Adams took four days off from her radiation for a planned trip to California with daughter Andrea and grandsons Matthew and Andrew to watch the boys play in a water polo competition.  Adams was determined “… to keep going, to keep doing,” she said.  Her radiation was completed August 18, 2014, just over six months after her diagnosis.


Adams told very few people about her cancer journey. “I didn’t announce it at church,” she said.  The women at her Ladies Life Group bible study at North Boulevard Church of Christ knew, as did her “’64 Girls,” friends from the class of 1964 at Central High School.  
Her family provided her strongest support.  In addition to daughter Andrea in Michigan, Adams has two sons.  Andrew Adams and his wife, Dara, and Anthony Adams, and his wife, Julie, all live in the Murfreesboro area.  Dara frequently took Adams to chemo; Adams’ sister Peggy Burgess brought her dinner.  All of the family members checked up on her regularly.
“I wasn’t by myself,” Adams said.  “I knew people were out there for me.  I couldn’t have made it without all of them.”


Adams wore a scarf or wig when out in public after her hair loss, and the wigs have now been relegated to her attic.


As her hair began to grow back, she would run into friends who exclaimed, “When did you cut your hair!?”  At the grocery store, she would be stopped by shoppers remarking, “I love your hair!  Who cut it?”


Adams has a piece of practical advice for those facing chemo.  “I’d tell them to get a port instead of having IV injections in the arm for every treatment,” she said.  The multiple IVs Adams received during her treatment left her veins “…so dried up that they are hard to find now when I need to have blood drawn.”


Adams was reluctant to be the WATS honoree.  “I don’t feel worthy,” she said.  “I don’t even feel like I really had cancer.”  But she quickly added, “If my story helps somebody go and get that mammogram, it’s worth it.”


For more information or to purchase tickets for WATS,
please visit winearoundthesquare.org.

Gina Urban is a freelance writer in Murfreesboro.  
Her sister Geline Williams is a 26-year breast cancer survivor.