MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Maplewood Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams stated Tuesday night that she has breast cancer in an emotional speech in which she urged others to get tested and thanked supporters who have stood by her.
During the regular Township Committee meeting, Adams -- who said she underwent surgery Dec. 4 -- credited early testing with her optimistic diagnosis: “the cancer was found during a routine mammogram and subsequent ultrasound. Left untreated, this DCIS could have quickly become invasive cancer.”
“Breastcancer.org states that about 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. I am now one of the 12%,” Adams said, her voice shaking and showing obvious emotion. “But women aren’t alone in this epidemic. About 2,470 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2017. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
“In mid-September, I was diagnosed with zero stage DCIS breast cancer. Zero stage meaning very, very early in growth,” she added, later noting, “I am extremely lucky but it takes much more than luck to save lives. It requires monthly self-breast exams and annual mammograms. And even though there is a LOT of cancer (and particularly breast cancer) on my mother’s side of my family I had skipped a couple years of my routine mammogram. Why? I suppose like most people, I’m busy and it’s tough to fit in routine tests. But I knew, a woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, I have that. Why, I wondered now, did I become lax about my annual mammogram?”
See the rest of her speech below, in which she also advocates for better health care coverage for women to have such tests:
Then I remembered a couple years ago when the recommendation for yearly mammograms by the CDC changed to “The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that average-risk women who are 50 to 74 years old should have a screening mammogram every two years. Average-risk women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.”
This position conflicted with the couple of decades of recommendations that urged women to get annual mammograms after 40. Reports about mammograms even went so far as to say, “There are more reasons not to get mammograms annually than reasons to get them.” So, after years of emphasizing to women the importance of annual mammograms and of early detection, the “experts” were sending women conflicting messages. This is the kind of thing that makes even those of us who are smart enough to know better to relax a little, postpone this annoying and often-painful routine test.
After I endured a couple months of tests, biopsies, tests, scans, MRIs, genetic testing and doctor visits, on December 4th I had extensive breast and reconstructive surgery. I am privileged to have medical insurance to help me pay for these procedures. Many people do not and soon more will not be covered by insurance. After an 8 1/2 hour surgery and 5 days in the hospital, I returned home and I’ve been getting better everyday. And while I have several more months of healing and recovery ahead of me, my doctors expect a full recovery.
As your Township Committee member in our collective home of Maplewood I share with you our privileges of life in our great township, and I share with you our challenges. Healthcare is one of those challenges. I urge all residents, men and women to be vigilant and proactive about your well-being, challenge your insurance companies to cover your mammograms annually and to cover ALL tests that will help you be proactive with your health.
Close to 41,000 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer. The year is almost over and luckily, I was not one of them. Cancer is often curable and doesn’t have to be a death sentence; and breast cancer is EIGHTY percent curable, when caught EARLY.
I’m grateful for all the friends - old and new, family, and coworkers who have sent flowers, a meal, a card, a text, a call and prayers and good thoughts. I know it all helped a lot. And, while I’m preaching, I would like to add that my doctors confirmed that the 20 years of daily walking for exercise in our beautiful, walk-able town has helped enormously with my recovery and my ability to endure such a long surgery! Take advantage of our hilly and picturesque hometown to stay healthy; simply put, just keep moving. And take care of yourself and get those tests!
Adams, who faces re-election in 2018, said she plans to take time to heal and recover, but will remain in her post and working for the Township.