Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series through October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Throughout the interview for this story, Hattie Adams emphasized that she believes in medical treatment for cancer, and that her decision to forgo additional therapies was not taken lightly. Do not stop or change medical treatment without speaking with a physician.
In early 2014, Hattie Adams was getting out of the bathtub when she noticed something unusual on her left breast. It was reminiscent of breast milk, but with a son in his 40s, Adams knew that couldn’t be the case.
“I squeezed ... and a tannish fluid came out. So I go back to breastfeeding and I think, well, my son’s in his 40s. This shouldn’t be happening,” she said. “I knew something wasn’t right.”
Even though Adams wasn’t concerned at first – she has a family history of colon cancer, not breast – she went and got it checked out. Even as her doctor told her a lump showed up on the diagnostic mammogram and he wanted to try an ultrasound, Adams was trying to rush out the door.
“I was saying, ‘Can you hurry? I’ve got to get to work,’” she said. At the time, she was a triage nurse in Lafayette.
“He called me at work and told me, ‘Hattie, you have breast cancer.’ What?” she said. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her left breast. The tumor was too large for a lumpectomy and required a mastectomy, a five-hour surgery.
Fast forward to 2019, Adams saw her OB-GYN about a rash on her breast. Her doctor insisted it wasn’t anything to worry about, but an MRI showed a mass “about the size of a Spanish peanut,” she said. The mass was from behind the left breast mastectomy wall, meaning Adams’ diagnosis became recurrent breast cancer.
She sought opinions from three doctors on how to proceed, and finally sought the advice of Dr. Monet Bowling at Hendricks Regional Health. Adams underwent surgery to remove the mass in August 2019, but the pathology results revealed her margins as positive for cancer.
Treatment was going to be aggressive. Adams would be undergoing another surgery, radiation and would be put on tamoxifen, a hormonal drug that blocks estrogen to the breast, for 10 years. After thinking about it, and what that future would mean for a 74-year-old Adams, she declined the treatment and placed her faith in God for healing.
“I thought, ‘I’m not going through this again’” she said. “I’m 74, I’m going to let the Great Physician get this.”
Adams didn’t return to the doctor, and by the time she was going to make a follow-up appointment, the coronavirus pandemic had taken hold in Indiana. Adams is a woman of faith, she looked into healing Scriptures and taking regular communion. She made a habit of praying for healing every day. Her pastor, Chris Duncan, and friend Patty Richman, a breast cancer survivor, prayed for her as well.
“I’d prepared myself. I truly believed that if Jesus didn’t heal me here, then He would do it in Heaven,” she said. “There’s still all these things I want to do, like go to Israel, so I would just think on all of the things I’m going to do, and I would pray.”
July 2020 rolled around, and Adams realized she didn’t feel any lumps, so she went to get a mammogram to check her progress.
“The radiologist came out and said, ‘There’s no worrisome cancer,’” she said. “She told me to continue to self-check and if there are any symptoms to call my doctor. It was just – wow.”
Adams believes that communion is truly healing to the body, but she said there are many ways that God can heal people.
“God can heal through doctors,” she said. “I don’t want people to think, ‘I don’t need to do that because look what happened to Hattie.’ That’s not true, that’s not what I’m saying.”
Adams spoke of friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, some who have traveled a tough road. She said she never gives advice on treatment, whether it be medical or spiritual.
“I encouraged and I prayed with (my friend), but I never gave advice, because that’s personal,” she said. “I don’t do that, and as a nurse, you know you don’t do that. It’s a personal journey.”
Deciding to forgo treatment was a solemn path that Adams took, and she said it took a lot of consideration. At times, she had to distance herself from those who doubted or disagreed because she had to keep her mindset on healing, but she had to face the ultimate reality of her choice.
“I had to talk it out, and I thought, ‘If I have to go home, give me the grace to die,’” she said. “I came to terms with it. I said, I’m a winner anyway. Heal me here or heal me there. I trust (Jesus).”
Adams said her friends call her a “prayer warrior,” and she’s often lifting up others in prayer. She said she plans to keep taking communion every day and thinking on healing Scriptures, one in particular.
“But my main Scripture is, ‘This affliction will not come upon me again,’ and I figure when Jesus does it, it’s a done deal,” she said. “So that’s how I feel.”