Center News

"It's Good to Have Hope"

Sept. 19, 2002
Dr. John Hansen (center) receives a $1.5 million check from Madeline and Howell Adams Jr.

Dr. John Hansen (center) receives a $1.5 million check from Madeline and Howell Adams Jr. to establish an endowed chair at Fred Hutchinson that investigates acute myelogenous leukemia, the cause of their daugher Madeline's death.

Photo by Deborah Kirsner

From her earliest years to her young adulthood, Madeline Adams never failed to make an impression of upbeat resolve.

When she was in kindergarten, her enthusiastic greetings inspired a friend's dad to volunteer to drive the carpool because "Madeline's 'good morning' makes my day," he said.

Madeline's persistence, hard work and self-discipline as a high-school tennis player earned her a place on four consecutive state championship teams ahead of players with superior talent.

During her senior year at Vanderbilt University in 1990, Madeline was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. The next year, she was admitted to Fred Hutchinson for a bone-marrow transplant. It was no surprise that she hit it off with the center's Dr. John Hansen, her primary physician.

Told it would take 28 days post-transplant for her blood counts to return to normal levels, she said, "Dr. Hansen, I'm going to reach that goal in 21 days."

Instead of cautioning her not to be disappointed if she didn't accomplish such an unrealistic feat, Hansen smiled compassionately and replied, "Madeline, it's good to have hope."

Madeline Adams

Madeline Adams in 1991

Photo couresy of Adams Family

Pride, affection

Today, 10 years after Madeline's death at age 24, her parents, Madeline and Howell Adams, Jr. of Atlanta, continue to recount that story and its punch line with pride and affection.

"That's my motto about Fred Hutch," said her dad, the retired former owner of Trane Air Conditioning in Georgia. "It plays in a lot of ways. It's good for researchers to continue to have hope when things don't turn out as expected, to have hope for a cure, for the best patient care. I'm a firm believer that positive expectancy and spirituality contribute to a better immune system and better health overall."

"Cancer is such a struggle," her mother added. "If you don't have hope, how can you stay at it?"

Madeline, fourth of the Adamses' five children, did stay at it in all her endeavors, whether academics, cheerleading, tennis or everyday human interaction. That attitude had a lasting impact, as more than 1,100 people attended her memorial service at Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Six years later, Madeline's high school, Westminster, wanted the new campus gate to be named in her memory as a symbol of her friendly, outgoing and inclusive personality. This was made possible through family and friends.

The inscription on the gate is one of Madeline's favorite Bible verses, Joshua 1:9. "Be strong and of good courage, be not afraid, neither be dismayed. For the lord your God is with you wherever you go."

During their five months in Seattle, the Adamses grew to understand why Fred Hutchinson had gained its reputation as the best place for a transplant. Witnessing the expert medical care, the intensive research and the supportive attitude of the entire staff, not only provided comfort to her parents, but also fueled their motivation to make a significant contribution to AML research.

Recently they gave the center $ 1.5 million to endow a chair that investigates AML.

"We are loving the chance to make a difference and share our good fortune," the Adamses said.

Dr. Steve Collins of the Human Biology Division, whose research on AML focuses on chemical compounds for cancer prevention and treatment, will fill the chair.

Such an arrangement is rare at the center. Only one other endowed chair, the Dr. Penny E. Petersen Memorial Chair held by Dr. Oliver Press of the Clinical Research Division, exists. But the center is working to establish 20 to 30 other such chairs to provide crucial salary support to faculty.

Stable support

"It is important for recruitment and retention of scientists that they know that they have stable salary support so they can feel free to pursue innovative ideas," said Dr. Lee Hartwell, president and director.

"We're excited that the Adamses understand how important this is to the center and have chosen to honor their daughter in this way. Steve Collins has contributed to our understanding of AML in many significant ways over the course of his career, and we are pleased that he will be the first person to benefit from this gift."

Near the end of her life, Madeline experienced remarkable growth spiritually and emotionally.

"She lost touch with time," Howell Adams said. "We tend to think of a full life in terms of reaching old age, but she sensed fulfillment in her life even though it was brief in years. She said, 'Whether we're 24 or 94, it's just a twinkle of an eye in eternity. I never expected to feel so much joy and peace.' She was a great gift to us."

 

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.