Nurse hoping to raise awareness with cancer education

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Kim Adams changes a bag of medicine for one of her patients at Plains Regional Medical Center’s Cancer Center.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

After years helping cancer patients, an award-winning nurse is planning ways to educate people about cancer at next month’s Relay for Life cancer-research fundraiser.

Kim Adams, October 2008 winner of the New Mexico Excellence in Ambulatory Care award, is lending her experience to Relay For Life of Clovis by bringing educational programs to the event. She works in onocology at Plains Regional Medical Center.

The American Cancer Society’s Community Relationship Manager Dorothy Nelson said she is excited to bring back the educational programs that had fallen by the wayside in previous years.

Adams said they want to inform the public that the American Cancer Society and staff at the hospital cancer center are a resource for them.

“We would rather answer people’s questions with fact instead of them going out and finding myths,” she said.

“It’s all about cancer education, screening and prevention. That will put me out of business and that’s OK.”

Adams and Nelson said they have been brainstorming on ways to bring prevention awareness to area residents.

“Sun safety is a huge issue around here with how many days of the year we have sun,” Adams said. “It’s important for parents to be aware of sun safety like wearing sun screen for their kids. Many types of cancer are treatable, and they only get more so the earlier they are detected.”

Nelson is hoping to screen for bone marrow donors at Relay for Life. Adams said she is considering asking participants and attendees to pledge to have tests done in the coming year in order to possibly catch cancer early.

Nelson met Adams when she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in 1997. Nelson said Adams was empathetic and funny, and seemed to know what patients needed before they even thought about it.

“I just love her. Going through chemo is a tough experience, and it really helps to have that kind of personality and person to connect with,” she said. “It’s important for patients to have that connection.”

Adams moved to Clovis in 1996 from Prince Albert, Canada. After two years on the medical floor, she moved into oncology in November 1998. She’s witnessed the hospital’s cancer ward grow from only three chairs and doctors coming from Albuquerque to the full cancer center it is now.

Adams got her start in nursing by taking care of her grandmother when she lived in a nursing home after suffering a stroke.

“I realized that I loved taking care of older people,” she said. “She’s the reason I went to nursing school. Working on the medical floor with geriatric patients is where my heart was.”

But when she was invited to cross-train in oncology, she felt like that was what she was meant to do. The feeling hit home when her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and her father in 2001.

“Suddenly it all looked different. They were in Canada and I was here. I was so far away from them I felt helpless,” she said. “But by taking care of my patients here, I felt like, in turn, someone was taking care of them up there. It made me look at the patients’ families differently. I not only saw what they were going through, I was the daughter of a cancer survivor.”