Jerome Adams and his wife, Lacey, fight cancer and the “Trump Effect”


Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams and his wife, Lacey, often found themselves talking about what he called the “Trump effect.”

I followed them from Washington to their home in suburban Indianapolis. They sensed it when he was scouting for careers in academia, where he was receiving polite refusals from university officials who worried someone who served in the former president’s administration might be received poorly by left-leaning student bodies. They felt it when companies decided he was too tainted to hire.

Now, two years after Adams left office as only the 20th Surgeon General in US history, the couple feels it is more acute than ever. When Donald Trump announced this month that he would run for president again, they hoped it was all gone by now.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams resigns amid new administration

They prefer to talk about public health in a very personal way. This summer, Lacey Adams was diagnosed with a third recurrence of melanoma. Both Adamses share their experiences on social media and in public appearances, hoping to spread the message about skin cancer prevention. But the stigma of his association with Trump, even though neither of them endorses his political campaign, remains.

Adams, 48, said Trump is “a force that really clears the air in the room.” “Trump’s hangover still affects me in important ways.” He said the Trump 2024 campaign would “make things more difficult for me.”

Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams addressed mistrust of government health programs for communities of color in December 2020 (Video: The Washington Post)

The predicament of the former surgeon general underscores a given of the current political environment: A partnership with Trump becomes a permanent smear, a sort of reverse Midas touch. Whether accused, ignored or sidelined, a parade of former Trump global figures has faltered in the wake of one of the most chaotic presidencies in modern American history.

Lacey saw it coming. She said she “hated Trump” and did not want her husband to leave his comfortable life in Indiana, where he practiced anesthesiology and served as commissioner of health under then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was Trump’s vice president when Jerome became surgeon general. Lacey, 46, worried about the enduring “stigma,” but her husband called on her to support their move by saying he believed it could make a bigger difference inside the administration than outside it, especially when it comes to its efforts to combat opioid addiction.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams may be the nicest man in Washington

Now Jerome is lashing out at his constant labeling as Trump’s “General Surgeon,” an image sealed by his highly public role during the White House’s much-criticized early response to the coronavirus pandemic. Other Surgeons General, he feels, were less attached to the president who appointed them, allowing them to slip into a life of prestigious and sometimes lucrative opportunity, unencumbered by partisan politics.

not him. “Finding a landing spot because of the Trump influence was a lot harder than he thought,” Lacey said. For eight months after leaving office, Jerome could not find a job. The couple begins to worry about how they will support their three children, especially since Lacey does not work outside the home.

“People are still afraid to touch anything Trump-related,” Jerome said. Although he was quick to add that he “doesn’t complain” in the interview. “This is the context,” he added.

Finally, in September 2021, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, The former Indiana governor and Republican named Adams as the first executive director of the school’s health equity initiatives.

Even as Adams sought to define the next chapter of his life, he was in an almost constant battle on social media. His frequent tweets about everything from his personal life to public health issues have drawn attacks from right and left. Rather than ignore his critics, he would often backtrack, engaging in days-long Twitter spats.

He has fought a social media battle over his recommendation that people continue to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces, his criticism of President Biden’s announcement to end the pandemic and his call for coronavirus vaccinations for children and adults to get booster shots. It deals with the left’s pro-life stance on abortion and the right’s opposition to laws dictating what a doctor can say to a patient about abortion.

“I get mad at him because he’s addicted to Twitter,” Lacey said. People hated him because he was part of the Trump administration. Now the Trump people hate him.”

Carrie Benton, a medical laboratory scientist at Ohio State who has tangled with Jerome Adams on social media, is critical of what she considers the “sweeping statements” he’s making now on topics like masking. But she also feels he should still be held accountable for mistakes made by the Trump administration early in the pandemic.

The opposition did little to dissuade Adams. invite discussion. He wants to argue nicely. He tries to find ways to use his platform as a former general surgeon that doesn’t degenerate into politically charged controversies.

“It’s hard to find a problem,” he said.

In August, an issue found him, and it was exactly the subject he hoped would not feel so personal anymore. During a routine follow-up exam, doctors discovered tumors on the outside of Lacey’s right thigh.

“Here we go again,” said Lacey to herself.

She was first diagnosed with skin cancer 12 years ago, in 2010, when she discovered a “strange mole”. She removed it. I thought she was in the clear.

She said, “No big deal.”

As a teenager growing up in the Midwest, she visited tanning beds frequently. She was not worried about the sun, although she was fair-skinned. After removing the mole, she changed her ways. sunblock cream. long sleeves. She joked that her mom would chase after her with floppy hats. I started having regular skin exams. Everything was fine. Until it was not.

In early 2018, when her anesthesiologist husband was just getting started as a general surgeon under Trump, she noticed lumps on her thigh while shaving her bikini line. Recently minted as an American physician, the doctor in her home was constantly on the move as he sought to gain an understanding of his job, serving as a public health advocate and overseeing thousands of members of the American Public Health Service. “The doctor in my house is my absent-minded teacher,” she said, “and he’s always running in 100 directions.”

So Lacey called the doctor next door: her Indiana neighbor and good friend Amy Hoffman, the emergency room physician. When Hoffman realized why her friend was calling, she put her on speakerphone, so her husband, an oncologist, could listen in.

He only had one question: Was he on the same side as the melanoma from years earlier? She said yes. She could hear the anxiety in their voices.

She told them, “Stop unpacking.” “Stop going to fancy events with your husband. You need to make this a priority.”

Soon, I entered a special area of ​​Walter Reed National Military Medical Center reserved for senior officials and their families. I got a fuzzy robe with an embroidered White House crest on it.

“Suddenly it’s like I’m in the Ritz-Carlton,” she recalls, asking herself, “Why do I deserve this special attention?”

Examination showed a tumor somewhere between the size of a pea and a grape. She needed to have surgery. Doctors eventually removed 12 lymph nodes, some of which were cancerous. While she was recovering from surgery, still groggy from the anesthesia, her husband came into the room with a request that was hard for her to make sense through the haze of drugs: He wanted her Facebook password.

She had taken a selfie at the medical center and posted it to her Facebook page, and she also took a look at the department. He told her the White House was not happy. They wanted to remove it.

In the coming months, she would again believe she had beaten cancer. I underwent a year of immunotherapy. I rang the bell, a tradition among cancer patients completing treatment, at Walter Reed afterward Tests showed that she was free of cancer.

“Cancer, Schmanser,” I thought.

There were other things to worry about. Her husband came to Washington hoping to focus on opioid addiction, an epidemic that afflicted members of his family. Instead, he has been thrust into a more public role with the arrival of the coronavirus. While the Trump administration struggled with effective responses, the new Surgeon General continued to unleash firestorms.

He shared a Valentine’s Day poem on social media saying that the common flu was more dangerous than the coronavirus and urging people to get flu shots. Tell African Americans, who have been infected with the coronavirus in disproportionate numbers, should take precautions to protect Big Momma.

In each case, it muddled through messages, spoiled by incomplete or poorly interpreted data. He asked people not to buy masks due to a shortage. He said people are at greater risk of contracting the regular flu than Covid because the Trump administration’s predictions, which later turned out to be inaccurate, suggest that more people will get the regular flu.

He used the phrase “big mom,” which led to accusations that he was using racist Trump-style dog whistles, because it was an emotional expression in his family that he believed would help him connect with African Americans.

Those errors, which Adams blamed on a partisan atmosphere, drew heavy criticism, which might be expected. What he didn’t expect was how people would come for his loved ones. On social media, trolls called his family ugly. They criticized Adams, who is black, for marrying a white woman.

While her husband tried to fend off nasty critics and commentators by honing his message, Lacy, like many Americans, has been postponing medical appointments while limiting her movements due to the risk of contracting the coronavirus. She had a clear scan in January 2020. She didn’t return until July of that year for another scan. She revealed a tumor on her back.

The cancer came back for a second round: this time it was stage 4. I started immunotherapy. And again I overpowered him. For two years she passed routine examinations with good results. Then, last summer, came the tests that revealed the cancer had returned. His wife cries herself to sleep some nights. He marvels at her resilience.

She would talk and write about the illness that lurked within her and threatened to deprive her of many things she looked forward to, such as the days when her children, now 18, 16, and 12, would graduate or marry.

Some days she’s so sick from the side effects of the treatments she’s been taking that she can’t do much. But other times she’s full of energy and ready to go. People may look at her and not know she is ill Here’s one of her points: Melanoma is a hidden disease, which doctors keep telling. It can hide inside people without any outward signs. She once had a mole, but other times nothing showed up on her skin. The disease was hiding from her.

She realizes she’s got a little platform. No one would listen to an Indiana mom if she wasn’t the wife of the former Surgeon General.

That day, her husband asked if he could post a picture of her on Instagram Twitter. She told him to go ahead. Show her in profile, lying in bed with sheets partially obscuring her face, on a day when she wasn’t feeling well. He asked for prayer, but also offered some advice: “See a dermatologist immediately if a mole changes/looks different than others!”

What happened next was nothing short of astonishing to them. people wished Best for Lacey even though they weren’t fans of Jerome: “I don’t agree with your politics. God bless your sweet wife.” “I’m sorry your wife has cancer, although I don’t quite agree with some of your decisions.”

Some people even wanted advice. “Should we worry about one mole or look for odd shapes and changes in several animals?” This person did not mention Trump at all. This may be someone they can help. This may be, they dared to imagine, the end of the Trump effect, and the beginning of the Lacey effect.

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