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Published on May 15, 2017

Adam family

A New Day for Cancer Care in Pierre

The Adams share their journey, and why they’re glad their friends and neighbors can stay closer to home for cancer care.

If anyone understands the benefits of cancer care closer to home, it’s Karl and Joan Adam of Pierre, their son Conrad and their entire family.

After Conrad’s cancer diagnosis in 2012, they traveled throughout an entire year to not only Sioux Falls, but also Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

Since that date, medical oncology has been brought to Pierre through the practice of Sreekanth Donepudi, MD and outreach visits. Soon, thanks to a generous donation from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Avera Cancer Institute in Pierre will be home to enhanced cancer services, including radiation oncology.

Lives Turned Upside Down

The diagnosis in August 2012 truly turned their lives upside down.

“Conrad was a junior in high school who excelled in basketball, playing year around,” Karl said. When he began experiencing knee pain, as young athletes often do, he was prescribed ice, ibuprofen and rest. Yet the pain worsened.

Diagnostic tests revealed that Conrad had a rare bone cancer known as osteosarcoma. A stage IV case, he had a primary tumor on his left knee and femur and a secondary tumor on his backbone.

The Adams’ were amazed by their son’s response. “When they gave us this news, Conrad said it was so much better that it was him, rather than one of his siblings,” Karl said.

Conrad’s cancer required an aggressive treatment plan that included amputation of his left leg above the knee, chemotherapy, and proton radiation to treat the tumor on his spine. This was specialized radiation for which Conrad was referred to MD Anderson.

“We made a commitment to keep as much normalcy in our family as possible,” Karl said. “There was no script.” The couple traded off, traveling with Conrad, yet also spending as much time as possible with their other four children at home.

“It was really Conrad who kept us going. He was given a very special grace from God, allowing him to face it head on with positivity and a sense of humor,” Joan said. They were also bolstered by the prayers and support of their family and community.

Conrad missed his entire junior year of high school. However, because he was already ahead in high school credits and took a heavy class load during his senior year, Conrad was able to graduate with his class with highest honors.

Wonderful News

In June of 2013, the Adams heard the wonderful news that Conrad was in remission, and after 40 months, there’s still no sign of recurring cancer. “He is truly a miracle,” Joan said, and his case has been presented at national and international conferences.

Today, Conrad is a junior at the University of South Dakota, studying finance and accounting. He is an ambassador for the Beacom School of Business, the student representative on the South Dakota Board of Regents, and involved in many campus organizations, all the while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. “He’s doing great and is embracing every opportunity he has,” Joan said.

The Adams are aware that Conrad’s case of pediatric cancer was rare enough that they would have needed to travel for care in any event. Yet most people with most cases of cancer will be able to benefit from enhanced cancer services at The Helmsley Center in Pierre.

“The Helmsley Cancer Center will have the most significant impact on health care in central South Dakota that we’ll ever experience during our lifetime,” Karl said.

Building Dreams, Building Hope, Building Here

Be a part of something big. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is offering a dollar-for-dollar matching challenge up to $2.5 million to build The Helmsley Center, home of Avera Cancer Institute Pierre.

The Helmsley Center will offer enhanced cancer services, including radiation oncology, and feature state-of-the-art technology.

Learn about the Helmsley Center project online or call605-224-3451.

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