Health and Wellness

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


Former surgeon general Jerome Adams and his wife, Lacey, often find themselves talking about what they have named the “Trump Effect.”

It followed them from Washington to their Indianapolis home. When he was looking for jobs in academia, he felt it. There he received polite rejections of university officials. They were worried that someone who had been in the administration under the former president would be poorly received by left-leaning student body members. They felt it when corporations decided they were not able to hire him.

The couple still feel the pain two years later after Adams was elected as the 20th U.S.-based surgeon general. They hoped that it would all have passed by now, when Donald Trump announced this month that Trump will run for President again.

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They prefer to talk about public health in a personal way. Lacey Adams was diagnosed this summer with a third recurrence. Both Adamses have shared their stories on social media, as well as in public appearances to spread the message about skin cancer prevention. However, he is still associated with Trump despite not being a supporter of his campaign.

Trump is “a force that really does take the air out of the room,” Adams, 48, said. “The Trump hangover is still impacting me in significant ways.” He said the 2024 Trump campaign “will make things more difficult for me.”

The former surgeon general’s predicament underscores one of the givens of today’s political environment: Association with Trump becomes a permanent tarnish, a kind of reverse Midas touch. A number of ex-Trump World figures, whether indicted, shunned, or marginalized have perished in the wake of one of America’s most chaotic presidencies.

Lacey knew it was 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 state health commissioner under then-Indiana governor Mike Pence, who was Trump’s vice president when Jerome became surgeon general. Lacey, 46, worried about a lasting “stigma” but her husband talked her into supporting their move by saying he thought he could make a bigger difference inside the administration than outside it, especially when it came to his efforts to combat opioid addiction.

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Now Jerome bristles at his forever label as “Trump’s surgeon general,” an image sealed by his highly public role during the much-criticized early White House response to the coronavirus pandemic. He feels that other surgeon generals have been less closely associated with Trump, which has allowed them to enjoy prestigious and lucrative careers, freed from the constraints of political politics.

But not him. “It was a lot harder than he thought to find a landing spot because of the Trump Effect,” Lacey said. Jerome was unable to find work for eight months after he left office. They began to worry about how they would provide for their children, especially Lacey who does not work outside of the home.

“People still are afraid to touch anything that is associated with Trump,” Jerome said. Though he was quick to add in the interview that he is “not complaining.” He added, “It is context.”

In September 2021, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels will take office. Adams was hired by the former Indiana Governor and Republican stalwart to be the school’s first executive Director of Health Equity Initiatives.

Adams was trying to decide the next chapter in his life. But he was also engaged in a constant battle with social media. Both the right- and left-leaning parties have criticized Adams’ frequent tweets, which cover everything from his personal life to public issues in health. He doesn’t ignore his critics. He often responds to them, engaging in Twitter spats lasting days.

He has battled on social media over his recommendation that people continue to wear masks in crowded indoor settings, his criticism of President Biden’s declaration of an end to the pandemic and about his advocacy for coronavirus vaccinations for children and for adults to get booster shots. He is criticized by the right for his pro-life stance on abortion, and the left for opposing laws that limit what doctors can tell patients about abortion.

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

Carrie Benton, an Ohio medical lab scientist who has tangled with Jerome Adams on social media, is critical of what she considers “blanket statements” he is now making about topics such as masking. However, she feels that he should still be held responsible for mistakes made by Trump’s government early in the pandemic.

Adams has not been dissuaded by the opposition. He invites debate. He is open to argumentation, genially. He seeks out ways to make his former position as a surgeon general more useful and not become involved in politically charged spats.

“It is hard to find an issue,” he said.

In August, a new issue came to his attention. It was the exact topic that Lacey had hoped would not be so personal. During a routine follow-up check, doctors discovered tumors on the outside of Lacey’s right thigh.

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

She had first been diagnosed with melanoma 12 years ago, in 2010, when she spotted a “weird mole.” She had it removed. She thought she was safe.

“No big deal,” she said.

She was a regular visitor to the tanning beds as a teenager growing up in the Midwest. Despite being very pale, she didn’t worry about the sun. She made a complete change after having the mole removed. Sunscreen. Long sleeves She joked with her mother that she would chase her around in floppy hats. She began to get regular dermatology check-ups. It was great. It was until it wasn’t.

She noticed lumps on her groin when she was shaving her bikini lines in early 2018. This happened just as her husband, an anesthesiologist became surgeon general under Trump. The doctor in her house, newly minted as America’s doctor, was constantly on the go as he sought to get a grasp on his job, serving as a public health advocate and overseeing thousands of members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. “The doctor in my house is my absent-minded professor, always running in 100 directions,” she said.

Lacey called Amy Hoffman, a doctor in an emergency room, and she was answered by her neighbor, Indiana. Hoffman recognized that Hoffman was calling from her friend and put her on speakerphone so that her husband, an otolaryngologist, could hear.

One question he had was: Is it the same side that the melanoma years ago? She said yes. She could hear the worry in their voices.

“Stop unpacking,” she said they told her. “Stop going to fancy events with your husband. You need to make this a priority.”

She was soon led into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s special area for high-ranking officers and their families. A fuzzy robe was provided with an embossed White House logo.

“All of a sudden it is like you are in the Ritz-Carlton,” she recalled, and asked herself, “Why am I deserving of this special attention?”

A scan revealed a tumor the size of a grape and a pea. She required surgery. Some of the cancerous lymph nodes were removed by doctors. While she was still recovering from surgery, and still feeling groggy from the anesthesia; her husband entered the room with a request that was difficult for her to understand through the fog of drugs: He wanted her Facebook password.

She took a photo at the medical center, then posted it to Facebook. He told her that the White House wasn’t happy with her selfie. They wanted it to be taken down.

She would believe she had defeated cancer again in the months that followed. She received a year’s worth of immunotherapy treatments. After completing her treatment, she rang the bell at Walter Reed. Scans revealed that she was free of cancer.

“Cancer, schmancer,” she thought.

There were many other things to be concerned about. Her husband had arrived in Washington with the intention of focusing on opioid addiction, which had already affected members of his family. With the arrival of coronavirus, he was forced into a larger public role. The new surgeon general continued to set off firestorms as the Trump administration failed to find effective solutions.

He shared a Valentine’s Day poem on social media that said the regular flu was a greater risk than covid and urged people to get flu shots. He shared the following: African Americans, who were contracting the coronavirus in disproportionate numbers, to take precautions to protect their “Big Mama.”

He misunderstood and made inexplicable statements. He asked people not purchase masks due to a lack of them. He claimed that people were more at risk of getting the regular flu than they were from the covid. This was because projections by Trump, which later turned out to be wrong, indicated that more people would contract the flu.

He used the words “Big Mama,” which led to accusations that he was using Trump-style racist dog whistles, because it was a term of affection in his own family that he thought would help him connect with African Americans.

Adams blamed partisanship for Adams’ mistakes. He received a lot of criticism. Adams didn’t expect the way people would rally around his family. On social media, trolls called Adams’ family ugly. They criticised Adams, a Black man, for marrying White women.

Her husband was trying hard to avoid criticisms and nasty commenters, but Lacey was, like many Americans was, putting off medical appointments while limiting Lacey’s movements due to the possibility of contracting the coronavirus. She received a positive scan in January 2020. She returned for another scan in July 2020. It showed a tumor on her stomach.

The cancer was back for Stage 4. She began immunotherapy. She beat it again. She passed two years of routine scans with excellent results. This past summer, the tests revealed that the cancer had returned. His wife still cries when she goes to bed at night. He marvels over her resilience.

She has been writing and speaking about the disease she is living with. It threatens her ability to enjoy so many of the things she loves, such as the day her children (now 18, 16 and 12) graduate from college or marry.

Some days, she is too sick to do anything because of side effects from her treatments. Sometimes she’s full of energy and eager to get going. She might not be obvious to others, but they may look at her. That is her point: Melanoma, as the doctors continue to tell her, is a stealthy condition. It can hide in people with no obvious signs. Although she had one mole once, other moles did not appear on her skin. She was unaware of the disease.

She is aware that she has been given a platform not many have. A mom from Indiana would not be heard if she wasn’t the wife and former surgeon general.

Her husband asked her to post a photo of them on the internet. Twitter. She told him to go ahead. The image showed her profile, lying on her back in bed, her skin partially covered by the covers. This was during a time when she wasn’t feeling well. He asked for prayers, but he also gave some advice: “See a dermatologist right away if a mole changes/looks different from your others!”

They were amazed at what happened next. People wanted it all. the best for Lacey even though they were not fans of Jerome: “I don’t agree with your politics. God bless your sweet wife.” “I’m sorry your wife has cancer, even though I completely disagree with some of your decisions.”

Some even sought advice. “Should we worry about a single mole or look for odd shapes and changes in several?” That person did not mention Trump at all. They might be able to help that person. It could be, as they dared to imagine it, the end the Trump Effect and the start of a Lacey Effect.

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