When you are diagnosed with cancer, your whole life changes. Every day becomes full of questions you can’t answer and decisions that are hard to make. It’s a diagnosis that can be just as devastating emotionally as it is physically.
Adele Steele thought she knew a lot about dealing with emotions and life’s troubles. She was born in Vermont and grew up in a happy home. She had been a counselor for over three decades. During her time working in Gwinnett County Public Schools, she helped students on a personal level every day. Adele knew all about the ins and outs of handling feelings, both others and her own.
She was fearless. Nothing scared her. She had been a solo traveler, venturing to New York and Australia. She had dealt with illnesses in her family, her mother’s Alzheimer’s and her husband’s cancer. Adele knew how to tackle each and every situation unafraid and head-on.
Even when Adele found a lump in her breast in January of 2023, she was not fearful. Her gynecologist, Dr. Denise Pecht, immediately sent her over to Northside for testing. It wasn’t until the diagnosis came that she experienced every emotion under the sun. Dr. Kimberly Hutchinson, Adele’s pathologist at Northside Hospital, told her she had four tumors and two calcifications in her breasts and lymph nodes. Suddenly, the fear was real and Adele felt like she couldn’t control the situation or her feelings.
“All of a sudden I went from being fearless into all the negative stuff,” says Adele. “I was mad. I was frustrated. I was angry. I was sad. I was afraid of what was next because I had seen a lot of people go through this and it turned my life upside down. All of a sudden, I was the counselee instead of the counselor.”
Adele had learned during her counseling studies and psychology, that there was a belief that all emotions can be boiled down to two emotions: fear and love. All other emotions were rooted in those two.
Choosing between fear and love? Adele decided that being fearful just wouldn’t do. She knew that thinking negatively would only have negative effects on her situation. Instead, she surrounded herself with the love of her team at Northside. Her doctors, her nurse navigator, Amy Trammell, her oncologist, Kevin Peacock, her surgeon, Erica Proctor… each and every person who happily answered her questions and gave her the hard truths when she needed to hear them.
They didn’t candy-coat things, because they knew cancer is a hard beast to defeat and patients should have the whole truth.
Adele worked to accept the fact that she would need to let her medical team handle the things she couldn’t. Cancer affects everyone differently, but professionals have worked through it hundreds of times. They know the best routes and choices and Adele found comfort in that. Adele found that she trusted her team completely. She worked to understand the job that they had to do, just as they worked to understand the best way to treat her.
She expressed that it was just as important to understand and appreciate what they were doing, instead of just thinking about what she needed to have done.
When Adele was diagnosed with cancer, she already knew a bit about how the doctor’s offices, the visits, and the medications would go. Her husband, Jim Steele, had been through a similar process only a few years before. He was a longtime chief operating officer of the Gwinnett County Public School system. He and Adele had met at Berkmar High School while she was a counselor there. He built 97 new schools during his 38 years with the system, a record-breaking number. Adele opened the Jim Steele Environmental Education Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia in honor of his passion for education, love of the environment, and commitment to making a difference.
No one wants to experience cancer, but Adele says she’s grateful hers came when it did. The Northside Hospital system was her main resource for all appointments and treatments. She underwent all of her biopsies, ultrasounds, mammograms, and surgeries at their locations. The team at Northside and new technology like tomosynthesis equipment were able to detect Adele’s disease early on. New technology also meant they were able to locate exactly which lymph nods had the cancer.
There are many different types of breast cancer. Adele was diagnosed with the type of cancer that chemotherapy does not work effectively on. Instead, her doctor recommended surgery and hormonal therapy. In February of 2023, she had a right breast mastectomy as well as the removal of two lymph nodes.
Adele still checks in with her team, not just every few weeks for a check-up, but also on a personal level. She had no pain through the whole process. Which was unusual, but very welcomed. Now she takes a daily pill to make sure the cancer stays away. Recovery hasn’t been easy, but Adele has kept up her faith. It all comes back to that single emotion. When you put the love in, you get the love out.
“It’s (Northside) a place with a whole lot of love.”
Hear from Adele Steele herself! Check out this episode of the Gwinnett Podcast….
Join us as Adele courageously shares her remarkable journey and the exceptional care she received at Northside Hospital, imparting her unwavering belief in trusting the expertise of medical professionals.
Jason Chandler takes us behind the scenes of the transformative “Paint Gwinnett Pink” event, discussing its profound local influence and the heartwarming stories of resilience it has generated so far.
Discover the power of community, hope, and determination as we delve into Adele’s poignant narrative and Jason’s aspirations for the event’s future.