Three sisters, nine states, 10 days cooped up in the same
The storyline sounds like the early stages of
but unlike the fictitious duo that inspired their journey,
sisters Susan Hamilton, Gwen Reid and Sherrie Adams plan to make it
past the Grand Canyon.
Three sisters, nine states, 10 days cooped up in the same car.
The storyline sounds like the early stages of “Thelma & Louise,” but unlike the fictitious duo that inspired their journey, sisters Susan Hamilton, Gwen Reid and Sherrie Adams plan to make it past the Grand Canyon.
The sisters substituted a roomy silver Cadillac sedan for the 1966 powder blue Thunderbird convertible that was last seen soaring over the canyon’s towering walls and they’re not planning on getting into the scrapes that kept the Thelma and Louise running from the law. But like the lovable outlaws, their need to get out on the open road is fueled by a desire to create the trip of a lifetime with the women to whom they are the closest.
On April 1, Adams was diagnosed with stage four endometrial cancer, which attacks the uterine lining. Her life came to a screeching halt.
“This was just a total shock,” she said. “But it was such a learning experience for our entire family. We didn’t know what to expect. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I envisioned. Maybe it was the attitude of the people around me.”
The only one of the five siblings that didn’t move west when their father relocated 30 years ago from St. Peters, Mo., to Gilroy, Adams sees her sisters for the occasional holiday celebration – “Not often enough,” the sisters agreed.
“We would do anything for each other,” Hamilton said. “But I don’t get enough time with them.”
Adams thought the symptoms were of menopause, not of cancer, she said. But a biopsy revealed otherwise. An aggressive treatment of chemotherapy took her hair but she used it as an excuse to beef up her hat and scarf collection. The cancer made her too weak to travel so she used the time to plan an epic trip with her sisters.
“You have to have a sense of humor,” she said. “You have to laugh about it. You have to get through.”
Since her treatment kept Adams close to home, Hamilton had planned to make the familiar plane ride from Gilroy to St. Peters to visit her sister. But Adams had something else in mind. Eager to show off her new granddaughters, Adams, 55, waited until she finished her chemotherapy and flew herself and her family out to California. She asked her sisters – Hamilton, 52, of Gilroy and Reid, 45, of Morgan Hill – to drive her home.
Though she was only half-joking about the request, Hamilton and Reid said they couldn’t refuse.
“When you’re texting at 11 o’clock at night with your sister who has cancer, you say yes,” Hamilton said.
“When you have cancer, the answer is always yes,” said Adams, who was joined by her mother and Adams’ daughter and granddaughter as the sisters piled their luggage in the waiting car. “You find a way to make it happen.”
The women took care of last minute details Wednesday morning – Hamilton slicing peaches for breakfast, Adams kissing her granddaughter one last time and Reid herding them into the car. They’ll arrive about a week later in St. Peters.
To help their older sister cover medical costs and kick off their adventure, Hamilton and Reid hosted a Sept. 11 fundraiser in Gilroy. The event started off with a few family friends donating raffle prizes. Through social networking websites, the cause quickly caught fire and donations flooded in from as far away as North Carolina, Hamilton said.
Hamilton and Reid hope to follow up with a fashion show to raise money for their sister later this year.
The trek will be a familiar one for Adams – she and her husband have made the trip dozens of times, always stopping off at Zion National Park in Utah, a place so breathtaking and so close to Adams’ heart she’s instructed her family to scatter her ashes among its cliffs after she dies.
But with the support of her family, a strong team of doctors and a heightened awareness of her health, the sisters believe that day will be a long way off.
“I want to say this is an annual road trip and we’re going to do it again for the next 30 years,” Hamilton said.
Embracing in a scrum of blonde heads in their mother’s driveway, the sisters and their mother said they couldn’t agree more.
“Cancer is not a disease of the individual,” said Adams, a long purple scarf trailing behind her as she bustled about. “It’s a disease of the whole family.
“I’ve made this trip before but I haven’t done anything like this with my sisters. I’m just so excited for them to see these places I’ve seen so many times before with my husband.”
The cancer’s silver lining is the spotlight it shined on their relationship, the sisters said.
“The gift of cancer is that it causes things to actually happen,” Hamilton said. “We wouldn’t have done this if we hadn’t been slapped in the face. We’re going to create this trip of a lifetime and the bonding is going to be amazing.”