Life Lessons From a Cancer Patient
By Rose Hanson
(ABOVE)Adele Hanson before she was diagnosed with cancer. She loved to spend time with family and play the harp.
Adele Hanson is a retired teacher. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Pacific Grove. She spent twenty plus years as a teacher, including time as the Director of Early Education at Contra Costa County Community College. She was hospitalized due to complications related to her cancer diagnosis at the time of this interview.
Adele, please tell me about yourself.
I was born in March of 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. But I grew up in southern California. After high school, I moved to Berkeley to go to college at UC Berkeley with an academic scholarship. I graduated with a B.A. in Psychology. I completed my Masters at Pacific Oaks in Child Development as well. [Smiles behind breathing mask] How was high school for you? I have never been a “cool” kid. I was always fat in the face, and spent too much time reading. I was quiet, but I never walked to anyone else’s beat but my own. I was a proud introvert [Monitor by her bed shows an increased heart rate.] I was fond of the classical arts and was never into athletics. I always joked that P.E. would be the reason why I never got Valedictorian.
What made you go into early education?
In high school, we would take a test that would tell us what profession we would be the most successful in. The counselor comes up to me with my test, and tells me I would make a great social worker! I was perplexed! Well, needless to say, that is not what I went into. I always loved kids, I babysat to put myself through college. I could have made more money, but I wouldn’t have been happy! I got my masters then taught early education and loved it. I look back on it now, and I think I would have made a great social worker, then I remember not only what I taught all those kids, but what they taught me, and I realize I would not change a thing. I can picture all of their faces now. [Looks at her hands, folded on her stomach.]
You were married for a very long time, tell me about that.
I was married for 50 plus years to the love of my life. We were both teachers and never made much money. We were polar opposites. I loved classical music and was an introvert. Hobart was the life of the party, he always had this charisma about him that intrigued me. He was also 13 years older than me. I fell in love with him instantly, but he was hesitant because I was so young, and he had been married with kids before. It took months for us to even go steady. The first time we kissed, it was electric. Afterwards we just stared at each other with amazement. I hope whenever you find someone, you will have a moment like that. [Smiles at the nurse taking her blood pressure.] I had been with boys before, of course, but Hobart changed my life. He was truly my best friend. I look back on our love fondly. Love isn’t complicated. Of course you fight, I know we had our moments. [Looks at the photo of Hobart on her night stand.] But you just look at one another and know that this is just a road block, not the end of the journey.
So you were diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in June of 2016.
[Sighs] Yes, it’s been a hard couple of months.
Are you scared to…
I was at first. I would scream in my pillow and cry. But as I lay here [rubs hand along the white hospital sheets] I realize how truly amazing my life has been. I got to be with someone I love. I have four amazing children, and many beautiful and smart grandchildren. I got to travel the world and see things people only dream about! If I lived a boring life, of course I would be scared. But I feel as though I have lived life to the fullest. My heart, even now [puts hand on heart] is full of love for everyone I’ve met, and have yet to meet.
Adele B. Hanson passed away in her Berkeley home in September, 2016 after battling cancer for 3 months. Her last words were, “I love you.”