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Couple are riding on in the face of adversity

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Every day seems more special after receiving a serious diagnosis, and in a place like Norfolk County, the rural landscape seems lovelier than ever.

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That was Brad and Shannon Adams’ experience this weekend as they took part in a horse caravan across Norfolk County. The purpose of Ride for the Registry is to raise awareness about blood cancers and the need for individuals to step up and register as potential bone-marrow donors.

“It was a beautiful ride down Highway 3,” Brad Adams, a sergeant with the Hamilton Police Service, said Sunday morning as he and his entourage saddled up at the German Home in Delhi en route to Tillsonburg.

“The weather has been great.”

The weekend has been filled with emotion. When Adams’ wife Shannon – a registered nurse at Norfolk General Hospital – was diagnosed with plasma-cell leukemia at Christmas – specialists at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton said a bone-marrow transplant was the best hope for remission.

In Delhi, Adams confirmed this treatment is no longer available due to his wife’s weakened condition. The couple and their daughters Abby, 12, and Emma, 9, are managing the situation day by day.

“We always knew it was a bad cancer,” Brad Adams said. “The doctors have always told us it is a very aggressive cancer.”

He added that Saturday was a day for reflecting on how good life can be when you open your eyes to your surroundings and their possibilities. He and two of his best men from his wedding party 15 years ago detoured down Lynndale Road in Simcoe en route to NGH due to construction on a bridge on the Queensway East. Residents of the quiet neighbourhood poured out of their homes to watch the riders pass by, offering encouragement every step of the way.

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“There were radiant smiles on everyone’s faces,” Brad Adams said. “It’s like everyone’s had enough of COVID, and here was something live and vibrant and real that they can enjoy.”

The route from Renton to Tillsonburg was lined with burnt-orange rosettes. Anyone travelling in Norfolk this weekend would’ve found it impossible to miss them. The concentration of rosettes – the symbol of Shannon’s battle with the illness – was heaviest at NGH.

When the entourage arrived, NGH staff poured out of the emergency entrance on West Street to share their best wishes. A lone bagpiper played an appropriate skirl in honour of Shannon’s Scottish background and her youth as a highland dancer.

“It all came together for me at that moment and it just about killed me,” Brad Adams said. “My eyes got cloudy. But I just looked forward and we rode on.”

Adams, his family and supporters are in the midst of a 10-day journey covering 233 kilometres. They are raising awareness about Canadian Blood Services’ stem-cell registry as well as raising funds for the Juravinski centre.

The response has been positive. Shannon Adams reported Sunday that $8,300 of the $10,000 goal for Juravinski was already in hand. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 from across southern Ontario have registered with CBS.

“To be honest, I can hardly talk about it without crying,” Shannon said in Delhi. “I’m impressed and overwhelmed by the love and support of this community. My NGH family has gone above and beyond from Day 1.”

Adams’ objective Sunday was to ride from Delhi to Tillsonburg. The next leg of the trip will take him from Tillsonburg south to Lake Erie and then east from there to Port Dover. From Port Dover, he heads north, ending his travels May 15 – if the weather co-operates – in Caledonia.

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