Adrienne Bradshaw, 42: In long cancer battle she encouraged others

When Adrienne Willis Bradshaw was diagnosed with cancer at age 29, she responded with a positive outlook and a focus on uplifting others battling serious diseases.

Amid her own treatments and a stem cell transplant, the three-time cancer survivor visited and mentored other cancer patients, encouraging them with her optimism, strong faith and warm smile.

“Even if she wasn’t feeling well, she’d say she was wonderful. She never let her illness get her down,” said her mother, Miriam Almond of Decatur. “She always said, ‘You may be down, but you’ve got to get up and keep it moving.’ She was always about living.”

Bradshaw of Conyers died July 12 of complications from lymphoma at Northside Hospital. She was 42. Her funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Big Miller Grove Baptist Church in Lithonia.

Born in Atlanta on April 16, 1973, Bradshaw grew up in south DeKalb County. She earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Brenau University, a master’s degree in adult education from Central Michigan University and an education specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University. She taught for 10 years at Allgood Elementary School in Stone Mountain, where she was named Teacher of the Year.

After she was diagnosed with stage 2 large B-cell lymphoma in 2001, Bradshaw changed her diet, continued to exercise and to teach school. She also began volunteering with cancer groups and sharing the story of her cancer journey to encourage others.

Through it all, she’d fend off cancer only to have the disease go into remission and return. But her spiritual resolve and optimistic spirit never waned, her mother said.

“She was just an inspiration to so many people,” Almond said. “She felt a strong sense of purpose to help others. That gave her strength.”

Cancer patients would call her for advice and a word of encouragement. She became a sought-after speaker at churches, senior centers and organizations including the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society and the Be the Match Foundation.

While battling the blood disorder Coombs-Positive autoimmune hemolytic anemia, Bradshaw began keeping a journal about her experience. The entries became the basis for her book “Partly Cloudy With a Chance of Rain.” Published in 2009, the guide offers spiritual tools and encouragement for anyone persevering through health challenges.

In 2010, Bradshaw’s younger sister Sabrina Sawyer of Decatur donated peripheral blood stem cells to her after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.

Following the successful transplant, Bradshaw became a Be the Match volunteer, compiling swab kits for potential bone marrow donors and encouraging more minorities to join the donor registry.

Last year, she started Cancer Reject to support cancer research. The organization sells T-shirts, mugs and other cancer-awareness items and donates 10 percent of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

Family and friends will don Cancer Reject T-shirts at Saturday’s service to honor her battle.

An avid traveler, Bradshaw took at least one domestic or international trip with her family each year. One of her proudest moments was seeing her only child graduate from high school in May and prepare to start college next month, friends said.

“Adrienne put up such a courageous fight against cancer,” said childhood friend Tracie Powell of Washington, D.C. “I never heard her complain. She was always full of life and hope and optimism. She lived her life to the fullest.”

In addition to her mother and sister Sabrina, Bradshaw is survived by her husband Kenneth Bradshaw of Conyers, her daughter Destini Willis of Conyers; brothers Lonnie Almond Jr. and Anthony Almond of Decatur; and grandmothers Annie Blount of Atlanta and Sarah Stanford of Decatur.

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