A life of caring for others

Elizabeth Clar with her brother-in-law Jordan Clar at the Oakland Coliseum on Tuesday. — Contributed

When Elizabeth Clar met her husband they were both ticket sales representatives at the Oakland Coliseum. They were in cubicles opposite from each other, and soon they became close friends.

By then, Adam Clar had undergone two brain surgeries after being diagnosed with cancer at 25.

“He’d already been through so much,” Elizabeth said. “But he always stayed so positive.”

Adam died in Dec. 22, 2018 at just 39 years old.

But Adam’s legacy continues. In his final days, he created the Adam Clar, RN, Neuro-Oncology Nursing Fund, which brings health professionals to UC San Francisco to lecture on the importance of caregiving and survivorship, as well as self-care.

“It’s a way to keep his memory alive,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth and Adam began dating during their stint at the Oakland Coliseum, and were eventually married at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz (Elizabeth’s hometown) in 2010. They took a honeymoon to Fiji to swim with sea turtles — an animal for which the couple shared a deep love — before settling in the Bay Area.

“That was when Adam threw me for a loop,” Elizabeth said.

Adam had degrees in Economics and Sports Management, but was inspired by the care he’d received at UCSF. He decided to change course and become a Registered Nurse (RN).

“It wasn’t an easy path,” Elizabeth said. “He hadn’t taken science courses; he had to finish prerequisites.”

Unfortunately, after graduation, Adam’s cancer returned. During chemotherapy, he worked as a part-time school nurse before landing a position at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.

But then — six months after landing the job — another surgery was needed.

“He would drive all the way to San Francisco for treatment, and then back to Fresno in time for his night shift at the hospital,” said Adam’s caregiver Ruth Martin. “It took some amazing strength. But he loved his job. He wanted to take care of people.”

In May 2018, Adam landed his “dream job” at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz. Elizabeth was eager to return home — and Adam shared her love for the area.

But the cancer made a final appearance as they were moving. Adam was diagnosed with glioblastoma (also known as GBM); the most invasive type of brain tumor.

“When I saw on the results… I knew what that meant,” Elizabeth said.

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Adam and Elizabeth Clar married in 2010 in Santa Cruz. — Contributed

The family set out finding an in-home caregiver for Adam. Elizabeth’s mother met Martin of Ruth Martin Home Care and Santa Cruz County Hospice, and knew it was the right fit.

“Adam loved Ruth,” Elizabeth said. “They spent hours talking. They were comfortable with each other. He was really well taken care of.”

Ruth confirmed that Adam had a big effect on her, as well.

“He was outstanding,” she said. “You only meet someone like him once in a lifetime.”

Adam remained in contact with many of his former coworkers and friends, including the Oakland A’s. The team sent Adam gifts and well-wishes during his treatments. And on Tuesday, Elizabeth threw the first pitch at the Oakland Coliseum in memory of her husband. It was a strike.

“I was really emotional at that point — I think the adrenaline just took over,” she said.

On May 18, a plaque was hung at Santa Cruz County Hospice’s headquarters in memory of Adam. The family also requested Martin have her own plaque next to Adam’s, making her the only living caregiver to be given the honor.

“I was surprised,” Martin said. “It was an honor they wanted me included.”

To Elizabeth, Adam will always be remembered for his positive outlook. Before passing, he even requested they renew their vows at the Dream Inn for their anniversary.

“He would always say, ‘It’s another wonderful day on earth with you!’,” Elizabeth said. “That attitude helped him stay alive for so long. Most people don’t survive 14 years with a brain tumor.”

Recently, Elizabeth and Adam’s families took a trip to Hawaii to scatter his ashes at sea.

“I remembered Adam telling me something,” Elizabeth recalled. “He said, ‘I’m going to be a turtle in the next life. You’ll find me.’” 

On her last day in Hawaii, a lone sea turtle swam up close to Elizabeth and looked her in the eye.

“I knew right then that it was a sign that he was doing okay,” Elizabeth said.

•••

You can donate to the Adam Clar, RN, Neuro-Oncology Nursing Fund by visiting crowdfund.ucsf.edu/project/13719. For information on home care services visit hospicesantacruz.org and ruthmartinhomecare.com.

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