Relay for Life: One Survivor's Story
A two-time cancer survivor recovers in time to participate in the Grayslake / Round Lake Areas Relay for Life July 21 and 22.
Less than three months ago 40-year-old Jennifer Smith of Round Lake Beach wasn't sure if she would be able to participate in the Grayslake / Round Lake Area Relay for Life. Smith was in surgery, removing a cancerous tumor near her stomach. She had already been through radiation and chemotherapy.
"We slacked off on our fundraising because I was trying to take care of me," Smith said.
It was all too familiar for Smith, who had battled cancer before.
In November of 2008 Jennifer said she "just didn't feel right." She was suffering from massive pain, an increase in appetite and weight gain however several tests came back normal. When Smith underwent surgery to look for the problem doctors discovered ovarian cancer.
Smith said. "It just goes to show that you know your body best. I knew something was going on."
She underwent chemotherapy and less than a year later was given the 'all-clear'. "It was good. I was feeling good and everything was fine," Smith recalls. "I went back for my tests every three months."
Exactly two years later Smith said "I just wasn't feeling right again. I knew something was wrong."
In October of 2011 doctors found a cancerous tumor that had attached to Smith's stomach. This time she underwent radiation, chemotherapy, and an all-liquid diet. She then had successful surgery to remove the tumor May 8.
She was given the all-clear when tests from the surgery showed "they had gotten it all."
Now, as she gears up for this weekend's Relay for Life for Grayslake and Round Lake Smith said, "I feel better than I have in a very long time."
Ready for the Relay
Smith said she didn't know much about the American Cancer Society until her second bout with cancer.
"My husband doesn't work locally and my daughter isn't old enough to drive. The chemo and radiation were affecting my eye-sight. I couldn't see and I needed a ride to my treatments," Smith said. The ACS provides rides for patients, offers support, makeovers and other services.
Smith said she was so grateful to have the help during her time of need, she now wants to give back by raising money and participating in the Relay for Life.
"When you first get diagnosed you feel all alone, like you're hit with a ton of bricks," Smith said she found a lot of support simply going to Relay for Life meetings. "Everyone there was just so nice and kind. You can see all the love and support, even though we are a brand new team to this."
Smith's team is named after the nickname she recieved while going through treatment. "They called me Chubbers since I had gained a lot of weight because of the steroids I was on."
"My daughter and her friend came up with this: CHUBBERS also stands for Cancer Haters United Because Battling Cancer Really Sucks." The team of thirteen includes family members and coworkers.
Smith's 13-year-old daughter Samantha was also a big part in her mom's recovery. The teenager was chosen as the Relay's Honorary Caregiver after her mom submitted this to Relay organizers:
I think Sammie was an awesome caregiver because... It is hard enough to be 13 on your own, but to have a mom going through radiation, chemo and surgery! I would come home from my treatments just super tired and she would come home from school and wake me up to make sure I was "ok". I would come home from my chemo treatments and by the evening I would be SSSOOO sick! Sammie would come into the bathroom and try to hold my hair back for me... she would make me cool rags for my head... and she would get me some 7up and take the bubbles out! My surgery was a long recovery process and she would get me up off my chair and take me outside to walk... and she would remind me that I needed to walk so I would not have complications! She has missed some classes to go to doctor appointments with me and she has kept herself informed! Sammie has informed me that her goal in life is to find a cure for cancer! Having an 8 year old help you with the first round of cancer and then to have her turn 13, the day you get the great news from your doctor that everything can back clear! She told the doctor " This is the best birthday present ever!" That's why she deserves a caregiver award!