(WJW)- When I first met Carol Smith, it was through a mutual friend at a breast cancer benefit.
We three had something in common. We were all breast cancer survivors. We sat at the table, chattering away about anything and everything.
At some point, Carol revealed to me that she was dying, of stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
Back in 2012, She had surgery and treatments for stage 1. She thought she was cured until two years later when a pain in her back led to an MRI which found breast cancer was now in her spine.
She didn’t look sick. She had a full head of hair, normal body weight, a beaming smile, and a way of delivering that information as if she’d just ask me to pass the bread.
She’d say with a laugh, “I look awfully damn good for somebody with a terminal disease, don’t I?”
Last year, at that same benefit, Carol asked for help. An organization she was heavily involved with named Metavivor was holding a fundraiser. Not a dress-up, sit down, formal affair, this would be held at Play: CLE, an indoor adventure park. Think ropes course and climbing walls, lots of noise and children running around.
Carol and people like her had a lot of life left to live and they wanted to celebrate that while raising money to fund research to keep them alive.
Fast forward to May 1, as I sat at my dining room table writing the latest coronavirus story, Carol texted. “Good morning. I wanted to let you know that I am stopping treatment and will enter hospice today.” I called immediately and could hear it in her voice. She was weak and worn. But she immediately offered to talk on Zoom or Facetime. This is the kind of woman she was. Carol was literally on her death bed still advocating for the cause.
As she told me a year ago, “We need research. We need drugs. We need treatment options because this is not a managed chronic condition. This is a terminal disease.”
After four and a half years, the drugs had failed her. There were no treatments left to stop the spread of cancer that was consuming her liver and possibly metastasized in her brain.
She was sadly about to join two others in the group of six she introduced me to last May.
Dee Dee Miller and Lindsey Ballas died in January within two weeks of each other.
Carol had told me back then, “Too many of my friends die from this disease.”
Metastatic breast cancer takes tens of thousands of lives every year. Last week, it took my friend.
The day she made the decision to enter hospice, Carol told me, “As cancer continued to progress and the drugs continued to fail me, I knew it was going to happen.”
Seeing the life she lived through all of those treatments, I wanted to believe it never could.
Carol Smith was a light and an inspiration, a tireless advocate for MBC research. Stage IV needs more was her mantra because most patients only live for two years. Five is a stretch.
Carol passed away Wednesday with her husband, son, and daughter at her side.
She went with a heart full of hope and a final wish for all of us.
“I hope that people will say that I was a good person, that I tried to help other people. And that people can learn hopefully something from how I tried to live my life after I was diagnosed with cancer….. To my family and my friends, I love you all. While I won’t be here physically. I’ll probably come to visit once in a while.”
Metavivor was near and dear to her heart. She would ask that you make a donation so they can make a difference. For more information click here: