Most would summarize Sammy Smith’s past year as horrific and heartbreaking.
For starters, doctors diagnosed her in May with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer. Doctors discovered the tumor in her right leg after Sammy hurt herself in a basketball game.
A month later, as she began grueling treatments to fight the cancer, Sammy seriously injured her left leg in a one-vehicle car crash.
The driver, her father and former Perkins High School cross-country coach Chris Smith, died.
Despite the tragedies occurring before she even became a teenager, Sammy remained determined to defeat cancer.
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An optimistic outlook allowed the Briar Middle School student to endure 17 chemotherapy sessions — her last in-patient session occurred Friday — at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.
Sammy’s upbeat personality helped when she had to shave off her flowing blond hair. She even braved a six-hour surgery this past fall, which removed the tumor and some bone — by far the scariest moment she’s experienced.
But her perseverance paid off. After the surgery, doctors finally mirrored Sammy’s cheerful attitude when they informed her she fully defeated cancer.
“I can live a normal lifestyle now,” Sammy said, flashing a wide smile.
She maintained her friendly disposition throughout an hour-long interview inside her West Bogart Road home on a recent weekday.
She probably seemed excited because a normal lifestyle, to her, means hanging out with friends at places such as movie theaters and malls.
Even what most children despise — ordinary tasks, such as attending class and studying for tests — Sammy dreamed of doing when stuck in the hospital.
“I just want to get straight A's,” she said. She was shuffled in and out of school during treatments for the past year. “I didn’t want to have to go to the hospital and miss school.”
Sammy eagerly anticipates traveling with her mother, Christine, to New Jersey this summer.
Her mother is just happy to have her youngest daughter with her today.
"Out of my three kids, she is the spunkiest and has the greatest attitude,” Christine said.
Christine always accompanied Sammy to medical appointments. She even rushed Sammy to the hospital for five unexpected, late-night emergencies when her fever exceeded 100.5 degrees.
“Through this whole process, we have learned a lot about ourselves and family and faith,” Christine said. “Without the support of family and friends, this would have been a much more difficult process to go through. Even though the year has been extremely traumatic for our family, I still feel blessed that we have had a great outcome.”
That’s a wrap
Sammy Smith’s positive persona played a huge factor in defeating cancer. Her inspiring message will now be shared with other children battling life-threatening illnesses throughout the U.S.
Sammy, 13, recently won a national cancer bandage art contest. Dubbed “Ouchies for Others,” Sammy’s vibrant bandage design provides hope for children enduring countless treatments and medical appointments in their quest to conquer cancer.
“Just remember that every time you get a poke or surgery, that you are one step closer,” Sammy said. “That’s what keeps me going.”
All sales from the bandages, sold nationwide beginning this summer, benefit The Childhood Leukemia Foundation and the American Childhood Cancer Organization.
Register photos by Jason Werling.