VINEMONT, Ala. – Wendy Smithson wasn’t prepared for what fall 2022 would look like when your sonand then her husband, were diagnosed with different types of cancer, two months apart.
“My son, Walker Smithson, was diagnosed on September 2, 2022 with B-cell acute lymphoblastic (also called lymphocytic) leukemia, and my husband, DJ Smithson, was diagnosed on November 2, 2022 with metastatic renal cell carcinoma” Smithson said. . “Walker was more tired than usual for a couple of weeks, but I thought he was just tired in the afternoons because it was the start of a new school year. He slept more than usual. He also had a large, unexplained bruise on his leg, but we realized we had to take him to a doctor when he developed a swollen and irritated lymph node under his armpit.”
Smithson said her husband’s condition was found because a lump appeared in his lower neck about eight months ago.
“He went to the doctor and they did a biopsy, but it was benign,” he said. “They gave him the option to remove it, but he decided not to remove it as it didn’t really bother him and it wasn’t cancerous. As time passed, he began to have trouble breathing. The mass had grown and he was pressing against his windpipe. The mass was removed and sent to a pathology lab for examination. She will soon undergo a positron emission tomography scan to see if the cancer has spread elsewhere. This type of cancer is known to travel from the thyroid to the lungs. Either way, we understand, at this point, that he will need chemotherapy as well.”
Smithson said that through it all, she continued to pray and her faith has not wavered. She said that she believes the Lord is fighting for her family.
“All things considered, we are doing well. Our faith is strong, and we have no doubt that the Lord will see us through this season just as he has through every other trial we have faced,” he said. “We definitely have times where we feel overwhelmed, heartbroken, anxious and exhausted, but we haven’t given up hope. We are still trying to find our new normal. We are taking things day by day and sometimes minute by minute. The amount of support from our community and surrounding communities has been incredible. We are grateful that so many others have joined us on our journey. We can feel the prayers and it has made our plight a little brighter.”
Smithson shared some personal advice that she would give to someone else who might be fighting a similar battle, or anything that causes them grief and pain.
“At the beginning of our journey, a family who had been through a similar situation advised us to learn to say ‘no’. A lot of people want to visit or help by taking Walker to the clinic, but since Walker doesn’t have an immune system, we can’t allow him to be around anyone,” he said. “Since he is a minor, the consent forms have to be signed every time we are in the clinic by a parent or legal guardian, so it is not as easy as people think to let him travel with a friend or even another family. . member. There is a lot of paperwork for someone else to sign for blood, platelets, spinal taps, etc. As much as we don’t like it and don’t want to hurt feelings, we’ve had to say ‘no’ at times because it’s just not what’s best for our son.”
Smithson said it’s important to let people love you.
“If I was personally giving advice to people who are going through this, I would tell them to let people love them,” he said. “It’s hard to be the needy, but we have to be careful not to have too much pride and let people give what they want and help where they can. My husband and I are generous by nature. We tithe; we donate to different charities or sports groups etc but it’s hard to be on the receiving end. We feel guilty knowing that there are other families that are worse off than us. We don’t want to be a burden to anyone. Having said that, if we don’t let others love us, we are taking away a blessing from them and we don’t want to do that either.”
His final advice is simple: We don’t know when our last day on Earth will be, so pick your battles because the little things matter.
“Our time here on Earth is fleeting, so make sure the arguments they have are worthwhile, ask them if it will matter a year from now,” he said. “I would tell people not to be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I would also advise people to pick their battles. Life is so short. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I immediately send a quick text to my prayer warriors to tell them to encourage me or pray specifically about a certain situation. Lastly, I would tell them to be nice to others even when they don’t feel like it. I have learned that we have no idea what the person at the red light next to us or the person behind us in the drive-thru is going through. We should return it. Pay for the food for the person in line behind us. Make someone else’s day when we get the chance, even if we feel like our own world is falling apart. Little things matter in life. We must never lose sight of the little things during the journey. By definition, a journey is a ‘long and often difficult process of personal change and development’. The sooner we realize and accept that the road ahead will be long, but we have God to lead or guide us, the better off we will be.”
Smithson said theirs is just your average family dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
“Our daughter is a nurse. She recently got married and lives in Madison,” she said. “I teach eighth grade at Oneonta High School and my husband owns Cullman Truck Sales. We have worked very hard for everything we have. We recently opened our personal property to the public. The Forty Acre Wood is a fun place for people of all ages. We have many trails and two creeks for the kids to come explore and see if they can find Bigfoot! Our home and the earth is our refuge. God has blessed us in many ways and I hope we never take these blessings for granted or forget where we came from.”
Those who feel motivated to donate to the Smithson family can do so at https://gofund.me/e05fc3df@Wendy-Smithson (Venmo) or @wendysmithson (PayPal).