Kari Smith’s story is one of bravery and endurance.
Smith is the mother of four children, ages 9 to 18. She was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago and had been traveling to Seattle for treatments. She recently took Daily Astorian reporter Jack Hefferenen on a tour of the new CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative and told him her story.
Smith received high-quality care there, but the lengthy commute and time away from home wore on the family. Expenses racked up, her husband missed time at work and their children waited for their parents to come home…
“My home life was in shambles because I was never home,” Smith said. “It was really hard on my kids. They would just cry and ask me, ‘Why are you leaving again?’”
In August 2016, Smith became very sick while at home between trips to Seattle. She went to the CMH emergency room and was admitted to the hospital.
Dr. Jennifer Lycette and two others from the CMH oncology team came to visit her in the hospital. Smith describes them as “angels”. Dr. Lycette had found something in Smith’s pathology report that gave her hope and new treatment options to try.
Within just a few months of starting treatment at Columbia Memorial Hospital, Smith was feeling much better and her home life was back in balance.
Smith’s face beams when she speaks about her interactions with staff. The facility’s small size has allowed her to develop relationships with nearly everyone who works in the building.
“They cry with you and they, you know, help you with everything,” Smith said. “It’s just different. I’d never been anywhere like that before.”
Smith usually goes to treatment while her children are at school, a drastic change from the time commitments that her therapy once required.
“Now they don’t even realize I’m getting treatment because they’re oblivious, I guess,” Smith said about her children with a laugh. “It’s kind of nice that we’ve resumed a normal type of life now.”
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