FARMINGTON, N.Y. (WROC) — As celebrations for Veterans Day continue over the weekend, one local Navy veteran is almost finished with her fight against cancer. She credits her days in the armed forces for motivating her to never give up.
Elizabeth Smith lives in Farmington with her family. She dreamed of doing 20 years of service in the Navy, but while stationed in the Pacific Northwest she received the news that would send her into a new battle.
Ranked as a petty officer third class, Smith was about to head out on her first deployment in her first year of service. But shortly after setting out, she began experiencing a series of illnesses.
“One of my sponsors said I think you need to go see a doctor like you need to get an MRI, or a cat scan or something because you’re getting sick all the time,” Smith explained. “You’re running into walls; you can’t hear anything out of your right ear. I got a CT, and they ended up finding a plum size tumor making a C in my brainstem.”
At age 20, Smith was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma. A brain type cancer most common in children. But rare in young adults. After going back and forth with a few doctors. Smith had to trade in her military life and check into Children’s Hospital Colorado.
“I was their oldest patient going through this form of cancer,” Smith continued. “So, it was completely weird to be the oldest person walking into a children’s hospital. But it was great that there was so much not happiness, but it was bright.”
“She still had to check in and do a lot of her Navy things and responsibilities while in treatment,” Smith’s mother, Stacey, added. “So, we’d show up at the hospital for treatment in her uniform. People would just look at you kind of oddly.”
It took 35 rounds of radiation and six rounds of chemotherapy for Smith to complete her treatment. She’s now five months away from remission. After being medically discharged from the Navy, she was connected with an adaptive sports camp that helps veterans stay active and mentally strong.
“I was a competitive swimmer so I could still swim, I could do sports like wheelchair rugby,” Smith told us. “You know it just kind of motivated me that I’m not completely gone. That part of me that’s still competitive and the enjoyment of being athletic came right back.”
One of the main organizations that support these sporting leagues for veterans like Smith is Semper-Fi America’s Fund. To donate or refer veterans you know they can help, click here.