Keep fighting. That’s the adage of cancer survivor Donald (DJ) Smith.
The remarkable college student has accomplished a lot within 22 years, but his greatest achievement to date is conquering a condition that might have defeated even the strongest of individuals.
Diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) while in his freshman year at Southfield High School, D.J.’s seemingly normal life was turned upside down.
His family learned that the disease, more commonly diagnosed in teens, is one of the few conditions that actually begins in the bones and sometimes spreads to the lungs or other bones.
FROM SOPHMORE TO SURGERY
At the recommendation of experts, DJ underwent major surgery, cryotherapy and radiation treatments.
Certain that he stood among the many osteosarcoma patients who go on to live cancer free lives, DJ forged ahead with plans for his futurefollowing the procedure.
LIFE ON HOLD
Those plans were put on hold in 2009, when the high school senior discovered a worrisome lump in his jaw.
The cancer had spread and was growing ─ quickly.
“I was worried about finishing high school,” DJ states. “And, I was afraid that additional treatment would put a stop to my plans.”
The determined teen finished high school and following graduation underwent a second surgical procedure and more cryotherapy.
Three months later, the aggressive cancer returned and family fears increased with DJ’s first surgeon’s refusal to operate further.
A NOTEWORTHY NEWS STORY
Despite trying different treatments and constant pain, it appeared that the cancer was winning.
Desperate for a second opinion and new hope for a treatment to cure their son’s life-threatening condition, DJ’s dad Donald Smith saw a Good Health Report by Dr. Frank McGeorge on WDIV TV.
The Good Health Report segment featured the pioneering treatment of (then) Detroit Public School (DPS) Emergency Manager Robert Bobb’s throat cancer by a team of Henry Ford Hospital physicians.
“We called Henry Ford immediately,” states Smith.
DJ’s case was accepted and after a 20-hour surgery to remove the 10-pound tumor, DJ now feels restored.
“I feel like a new person,” DJ states. “I never lost hope.”
Although DJ still must undergo additional corrective and cosmetic procedures to restore his jawline, he remains confident that, this time, he has kicked cancer for good.
Editor’s Note: DJ is currently enrolled at Oakland Community College (OCC) and is considering a career in medicine. To see the full news story on the pioneering procedure featured on WDIV TV and learn more about Starr Commonwealth’s Art of Resilience campaign featuring the stories of young Detroiters, visit artofresilience.org.