Dobyns-Bennett's Megan Smith is back in the pool with her Lady Indians teammates after her battle with cancer. Ned Jilton II firstname.lastname@example.org
KINGSPORT — When Megan Smith dives into a swimming pool, she transforms into a churning blur of arms and legs as she cuts a choppy path across the calm surface of the water.
The pool represents many things to Smith, a senior on Dobyns-Bennett’s swim team. It offers a challenge, a refuge and a release, and Smith attacks it with everything she’s got on a daily basis.
But the urgency Smith pours into swimming wasn’t gained in the water. Instead, it was ingrained in her while she spent the better part of a year fighting for her life.
Thirteen months after Smith was diagnosed with cancer, she sat inside the D-B aquatic center last week free of the disease. But the perspective gained during her brush with mortality was obvious.
“It changed my views on life completely,” Smith said. “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so you should take advantage of everything.
“You should do the best at everything you do and not take anything for granted.”
Late in 2010, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, a dull pain on one side of Smith’s body grew progressively worse. After a seven-hour trip to the ER turned up nothing, Smith slipped further into agony before a CT scan finally revealed a growth in her abdomen.
“They found a mass half the size of a football in one of my ovaries,” Smith said. “They admitted me (to the hospital) the day before Thanksgiving. I had surgery that Friday and was in the hospital for five days.”
For Smith, the surgery paled in comparison to the nine weeks of chemotherapy that slowly drove the cancer from her body. Her treatments started in December and drug on through Februa r y.
Just days into the new year, Smith started losing her hair in clumps, and it brought her to tears. It was a case of insult added to injury as she struggled to find the strength to win her fight against a brutal disease.
“It’s indescribable, the feeling of going through chemotherapy,” Smith said. “I wished at some points that I would either quit or die because it was so bad.”
But Smith somehow found the strength to keep going. Her treatments ended in February, and her hair stared growing back at the beginning of the summer.
Smith said that she has only recently started feeling like herself again.
A return to the familiar routine of school and swimming has certainly helped Smith regain her sense of normalcy, but getting back into form in the pool didn’t come easily.
“In the beginning, when I was first trying to get back into it, some days I just wanted to get out of the pool,” she said. “But I said I’m not going to get out because I’m not a quitting person.”
Smith proved that as she endured weeks of chemotherapy, and the four tests that have come back cancer-free are evidence of her fighting spirit.
Now her goal is to take the time she is given and make the most of it. After spending last Christmas undergoing treatment, Smith is doing her best to savor every moment of the holiday season.
Learning to live each day to its fullest was a hard-earned lesson, and Smith is trying to pass that wisdom on whenever she gets a chance.
“I look back and I took a lot of things for granted,” she said. “Anybody that asks me about it, I try to tell them you should take advantage of what you have and be grateful for every day.
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