L.M. SMITH STANDS BEHIND
THE V FOUNDATION FOR CANCER RESEARCH
Here’s why (and how you can help)!
The handsome young man on the left side of that photo you see above is my dad and that’s me next to him a little over a year before he lost his fight with cancer and we lost him. I don’t even feel like I can really call it a fight, to be honest. The cancer just sort of waited until he was already down and then sucker punched him. He never had a chance. This page is for the brief story about how we learned of his terminal diagnosis, why we chose The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and how the Papa Smith books came to be.
My dad was a gifted artist who favored oil painting but could really work in any medium he opted to try. I began displaying a talent for writing in the first grade when my school held a writing fair and my book, The Snake Who Had A Rash, received an award. My dad immediately conceived the dream of me writing a children’s book that he could illustrate but it would seem that my muse not interested in playing along. One of my very few regrets in life was that I never put forth the effort to pen out a good kid’s book while he was still alive.
In the late spring of 2013 my dad was taken to the emergency room for chest pains and his doctors quickly determined that he needed an immediate quintuple bypass. He recovered well and more quickly from that particular surgery than had been expected, but something still felt wrong to him. He was having trouble eating and what he did eat never seemed to agree with him. Just a month or so after being released from his first surgery, he was back in the emergency room and this time the doctors discovered a sizable tumor in his large intestine. He was quickly back in surgery to have the tumor removed and testing was done to find out the nature and severity of the situation. The strain of this second surgery on his heart, so soon after the first surgery, was dangerous to say the least.
The date was July 17, 2013 and I was sitting in bed watching the ESPY Awards show on television when the call came from my mother confirming what we’d all already suspected. The tumor was malignant and had already spread to 13 of the 14 tested nodes in my dad’s lymphatic system. He’d been diagnosed with Stage 3-c (or IIIC) cancer and his heart would never survive chemo therapy treatments. It was a death sentence and the doctors couldn’t even tell us how long he’d have. As I sat there, in silence, trying to process this devastating information, Robin Roberts began her acceptance of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and began speaking about Jimmy Valvano and his acceptance of the award twenty years earlier. I was already familiar with Jimmy V and watched his speech during Jimmy V week on ESPN every year. It was like the universe was already telling me ‘Here, channel all of your devastation and your anger and your need to do something to this cause‘.
And that’s what I did. I’d been planning a trip to Maui, Hawaii in the fall and was scheduled to fly out on August 15th. The tickets had already been bought and paid for, the resort booked. I asked my dad if he wanted me to cancel and he immediately told me no before I could even finish the question. He asked me to take lots of pictures while I was there for him to see when I got back. I picked up a pair of stuffed horses and had him pick one to represent him in Maui because horses were his favorite animal. He picked ‘the bay’ (not surprisingly) and together we named him Papa Smith because Papa was what his grand kids called him and he loved being a grandpa!
He passed away at just before 9 p.m. on August 5th and his funeral was held on August 10th. Five days later, as promised, I boarded the plane to Maui and took pictures of that stuffed horse in every beautiful and interesting location that I could find! When I got home and looked through all of those pictures that he would never see, I realized that someone needed to see them. That was when I decided to create the Papa Smith series of picture books for kids and to pledge all proceeds (every penny that I receive because I can’t control Amazon’s cut) to the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.
I’ve kept that pledge, though I’ve not been able to send them nearly as many donations as I would like. Papa Smith Goes to Maui can be ordered through any major book retailer or purchased in both paperback and e-book formats from Amazon.com but the largest donations happen when you purchase a paperback copy direct from the printing company by clicking here.
I hope to someday travel to more interesting locations to continue the Papa Smith saga in additional books and, of course, all proceeds from them will be donated to The V Foundation as well.
My books aren’t the only way that you can fight back against cancer. The V Foundation has a variety of other methods for you to contribute and they’re all important bricks in the wall of resistance so please take a moment to look at them here.
Most importantly, remember these immortal words from Jimmy V, himself: “Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up”.