The month of September is known for being Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and although it doesn’t receive the same amount of accolades as Breast Cancer Awareness month, the significance of it is equal. It highlights something that no parent ever wants to hear and what no child should ever have to endure: childhood cancer.
Cancer was a reality for Eden Smith, who took on her fight when she was only 10 years old.
“I had these sores that looked like staph. That’s what doctors thought they were—just a staph infection. It turns out it wasn’t,” recalled Eden. “I also had a huge lump in one of my lymph nodes. It swelled up to the size of my fist. They were going to biopsy that because it was alarming. When I went in for the biopsy, they put me under with anesthesia because I was young. When I came out, they told them it was too big for them to biopsy. They just took the whole thing out because it looked alarming to them. They sent that to St. Jude immediately after taking it out so it could be tested.”
Although things didn’t go the way they intended with the biopsy, Eden and her family still had hope about what the results would be. There were two possibilities: one was not very threatening, and the other was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The family had hoped for the less threatening option. Unfortunately, the news they received wasn’t what they wanted to hear.
“We were in Wal-Mart when Mom got the phone call telling her the official diagnosis,” remembered Eden. “It all happened very fast after that. As soon as they got the results, they contacted St. Jude. We were there almost immediately starting treatment.”
For four months, Eden had to endure rounds of chemo while trying to keep up with all of her school work. She lost all of her hair, but she never gave up.
“It was hard trying to balance my school work and chemo,” explained Eden. “I would go on a Sunday night to St. Jude. Then, Monday I would have chemo. After that, I would come home and rest the next few days depending on how I was feeling. I would try to go to school towards the end of the week, and my friends would try to help me catch up.”
Although the treatments were tough on her, she pushed through all the sickness. In order to help her a little, the doctors had her treatments rotate each week.
“Each week would alternate on the type of chemo. One week would be what they called light chemo; it wasn’t as bad and wouldn’t make me as sick,” stated Eden. “The next week would be a real hard chemo; it was the one that made me really sick. We would alternate between those two so that I wouldn’t have to do the heavy chemo every week. I was about 80 pounds by the end of it.”
After so many weeks of chemo, there were times that Eden was too weak to walk from the car to the hospital. At those times, she would ride in either a wheelchair or a red wagon that the hospital provided. It was in those times that Eden was truly grateful for small things that most people take for advantage most of the time.
“I remember one time my dad was pushing me in the wheelchair, and I got in the car,” recalled Eden. “Typically, I had to lie down because sitting up after I had chemo would make me really sick. This one time, I happened to be feeling better and was able to sit up in the car. I was excited because I could sit up in the car on the way home.”
By her last chemo appointment, Eden was in remission. She has been in remission ever since and has grown her hair out again.
Now, Eden is in her senior year at Enterprise High School, and she stays busy.
“I do color guard at Enterprise. I’ve been color guard captain or co-captain for three years now; I was co-captain for two years and am captain this year since I’m a senior,” said Eden. “I also do dance. I primarily like lyrical and contemporary styles of dance. This year, I’m doing tap dance and hip hop, which I normally don’t do. I’ll also do a little jazz dance.”
Eden is very self-motivated and strives to do her very best in school. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, and she has received multiple awards and acknowledgements for her various academic achievements.
“In 2015, we won state championship with band. In both 2015 and 2016, we won state championship with cheer,” stated Eden. “In fourth grade, I made a perfect score on the math state test. I’m pretty proud of that because that is the year that I had cancer and was going through treatments. I’ve made a few more perfect scores on state tests over the years after that: English and math in the eighth grade and math in the ninth grade.”
Although her grades are important to her, Eden is also interested in helping out different organizations. She especially enjoys being able to help with shelter pets and transports.
“I like to transport dogs. We take some dogs going to transport and foster them for a few days before they get to go to a better home,” explained Eden. “For about three months straight, we would go every weekend and help clean up the pens at the shelter in Quitman.”
In February of 2020, Eden competed in Clarke County’s Distinguished Young Women. Although she was not named as the Distinguished Young Woman for the county, Eden presented herself with grace and dignity and was rewarded for her hard work.
“I got second alternate and the scholastics award for my grades,” said Eden. “I got an invitation award for a party invitation that I made and an award for the second most ads sold.”
Now, Eden is looking forward and making plans for how to achieve her goals in the future.
“I’m going to East Central Community College when I graduate,” stated Eden. “I’ll get my associate’s degree from there. Then, I’ll probably going to the University of Southern Mississippi and get my bachelor’s degree. Then, I’ll go to a medical school. I want to major in biology and do pre-med. Specifically, I either want to be an oncologist or an OBGYN.”
No matter what the future holds, there is no doubt that Eden will succeed in all of her plans. She worked hard and has already overcome so much in just a few years, and her persistence and determination will continue to make her successful.