By Liana Jacob
MEET THE woman who was inspired by her little brother to become a PAEDIATRITIAN after watching him lose his battle with BONE CANCER two years ago.
Paediatric resident physician, Jasmine Smith (28) from South Carolina, USA, was raised in an environment that kept her family travelling with her mum being in the military. She was always close to her brother, Lewis.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Jasmine started a basic training course for the military during her first year of university studying medicine, which she completed during her second year of university. In October 2010, her mum gave her the devastating news that Lewis was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a common type of cancer that starts in the bones, when he was just 14 years old.
She began tearing up at the news and felt scared and worried about her brother’s future. With the tumour located in his knee, Lewis underwent a surgery that year to remove it and received chemotherapy treatments.
To their delight in 2011, doctors informed them that the treatments worked, and he was in remission. However, in 2013 his cancer came back and spread to his lungs. He was left fighting for his life, undergoing multiple surgeries throughout the next few years, during which time, Jasmine had emotionally watched his health deteriorate, and this motivated her to specialise in paediatrics, to help other children like Lewis.
In March 2015, the family worked with Make A Wish Foundation to organise a trip for Lewis to Hawaii where he visited the volcanoes and despite being terrified, he swam with stingrays as this was a dream of his. The trip inspired Jasmine to help grant wishes of other terminally ill children.
In December 2016, Jasmine was sitting next to Lewis by his bed at home, holding his hand as she tearfully watched him take his last few breaths at the age of just 20. This moment was forever etched in her mind and his resiliency and courage throughout his six-year battle motivated her to help other children going through similar ordeals.
She has since granted 20 wishes including a trip to Disney World, a trip to The Bahamas and a European cruise.
“In 2010 my younger brother, Lewis, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, at the age of fourteen and this shifted my entire world,” she said.
“I was actually away at basic training for the military when my brother was diagnosed. I joined the military after my first year of university and spent the first half of my first year in Missouri for basic training.
“My mother didn’t tell me about my brother’s diagnosis until they came to pick me up. I was already dealing with a lot of other stresses during training, so my mum didn’t want to overwhelm me and potentially distract me from being able to finish.
“I remember being somewhat in shock and not really knowing how to respond. I felt numb. I had moments when I would stare at him during the drive back home and start tearing up.
“I don’t think the magnitude of everything had hit me quite yet, but I was beginning to get scared and worried. I never in a million years ever thought about cancer, let alone it happening to my little brother.
“At that time, I felt that becoming a paediatric oncologist would be too emotional for me though it was a thought that frequently ran across my mind.
“The summer after my first year of medical school, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a programme created by the Conquer Cancer Foundation.
“It allowed me to complete an eight-week paediatric haematology/oncology rotation at the hospital of my choice. I spent that summer at home with my family rotating at a nearby children’s hospital.
“In addition to that, I spent a lot of time with my brother at his many clinic visits and hospital admissions for chemotherapy.
“After that summer, I decided that a paediatric oncologist is what I was truly meant to be. I felt so fulfilled during that experience and even though every single kid made me think of my brother, I found that to be something that gave me so much strength.”
Jasmine says that even though his battle lasted for six years, Lewis was never afraid, which left her feeling encouraged throughout his journey.
“His first surgery was in 2010, shortly after his diagnosis of osteosarcoma. His tumour was in his right knee, so it was removed, requiring his knee to be replaced with metal,” she said.
“He also received chemotherapy treatments at this time. After he was done with that treatment, he was in remission for about a year and a half until his cancer was found to have metastasised to his lungs on imaging.
“The lungs are a very common place for this cancer to spread. Ever since then, he had multiple surgeries throughout the following years on his lungs, removing bits and pieces where tumours were located.
“This was done in combination with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Ultimately, the cancer kept spreading in his lungs to the point where one of the only surgical options was to remove one of his lungs.
“My brother was very much against that and I remember him stating, ‘They already took my knee, they’re not taking my lung too’. He never received that procedure and just continued with different clinical trials, trying different combinations of chemo and radiation.
“He got sick like all cancer patients do during these treatments and it was really hard to watch him suffer through them.
“Lewis liked all things nature/science/geography/science fiction, so he decided he wanted to go to Hawaii to see the volcanoes. He was very excited to go and had a great time while there.
“He went swimming with stingrays with my parents (I was too chicken to do it, but it has turned into one of my biggest regrets since I can’t share that memory with him). He was terrified but he did it anyway and I was so proud.
“It felt amazing. I was so thankful that my medical school didn’t penalise me for missing a week of school for the trip. Regardless, I wouldn’t have missed that trip for the world.
“The most popular wish I helped grant is Disney World by far; I have also granted a shopping spree wish, a trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas, a meet and greet to cook with Guy Fieri at his restaurant in Las Vegas.
“I have also helped grant a European cruise wish, and a wish to be Rapunzel for a day. I have granted a little more than twenty wishes between South Carolina and now Arizona.
“Treating patients Lewis’ age or younger is actually really hard on me; It always brings back a lot of memories of being in the hospital with my brother for his treatments and clinic visits.
“However, that same pain I feel when I’m in those situations, also drives me to provide the absolute best care to that patient because that’s what I would want for my brother.
“If he was still with us, I would tell him that I love him unconditionally and I am very proud of how brave and resilient he has been throughout his life.
“I would let him know that I couldn’t have asked for a better little brother. I would tell him that he has motivated me and provided inspiration for every aspect of my life. My whole career and purpose is built on his life and the impact he has on me.
“Pray and keep those who love you close. Don’t be afraid to cry; for hours, for days, however long you need to, whenever you need to. There is no perfect or right way to grieve.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Therapy is OK. There is no weakness whatsoever in seeking professional help.
“It’s sometimes better than talking to family and friends and it is absolutely better than getting to a place where your own life becomes invaluable to you.
“Some wounds are so deep that time will only soothe, but never heal. Losing a sibling is a very deep wound. No amount of time will take away that pain.”