As he saw fellow marines die around him during the Korean War, Bob Smith was scared to death.
More than 50 years later, that fear returned when the Brookfield resident was diagnosed with "very aggressive" prostate cancer. This time, however, the fear was for his family.
"That fear was just eons and eons and tons and tons so big for my family. What would they have to go through?" recalled Smith, who was named the honorary survivor chairman for the 2012 Brookfield Relay for Life.
The event, which raises money for the American Cancer Society, runs from 6 p.m. July 13 to 6 p.m. July 14 at Brookfield East High School.
Smith was named honorary survivor for a reason. His message at the event is not one of personal struggle, it is one of confidence and hope for others battling the disease. It is to inspire others to find their "inner soldier" and realize they can, and are, winning.
Heading to battle
When Smith received his diagnosis, he didn't hesitate to undergo treatment. Though he made up his mind to fight the cancer, he found himself sitting in his backyard struggling to cope with the "absolutely frightening words" his urologist had told him two weeks earlier.
Suddenly, Smith said, his future was unknown. That was until three words came to his mind that changed his outlook on everything: "I am winning."
"They brought a newfound sense of courage, confidence, hope and strength," Smith said. "I often hear 'I will win.' 'I will beat this.' Like something's happening tomorrow or the next day. I'm winning now."
Smith began to look forward to each and every radiation treatment. They were his guns going into battle as he watched the large swinging arms go up around his body while he was lying on the hospital table.
"I felt empowered because I saw thousands of bullets hitting those cancer cells and them lying on the floor," Smith said.
Living in the moment
Though there is no cure for prostate cancer, after eight weeks of treatment for five days a week, Smith is now in remission. A supportive wife who was at every doctor's appointment and caring family helped him. Smith now looks at his battle with cancer as an experience that changed his life.
"It hasn't been a good experience for me, but it's been life-changing," he said. "I look around and see nothing but good."
If Smith can give any advice to someone with cancer, it is to live today.
"It's always the moment," he said. "We spend entirely too much of our time living in our yesterdays and our tomorrows. We like the 'could have,' 'would have,' 'should have' of yesterday and we worry about what could happen tomorrow so much that we don't really live today."
Ready for Relay
It is the message of strength, hope and living in the moment that he will bring to the Relay for Life.
"I hope to stir them up and get them riled up and have them stand up and cheer," Smith said. "(Cancer) is not a death sentence."
Smith is hoping people attend Relay for Life to know they are not alone in their struggle against cancer.
IF YOU GO
WHAT:Relay for Life
ACTION: team members will take turns walking throughout the event; Cousins will provide food from 5 to 9:30 p.m.; local band The Break will perform
WHEN: 6 p.m. June 13; event kicks off with a survivor and caregiver lap; luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m.
WHERE: Brookfield East High School, 3305 N. Lilly Road
INFORMATION: cancer.org and click on "Get Involved"
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Elmbrook School District likely to cut 25-30 positions
- Brookfield mother, daughter create worldwide fundraiser to help Boston Marathon victims
- Police report: May 21
- Despite Elm Grove residents' concerns, Juneau Pathway approved Monday
- Loaded handgun taken from unlocked car in Brookfield
- Ask NOW: When will the Capitol Drive construction be over?
- Brookfield and Elm Grove police join national Click It or Ticket campaign
- Pilgrim Park students' rocket takes first at regional competition
- Water main project in Elm Grove could cause delays
- In Our Schools: May 20