Two activities most take for granted are eating and talking with those we love. But that’s not so for Timmy Smith, of Watertown.
Smith spent most of his adolescence and young adulthood dipping tobacco, but when his sons became old enough to start asking about it, he decided it was time to quit. Unfortunately, the damage was done. It started with small black spots on his tongue that had to be removed. For 17 years, Smith had several surgeries that left his tongue badly deformed.
In May 2016, Smith became ill. He couldn’t eat or speak and was even struggling to breathe. This time, he and his wife, Jill, knew it was serious. His doctor sent him to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he saw an otolaryngologist – a doctor who specializes in treating ear, nose and throat issues. He immediately determined Smith’s tongue would have to be removed.
The surgery was scheduled and preparations were made, but there was one more thing Smith wanted to do. He gathered his four children, their spouses and his four grandchildren to his home for a meal.
“It’s not that we didn’t believe he would come through it,” Jill Smith said. “We just weren’t sure if his family would ever be able to hear him say, ‘I love you’ again.”
Timmy Smith did come through the surgery and continually amazed the doctors and nurses with his determination. It was during this time his aunt urged him to contact Sherry’s Run. His wife called Tonyia Stockton, director of patient assistance, and was amazed at the personal care they received.
“Tonyia had never even met my husband, Jill Smith said, “but she talked about him like she knew him. I could just tell they really cared.”
One of the solutions Sherry’s Run was able to provide for the Smiths was a high-calorie Boost drink to help Timmy Smith keep his calorie intake up. In fact, when he went in for weight checks, the doctors were amazed at how well he was doing. Now, the doctor recommends this for all of his patients.
A second unexpected service Sherry’s Run provided was dental care. Prior to having radiation, patients must have a cleaning and fluoride treatment. Stockton made a phone call to Dr. Richard Boehm in Lebanon, who partnered with Sherry’s Run to provide the service at no cost to the Smiths.
Of course, gas assistance was also provided, allowing the Smiths to make the daily trip for six weeks to Vanderbilt for radiation treatments. Smith is doing well and even made it to the Sherry’s Run 5K Run and Walk event in September.
“I stood in the middle of the survivor’s tent and balled,” Timmy Smith said. “I just couldn’t believe how many people were being helped like this.”
April is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. The Smiths along with Sherry’s Run encourage anyone to take steps to prevent this type of cancer. For more information, visit the Sherry’s Run Facebook page.
Mark calendars for the 14th annual Sherry’s Run and Walk event Sept. 9. Support allows Sherry’s Run to assist cancer patients 52 weeks a year with gas, groceries, utility bills, housing payments, prescription assistance, health insurance premiums, medical bills and colonoscopy assistance.
To learn more about Sherry’s Run, call 615-925-2592. To refer someone who might qualify for assistance, call 615-925-9932 or visit sherrysrun.org.