Breast Cancer Survivor Series: DPH’s Mauri Smith Finds Joy and Laughter Amid Breast Cancer Treatment

October 27, 2014

You may have seen Mauri Smith’s bright smile while walking through the hallways of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) or enjoyed one of her humorous employee training sessions. No matter how you’ve interacted with Smith, DPH project director, you will immediately notice her infectious positive attitude.

Like many women, Smith took the advice of her health care provider and began having annual mammograms when she turned 40 years old. For more than 10 years, her mammograms showed no signs of cancer or any abnormalities.

Her mammogram results took a sudden turn in April when a mass was identified in her right breast. Upon her initial diagnosis, Smith believed she was fighting stage 2 cancer. However, after a subsequent surgery, her doctor upgraded the diagnosis to stage 2A, indicating the continued spread of the cancer inside the breast and nearby lymph nodes.

Surprisingly, fighting cancer wasn’t Smith’s biggest initial fear – it was the chemotherapy treatments she was scheduled to undergo that caused her concern.

“The most difficult part was when my doctor told me I would need chemotherapy treatments,” Smith said. “I heard so many horror stories about chemotherapy and it was something I did not want to experience. I was prepared to be severely sick; however, that was not the case. So many changes have been made to how the treatments are delivered and it was not nearly as bad as I predicted.”

Smith’s positive perspective on life has proven to be one of her greatest keys to success on her breast cancer journey. When she endured hair loss during chemotherapy, Smith’s up-beat outlook enabled her to view the experience as a light-hearted moment of freedom.

“After the first chemotherapy treatment, my hair began to come out rapidly,” Smith said. “I called my hair stylist and she shaved my head for me. I took pictures and laughed a lot!”

“It wasn’t difficult for me,” she continued. “In fact, I joke about keeping it shaved because it’s been so liberating and comfortable! I don’t have to fool with fixing my hair every day and I’ve enjoyed shopping for beautiful scarves and pretty hats!”

To share her story of bravery and survival during her cancer treatments, Smith took her life lessons and unique perspective to the masses through social networking sites to document her cancer journey and inspire those around her with messages of positivity, perseverance and faith.

“I have posted my journey with photos and short narratives on my Facebook page to keep my friends and family updated on my experiences,” she said. “It has become a wonderful source of encouragement for me.”

While Smith is full of advice and inspiring words, her primary message to other cancer patients following her story is one focused on taking control of their physical health and emotional wellbeing.  

“I would tell any breast cancer patient to keep a positive attitude no matter the circumstance,” Smith advised. “Cancer shows no partiality; it can happen to anyone for any reason. Ask your doctors every question you can imagine and be completely honest with them about your needs and concerns.”

“Most importantly, get plenty of rest! Let go of all the things that don’t really matter. Let your family and friends help take care of your affairs while you focus on getting well,” she said.

Smith recently completed her chemotherapy treatment and looks forward to moving on to the final steps of her treatment which will include radiation and additional follow up tests. Smith will face a few more months of treatment to prevent a reoccurrence, but continues to lean on her faith and loved ones throughout the experience.

“My slogan throughout this battle with cancer has been ‘The God of angel armies is on my side,’” she said. “I’m happy to have the enduring support and encouragement from my family, friends, and co-workers, but my personal faith has given me the strength to endure and succeed in this journey.”

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