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Standing Strong: Former Cass Tech linebacker Stan Smith battles cancer
Update: Unfortunately on 8/5/2018, Stan Smith lost his battle to cancer. We would like to send our condolences to his family and friends.
DETROIT - A man's risk for testicular cancer over his lifetime is approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 in 200. So, while majority of men in the world are not at risk of being diagnosed with testicular cancer, about 8,000 cases in the United States are documented every year, and included in that is 19-year-old Stan Smith.
A former standout linebacker at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Smith was diagnosed with testicular sarcoma in November of 2015. He graduated from high school in 2014 and went on to play his college football at Livingstone College in North Carolina, where he first began to notice that something was different about his body. Smith was used to bringing down running backs but cancer would be a much bigger issue to tackle for him.
"I had it for awhile, but I just never knew what it was," Smith said of having the tumor in his body. "I remember having it during my senior year of high school, but it was really small. As the years went by, it started growing and eventually, it got painful.
"When I went to the hospital for it while I was in high school, the doctor actually told me that it wasn't anything. He said that it was probably from me playing football."
The doctors thought nothing of it, so Smith thought nothing of it as well. He went off to college at Livingstone that summer of 2014, where he played up until this past November when he came home for Thanksgiving break. That is when Smith was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had his life changed forever.
"I was always feeling really fatigued and restless all the time," Smith said of his time away at college. "It was pain in that area all the time. The tumor really started to take a toll on my body once it started growing bigger.
"When I came home for Thanksgiving, I went to the doctor and even they told me that it was a hernia. They didn't even know what it was, until they actually removed it. I went back to school, healed up, and when I came back in December, the results came back that it was a cancerous tumor."
To tell someone that they have cancer can have an immense affect on one's emotional stat and at 19-years-old, the mind is still delicate. Of course, the news hit Smith and his family hard. He was just starting his journey as a man in college, playing the game he loves, and now this: cancer. But, Smith is a football player and football players are tough, not just on the field, but off of it as well.
"It was different," he said on hearing the devastating news. "I knew right then and there that everything was going to be different. But, I was kind of happy about them catching it now and removing. Really, I've been trying to stay positive about things. That's where I am now.
"I just figured that this was just something that happened and everything happens for a reason. I'm even better now than I was before I had cancer."
Smith had majority of his tumor removed and also had orchiectomy surgery, which is the removal of one or both testicles. He is in good spirits now and for the last four weeks, has been going through chemotherapy to remove the rest of the cancer from his body. All of his hair is gone, and he is not the quite the 6-1, 230-pound linebacker that he used to be, but he has refused to let cancer take over his life.
"This could be life-threatning, but I never think about it like that," Smith said. "So, right now, I'm getting chemotherapy treatments at Karmanos Cancer Institute.
"It's been going good so far. All the doctors and nurses keep me in good spirits and they make it comfortable for me to be there. I'm actually happy, because my last week of chemotherapy is coming up in two weeks. The chemotherapy has taken a toll on my body, from the nausea and vomiting, but I'm going to keep going forward."
Besides chemotherapy, Smith's most effective way of healing has been the support of his family, and friends, as well as his Cass Tech football family.
"Having people around you that care, helps," said Smith. "They all are there all the time. I have tons of visitors in the hospital, so, everything is all good on that end. I have support from everywhere, even my coaches back at Livingstone.
"If you don't have the love and support of your family, you're really out here on your own trying to survive. You want to have that support by your side, so you'll know that everything will be alright."
Thankfully, for Smith, testicular cancer has a very high survival rate, and he plans to make a full recovery. He begins his radiation treatments shortly and once all of that is done, Smith plans to continue living his life before cancer entered his life.
"It's definitely a cancer that can go away," Smith said. "Once I get done with all of my treatments and stuff, I'll keep going back every six months to undergo some scans to see my progress, if it's getting better or worse.
"I actually want to continue school, playing football at Livingstone in the summer, and I plan on doing everything that I was doing before. That's who I was before cancer, so I wouldn't want to change that."
Cancer has rented a space in Smith's body for the moment but he has not let it come in and rob him of his joy. He displayed great strength and confidence talking about his ordeal and Smith has no doubt in his mind that he will pass this life test and become an example to all that tough times do not last, but tough people do.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "You'll have a lot of stepping-stones that you'll come across in your life but you just have to be positive and pray about everything. It is crazy once it actually happens to you, but after that, you just keep going as if life was still normal.
"I can say this is the hardest thing I've ever faced for someone my age, but growing up in Detroit, I was taught to fight, and I'm going to fight this. I'm not going to let this get the best of me, and I plan on living my regular life once again."
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