Virginia Smith felt so blessed by the people who helped her through her ordeal with cancer that she has started a support group in Thomson.
In February, Mrs. Smith found out that she had lung cancer. After six months of four chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments, she now hopes to help others.
"I'm involved because the people that touched me and gave me support, if I can give one person the same strength to go to one more doctor visit, one more treatment, that will be worth it," Mrs. Smith said.
Mrs. Smith credits a professional counselor and friend, Anne Moss, for helping her and encouraging her to become involved in the support group.
"I already was going for my treatments in Augusta, and I'll be darned if I was going back on that 66-mile round trip for a support meeting," Mrs. Smith said. "And online support is so sterile, there's no depth to it, no richness at all."
The group is an open forum style, and is for cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers, family members and friends.
"The caregivers do not get enough recognition," Mrs. Smith said. "I want to thank the caregivers publicly because they are the closest ones who understand what it's like to be a cancer patient. They keep your world together when your world is falling apart."
Mrs. Smith's 20-year-old son, Rett, was her caregiver. She said he drove and stayed with her through each treatment. The day of her final treatment was his 21st birthday.
"He actually walked through this with me, so I just can't thank him enough," she said.
Mrs. Smith also had surgery to remove the cancer nodule at WellStar Hospital in Atlanta. Doctors diagnosed her cancer as stage three.
Mrs. Smith managed to survive by keeping up her routine with her show horses. Throughout the six-month ordeal, she missed only one morning of feeding and taking care of the horses.
"And that was just because my treatment was scheduled for 7:30 a.m.," she said.
"I had to keep up with my horses, they go out of their way to make me feel good. I did it every day, even though it was hard. It was like a checklist to get through another day."
Mrs. Smith is scheduled to have PET tests in November to see if the cancer is gone. Until then, she won't stop sharing her story and offering encouragement.
"It doesn't matter your age, gender, race or form, cancer is privilege to anyone," she said. "There's no sect it doesn't touch, and when it touches you, it affects everyone around you."
The Cancer Support Group meets at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at First Baptist Church in Thomson. Call (706) 595-4252 for more information.