by Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE - When Lindsay Smith was four months pregnant with her second child, Jaxson, she learned she had cervical cancer.
Doctors recommended she terminate her pregnancy and begin aggressive cancer treatment, but Ms. Smith decided to follow through with the birth of her child. She saw the baby as her "savior" because she may not have discovered her cancer without becoming pregnant.
After Jaxson was born on May 25, Ms. Smith began her cancer treatment, but it's proven costly for her. When Ms. Smith turned 27 in April, she was dropped from her mother's health insurance, which forced her to pay out of pocket for what Medicaid will not cover.
Ms. Smith's story led many in the community to reach out to her and help pay her medical bills. Over the last two months, several area bars and restaurants raised money for her through donation boxes and special events.
"I'm one of those people who thinks you never know how much people care about you until you're gone," Ms. Smith said in a phone interview. "I got to experience how people care about me. It got me through all of this, aside from my children."
At Roadside Tavern, where Ms. Smith works, two events were held to raise money for her, a 12-hour karaoke marathon and a poker run. Thanks to a strong outpouring of community support, the poker run, in which bikers go from place to place collecting playing cards, was one of the most successful in Volusia County.
Roadside Tavern manager Marney Mazur said she also distributed donation boxes to many Port Orange restaurants as a way to help raise money. Among the participating restaurants are Booth's Bowery, Houligan's and Mulligan's Family Sports Pub, all of which were places where Ms. Smith formerly worked.
Ms. Mazur could not say how much money her fundraising efforts raised so far, but said many donors have been generous.
"The outpouring of community support has been great," she said. "One person walked up with a $1,000 check."
That community support is expected to continue with another benefit on the first week of October.
Anytime Fitness is scheduled to hold an Olympics-style event Oct. 4-6 to benefit Ms. Smith. Participants in the fitness contests - including kickball, capture the flag, kettle bell toss, and battle rope tug of war - help raise money for Ms. Smith by paying an entry fee of $20 for each day of competition.
The event was originally scheduled to take place Aug. 9-12, but was postponed due to bad weather. Samantha Ertel, manager of Anytime Fitness and a friend of Ms. Smith's, said Ms. Smith was looking forward to attending the benefit and would not have been able to do so if the event happened as scheduled because of her chemotherapy and radiation procedures.
She said the Olympics, which she hopes will be an annual event, was originally intended to benefit a larger charitable organization, but when she made her co-workers aware of Ms. Smith's story, they decided to raise money to help her to make a "big difference" by supporting a local cause.
"She's such a nice person," Ms. Ertel said of Ms. Smith. "She would do anything for anybody ... she left a positive note in every place she worked at."
Her goal with the event is to raise more than $5,000, which she plans to personally give to Ms. Smith after the event.
Ms. Smith said she has completed 34 radiation procedures and three chemotherapies. After completing a PET scan in late October, she will find out whether she beat the cancer; if part of the tumor remains, she would need a hysterectomy, a surgical procedure in which the uterus is removed.
She said the outcome she's hoping for is to have the hysterectomy performed because she believes it could prevent the cancer from coming back, which would require more of the aggressive treatment she's endured for the past three months.
"It's definitely not something I want to go through again," she said. "The radiation was way harder than the chemo."
Ms. Smith expressed gratitude for the community's support, saying it kept her strong despite her weakness.
"It's all been just a blessing," she said. "It's amazing that I've touched other people, when I see people worse than me that don't have the hundreds of thousands of people behind them and praying for them. It's very heartwarming."