‘How my brother’s death changed my life’

2019-07-19 16:14
Jasmine Smith. (Photo: MEDIADRUMWORLD/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA)

Jasmine Smith. (Photo: MEDIADRUMWORLD/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA)

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After watching her brother lose his battle with bone cancer, Jasmine Smith was inspired to become a paediatrician.

The 28-year-old from South Carolina in the USA was always close to her brother, Lewis.

Following in her military mom’s footsteps, Jasmine started a year-long basic training course for the military during her first year of studying medicine at university.

In October 2010 her mother broke the devastating news that Lewis (then just 14) had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a common type of cancer that starts in the bones.

“I was actually away at basic training for the military when my brother was diagnosed,” she remembers.

“My mother didn't tell me about my brother's diagnosis until they came to pick me up. I was already dealing with a lot of other stresses during training, so my mom didn't want to overwhelm me and potentially distract me from being able to finish.”

Jasmine says the news hit her like a ton of bricks.

“I remember being somewhat in shock and not really knowing how to respond,” Jasmine says. “I felt numb. I had moments when I would stare at him during the drive back home and start tearing up.”

The tumour was in his knee, which meant Lewis had to undergo surgery that year to remove it. He received chemotherapy thereafter.

To the family’s delight, doctors informed them he was in remission in 2011. But in 2013 the cancer returned aggressively, and this time spread to his lungs. He underwent multiple surgeries throughout the years that followed, until his death in December 2016. Witnessing her brother’s health deteriorate motivated Jasmine to specialise in paediatrics.

“I don't think the magnitude of everything had hit me quite yet,” she admits. “But I was beginning to get scared and worried. I never in a million years ever thought about cancer, let alone it happening to my little brother.”

After a family trip to Hawaii with the Make A Wish Foundation, where Lewis visited the volcanoes and swam with stingrays, Jasmine knew what she wanted to do with her life – help grant wishes of other terminally ill children.

“After that summer, I decided that a paediatric oncologist is what I was truly meant to be. I felt so fulfilled during that experience and even though every single kid made me think of my brother, I found that to be something that gave me so much strength.”

Jasmine Smith

Jasmine was by his bedside when Lewis died at the age of 20. The moment will forever be etched in her memory. But it’s his courage and resilience throughout his six-year battle that have made a lifelong impact on Jasmine.

“Some wounds are so deep that time will only soothe, but never heal,” an emotional Jasmine says. “Losing a sibling is a very deep wound. No amount of time will take away that pain.”

Jasmine Smith

The 28-year-old doctor has since granted 20 wishes, including a trip to Disney World, the Bahamas and a European cruise.

She has comforting words for others experiencing grief: “Pray and keep those who love you close. Don't be afraid to cry; for hours, for days, however long you need to, whenever you need to. There is no perfect or right way to grieve.

“Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Therapy is okay. There is no weakness whatsoever in seeking professional help.”

Read more on:    brother  |  death  |  child
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