IndyStar is documenting Chase and Sadie Smith’s lives as they settle into a new marriage and battle Chase’s terminal cancer.
INDIANAPOLIS — Chase Smith was packing his bags over the weekend, packing for warmth and sunshine, packing for physical respite, packing for a mental break.
He needed it in a way most people could never understand.
After finishing radiation for cancer in his head and jaw before Christmas, Chase’s holidays were bittersweet. Pain, fatigue, sickness. Staying awake long enough some days to carry on family traditions. Staying home in bed on others.
And yet, as he finally began to feel better last week, he prepared for it to start all over again. Chase was scheduled to undergo five more radiation treatments this week to the tumor growing behind his right eye.
But first, packing — for a quick getaway to a warmer destination and family time before the treatments. As he reached for a shirt, Chase twisted or turned or moved funny somehow. He’s not sure exactly what.
He heard a pop, walked a few steps and collapsed to the ground. When he tried to stand up Chase couldn’t put any weight on his left leg.
At Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health Monday, an X-ray revealed Chase had a fracture in his allograft femur — the cadaver bone that was used to replace his own left femur. That is the location where Ewing’s sarcoma first attacked Chase’s body when he was 13.
The X-ray showed Chase also had several broken screws and a broken plate, part of the hardware that helps stabilize his leg and donor bone, his aunt Shelly Smith posted to Chase’s GoFundMe page.
Chase’s trip to Cleveland for radiation will still happen, but is now planned for next week. Surgery on his leg is scheduled for Thursday.
She said Chase isn’t in severe pain, but is using crutches to get around. He sometimes struggles to find a comfortable position, even when sitting.
“Prayers for his comfort, continued peace, wisdom for his awesome medical team and as always for his total healing are what we ask for,” Shelly Smith wrote. “We are so thankful for each of you and cannot express adequately how much your prayers and encouragement help to carry us all on the hard days.”
‘I cannot put into words’
As Christmas approached, Chase received good news. Chemotherapy was working to stabilize cancer on his lungs and abdomen. But almost immediately after, scans showed the cancer had grown behind his eye and in his jaw. Chase was also having headaches; he has multiple tumors in his head.
Chase wanted to wait until after the holidays to travel to Cleveland for radiation treatment, “but it needed to be done,” said his mom, Kelli Smith.
Christmas, the busy holiday season and family time, added to the aftereffects of radiation and caused some tough days for Chase, she said.
He was able to be there for some family gatherings, playing bingo, exchanging gifts, dinners out — and hanging onto his wife Sadie, whom he married in April when he learned his cancer was terminal.
“I cannot put into words how much I love this man,” Sadie posted to Instagram with a photo last week.
Sadie, as always, will be by his side as Chase has some critical days ahead. This will be the first time doctors have targeted that area behind his eye with radiation.
“As of right now, I know that he will be getting five treatments to his right eye,” Kelli wrote on Facebook. “How does that happen, what are the effects, how will he feel? I don’t know. This is uncharted territory for us.”
There is a possibility radiation could cause blindness, doctors told the family when they initially discussed the treatment to the eye last year.
But as they have for the past nine months, Chase, Sadie and their families choose to not focus on what might be, and instead live one day at a time, appreciate each moment and trust in their faith.
“We have learned throughout this journey,” Kelli said, “that you celebrate the goodness when you can.”