Wednesday, June 11, 2014


J-E News Editor
Webster County Relay for life will be hosting its 2014 event on Saturday, June 14, at Trojan Field in Dixon.
As we prepare for the event, The Journal-Enterprise would like to take an opportunity to honor a few Webster County residents who have won their battle with cancer. Their stories are all different, but each one is an inspiration.
Dixon area resident Hugh Smith summed up his experience with lung cancer by saying “I’m an extremely lucky individual.” Many people might agree with that summation.

In late 2011 Smith got very sick. By the time he went to the emergency room at Baptist Health (formerly Regional Medical Center) in Madisonville, he was dehydrated and vomiting. ER doctors ran the normal series of tests they would give anybody with those symptoms, including an upper abdominal x-ray. Ultimately he was diagnosed with food poisoning.
“Then the physician came in and told me that I had a small spot on my lung,” Smith said. While investigating the food poisoning, doctors had just happened to spot the five centimeter spot on his left lung. “I was fortunate that they caught it very early. It was still very small.”
Smith said that in most cases, lung cancer doesn’t show itself until it’s in stage three or four.
“There just aren’t any symptoms,” he said. “You don’t feel it. It’s in there growing until it’s too late. A lot of people don’t catch it this early.”
After being diagnosed, Smith went to see Dr. Lee S. Wagmeister, a Thoracic and Cardiac Surgeon at Deaconess Health Systems in Evansville. Wagmeister resected the part of his lung affected by the cancer in January of 2012.
“They told us it was about the size of a Coke can,” added Hugh’s wife Carol.
After surgery, oncologist asked Smith how he wanted to proceed.
“They asked if I wanted to be aggressive or not,” he said. “When you are at that stage, you’re cared to death. But I thought about my kids and grandkids and knew I wanted to be aggressive.”
Smith took radiation treatments in his left lung, but things did not go as expected. He said the treatments basically cooked much of the remaining part of his lung, leaving him with only 20 to 25 percent capacity. The scar tissue also paralyzed his vocal cords and left him prone to pneumonia in that lung.
“Now I have pneumonia all the time,” he said. “I take antibiotics three times a week. Every time I go off of them the pneumonia comes back.”
“But he’s alive,” said Carol. “And so far the doctors have told him he’s cancer free.”
Despite the difficulty he had with the radiation, Smith still urges anyone who might be having problems to see a doctor.
“You need to have it checked out,” he said. “And have it checked out by an oncologist.”
Like many other cancer survivors, Smith and his wife have become regular attendees of Webster County’s Relay for Life event.
“I encourage anyone who goes through this, and their family, to get involved with Relay,” Smith said. “It can be a really good support system.”

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