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DonnaBellas Angels Art and Melanoma Cancer Survivor, Susan Smith

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Teresa Mooneyham, Susan Smith, and Laurel Latto with Colorful Cancer Angel t-shirtBack in 2005, Laurel Latto traveled to San Antonio, Texas. During her flight, she was inspired to draw angels. That night, she met up with her friend, Teresa Mooneyham, who shared her story of a possible cancer diagnosis, as well as, supporting her friend, Susan Smith, had stage IV metastatic melanoma. (Read the full story on our "Angel Idea" page.) The result was the first cancer angel painting, "Colorful Cancer Angel".

Laurel was in San Antonio and presented Susan with a t-shirt that had been created by pediatric nurses at Texas Children's Cancer Center.

Susan continues to be in full remission for her melanoma. She was featured as a cancer survivor in a 2005 Proleukin ® calendar. Susan continues to be an inspiration to others coping with metastatic melanoma.

Photo (Left to Right): Teresa Mooneyham, Susan Smith, Laurel Latto

Click here for a photo gallery of more pictures of Susan.

Susan's words from 2004 about her cancer treatment and being part of 5% survival group:

I’ve been an oncology nurse for 25 years and cared for many cancer patients.  Over the years, you see how people react to cancer differently.  When I was diagnosed, I reacted by being busy.  It didn’t overwhelm me even though I knew the statistics.  I just took it as a matter of fact and thought, “What do I need to do next?”

I’m 50 years old and have lived in South Texas all my life, so my risk factor was multiple sunburns in my youth.  In 1987, I had a mole removed from my upper left chest area that was diagnosed as malignant melanoma.

In January 2003, I began to have shortness of breath and weight loss.  After a course of oral antibiotics, I went back to my doctor in February and found out I had lesions in my left lung and right chest wall, and involvement in the mediastinal area (the area between the lungs).  Working in oncology research, I knew my odds weren’t good, but I also knew I had access to one of the best oncologists in the world.  Dr. Geoffrey Weiss, of the Cancer Therapy and Research Center in San Antonio, immediately started me on high-dose Proleukin ® (aldesleukin) for injection therapy.

During the treatment, my entire skin peeled, but what a hidden benefit.  It was as if I had been to an expensive spa.  The side effects were awful, but I was able to take a few conference calls while confined to bed.  After the IL-2, the right chest wall lesion and mediastinal disease disappeared.  Although the tumor in my bottom left lung lobe decreased, the lobe was removed as a precaution in March 2004 and I’ve been cancer-free ever since.

I’d like to thank my devoted husband of 27 years who has stayed by my side, my terrific 14-year-old basketball playing son who would not let me forget the reason it was so important to fight for my life, and my wonderful friends and family members.  Someone has to make up that 5% survival rate in five years, and with all of these guardian angels praying and helping, I’ll be one of those long-term remissions.




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