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Re’Shonda Smith: The Intersection of Faith in Losing My Mom to Cancer

Intersection is defined as, “a point at which two or more things intersect, especially roads.” It had only been a little over a year since mom passed away from pancreatic cancer. Yet I still found myself thinking about those last interactions with her. Did I make the right choices? Did I not have enough faith? Did I influence her to choose the right treatment plan? Why didn’t the previous providers think to question the new health trends? How could she not know something was wrong with her? So many questions unrelated yet very related. In retrospect, my faith, my actions and my work all seem to intersect. 

I remember being at work and receiving the news it was suspected mom had cancer. My immediate response was to go to a private hallway, fall face down on my knees, cry out and pray to my God. Historically, it is what I witnessed my family do whenever trials were experienced. I saw God work on behalf of my parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts when they gave their situations over to God. In the midst of my heartache and fear, I believed God would do it for me. Even if not for me, God definitely would honor the faith of my mother. After praying, I knew I needed to act fast.

My first action was to drive to Louisiana from Houston to assess the situation. My mom was at a local hospital in my hometown. Once I arrived, I spoke with the doctor. The doctor informed me that the type of cancer and treatment my mother needed could not be provided there. He mentioned that prior to my arrival, my family informed him that I worked at a large facility that specialized in cancer care.  The doctor suggested that if it were possible, treatment at the facility where I worked would be her best chance for survival. I knew he was right.

I had watched mom’s appearance change so drastically over the past month, and now she was lying in a hospital bed. Again, I knew I must act fast. The phone calls to insurance companies and my affiliates at the cancer center started immediately. There was no time to have any “woe is me” moments; she needed treatment as soon as possible if she were to survive.

The team of providers involved in caring for my mother was phenomenal. The approach taken was a holistic approach to treating her. The plan involved a medical and physical care regimen, as well as a mental health regimen. Immediately after treatment began, I watched her now frail body begin to slowly strengthen and spring back. I witnessed her stamina improve; her voice became strong again. 

After about two months, she began to get up without hesitation. She put her “jack of all trades” hat back on as she stepped back into the lead caregiver role for our family, her church and the local community, as she graciously did in her past. Mom did experience some ups and downs but definitely more ups than downs. I watched her unwavering faith during the good and not so good times. She often could be heard quoting her favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 19:21, to family and those providing care: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

God gave me almost two more years with her before he decided to call her home.  On her headstone, you will find Proverbs 19:21. I often think of this verse. In fact, my mother’s passing has inspired me to prioritize seeking God’s purpose for my life. So far, I can’t say I am 100% sure of my God-ordained purpose, but I do believe my purpose involves work and providing care that is impactful to others.

I often say, “Advocacy chose me.” I’m not sure why, but people often come to me for help regarding their physical, medical and mental health problems. Although I have not fine-tuned the explanation of my purpose, I do believe God created me to be a caregiver. As the Bible says, “Look out for the least of these.” God has ordered my footsteps in a way that I sit in a position to be able to help others. 

As I continue to be a good steward of the gifts God has granted me, I say thank you to Him by using my education, my position and the opportunities placed before me, such as the Susan G. Komen Worship in Pink program, to serve God and His people. Through serving as an Ambassador for the Worship in Pink program, I relate to a place where three roads intersect – faith, action and work. 

As I reflect on the last couple of years of my life, I realized that having a strong belief system – my faith – was essential to my outlook on my mom’s diagnosis. My faith allowed me to hear the diagnosis of cancer but know that the diagnosis had no power over God’s ability to work through others and on behalf of God’s children. My actions were a direct reflection of my faith. I trusted God to be a healer and to open doors for my mom because she belonged to Him, so I made phone calls expecting God to touch the heart of His children and open doors for my mom. I must say, God didn’t let me down. She was admitted to the cancer hospital within days of her diagnosis. My present work is a direct representation of my gratefulness for God’s goodness. 

Serving as a Worship in Pink Ambassador, or an advocate for those forgotten or overlooked, is me showing gratitude to God. Teaching others how to care for themselves and arming them with the resources to do it is a gift to me. Thank you to the team at Komen for allowing me to partner with them and other organizations to advocate for historically marginalized communities.  I would like to give a special thanks to my mother, Mildred Faye Smith, for being a perfect example of a woman of God, mother, wife and community advocate.  May you continue to rest in Heaven.

Dr. Re’Shonda Smith has over 24 years of experience as a registered nurse with over 17 of those years spent working as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). Dr. Smith received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical College and a Master of Science in nurse anesthesia from the University of New England. In August 2018, Dr. Smith completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the Cizik School of Nursing at the University of Texas. She currently works as a CRNA at a large teaching hospital in Houston, Texas.

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment. 

To contact the Komen Breast Cancer Helpline, please call 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email All calls are answered by a trained specialists Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. EST – 7 p.m. EST and Friday 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. EST. Se hablaespañol.