Lori Smith has a positive outlook on life. She loves her family and the Palos Park community. The only real battle Smith’s family had to face over the years was choosing between her Chicago Cubs or her husband’s Chicago White Sox, until Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Smith, 66, was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), 16 years ago. DCIS is a noninvasive form of breast cancer described as the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast and is considered the earliest form of breast cancer.
Through a lumpectomy and medical treatment at Little Company of Mary Hospital (LCMH), Smith was cleared of cancer until June of 2018 when it unfortunately returned. It was discovered through a routine mammogram.
The diagnosis came as a shock to Smith’s family, which includes her husband, Jim, three daughters (Julie, 41, Meredith, 39, and Jamie, 33) and five grandchildren.
But Smith remained positive.
“I never asked ‘why me,’” Smith said. “There are so many people out there that have it a lot worse than me. I can’t even begin to think about what some of these women go through.”
Jilma Patrick, M.D., fellowship-trained breast surgeon at LCMH, was the one who contacted Smith after her mammogram in June of 2018 because the images showed some concern. Patrick suggested a biopsy to further investigate the cells. Patrick’s notion proved true, as the biopsy did display atypical cells.
Under Patrick’s care, Smith underwent a lumpectomy on July 24, 2018 that revealed an invasive papillary carcinoma, a very rare type of invasive ductal breast cancer. She eventually heard good news on August 21 when she had another surgery that showed no additional cancer cells.
Smith described Patrick and her staff as wonderful and caring, and said turning to LCMH for her care was an easy decision.
“I had all of my children there and I love it there,” Smith said. “For me, it was a no brainer.”
Smith did not require chemotherapy but had to complete 16 days of radiation. On her final day of radiation on October 22, 2018, she recalls her husband, Jim, who she refers to as her rock, and LCMH staff awaiting her completion and greeting her with a handmade sign that read: “Congratulations! You did it! Now stay healthy!”
She is required to take an oral endocrine therapy pill for the next five years, along with continuing follow-up appointments and mammograms. She is now six months cancer-free.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Smith said. “It was a little rock on the road of life. You kick it aside and just keep on going.”
LCMH was happy to select Smith as this year’s spokesperson for the 20th Annual Beverly Breast Cancer Walk.
“Lori was chosen because of her success, warm and wonderful spirit and personality,” Octavia Bonds, Marketing and Community Relations Coordinator at Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers, said. “She was such an amazing person to talk to. She is very humbled to be chosen to be the spokesperson.”
“Lori was chosen based on her inspirational and motivational perspective on survivorship,” Lee Batsakis, Supervisor of Public Relations and Marketing at Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers, said. “She has an exemplary commitment to surveillance and follow-up as a two-time survivor. Lori is contagiously positive and determined.”
The Breast Center Team at the hospital chooses the walk spokesperson from a group of patients that have completed active treatment within the past year. This population usually ranges from 75-100 people, according to hospital staff.
Smith said she was honored to be chosen.
“When they called me to tell me the news, my eyes filled with tears,” Smith said while wiping back a tear, “I still get emotional about it. I am so humbled. Out of all of the women that they care for, they picked me.”
Smith’s role as spokesperson will be that of a storyteller with her personal story inspiring, motivating and supporting survivors and those that care for them. One story she shares is that her mother, Irene Miller, was diagnosed with the exact same form of breast cancer just three weeks prior to Smith’s first diagnosis 16 years ago. Her mother was treated through radiation and medicine and declared cancer free.
“I was never worried about myself during any of this; I was worried about my three daughters, and if I had passed this on to them,” Smith said.
Smith underwent genetic testing and found out she was not a carrier for the disease.
Over the past 19 years, the BBCW has raised more than $6 million to support LCMH’s award-winning Comprehensive Breast Health Center and has impacted the lives of thousands of breast cancer survivors like Smith.
The 3.5 mile walk that brings together 14,000 walkers annually highlights just how many people are touched by breast cancer, from survivors, to families, to friends, to healthcare teams.
“It reinforces a sense of community and unity,” Batsakis said.
This year’s walk continues the hospital’s commitment to further serving the needs of breast cancer patients and survivors in the Chicago Southland. Funds raised will be used to support and expand breast health programming at LCMH and will be used to assist to those who may be in financial crisis during their treatment.
Always held on Mother’s Day, this year’s Beverly Breast Cancer Walk will take place at 8 a.m. this coming Sunday, May 12 at Ridge Park, 96th Street and Longwood Drive, Chicago.