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Smith family prays for miracle
Feb 02, 2006 12:00 am
January 31, 2006
When Lindy Smith looks at her son Hawk, she sees past his puffy cheeks and looks straight into his blue eyes. And smiles a big smile, because he's watching.
Her mother's instinct tells her while 30 consecutive days of radiation slightly transformed the looks of her little boy, the grueling treatment may have borrowed some precious time. Time to take him to the zoo and aquarium and enroll him in gymnastics and art classes. Time to hold him and make his life as normal as possible as long as possible.
Hawk, 4, was diagnosed Dec. 15 with an inoperable, malignant brain tumor. Tomorrow he will endure his last dose of radiation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Smith will hold him and tell him it's time for "Mr. Tubey" — the medicine tube embedded in his chest — to get a drink. Hawk will fall asleep in her arms and she will gently give him up to the powerful radiation meant to shrink the extremely rare cancer called Pontine Glioma.
With Hawk in her arms and her father, Ken McPeak, close by for support, Smith explains the cancer that has invaded her boy's brain is so rare there are only 2,000 known cases in the United States. She cringes when she further explains it is so hideous and aggressive Hawk has only a 5-percent chance of living 12 to 24 months. The single mother and Watertown Elementary School teacher said after tomorrow there's really nothing more medicine can do. But, she believes in miracles.
"We want to keep his life as normal as possible," she said. "Our prayer is for a miracle. The only way I can deal with this is to know God's in control. This treatment may give me more time with him, and I just want to take advantage of that."
She said she's happy Hawk won't have to go back to the doctor. So is Hawk. He sits on "Pa's" lap — grandfather Ken McPeak's — and munches on a sausage and biscuit. All he knows is he has a "boo boo" in his head and his debilitating treatments are doses of "medicine to make me feel good."
Always small for his age, Hawk is a bundle of energy. When Smith wasn't teaching at Watertown Elementary School, she was busy chasing Hawk. When her daughter, Skyla, was born 16 months ago, she happily had her hands full. Hawk is a great big brother.
The first sign of trouble was when Smith began to notice subtle changes in her son. His eye turned in and his left leg started to drag. It was on a field trip with school system care givers when Hawk took a rapid turn for the worse. Wilson County school system extended care director Gayle Hooper said the normally energetic little boy began to drag and couldn't walk up the steps.
"I knew something was terribly wrong," she said. "I had to carry him."
Smith rushed Hawk to the emergency room for a CAT scan. The next day the doctors floored her with his diagnosis. The cancer was so aggressive, in just three days Smith's boy went from a bundle of energy to incapable of walking. She took an unpaid leave from her teaching position to be with Hawk during his treatment which included steroids that caused him to balloon from 32 to 40 pounds.
During treatment Hawk was limp and achy. His joints and muscles hurt, and he just wanted to be left alone most of the time. McPeak said it's been an ordeal watching his daughter deal with such a devastating blow and to see his grandson so sick.
"Of course, I wish it would have been me, not Hawk," he said emotionally. "We are there for them as much as possible."
McPeak spends almost everyday with his grandson and has only missed one or two radiation treatments. He reads to Hawk at the hospital and plays Go Fish, over and over again.
"What we need are prayers," he said. "And what floors us is the total outreach from the community."
When news of Hawk's sickness spread, people came from all over to help. Churches offered meals. One little girl spent her own money to build Hawk a special teddy bear that holds 16 hearts, one for each of his classmates.
Hooper said Friday a benefit concert "Flight for Life" is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Watertown High School with famed "Nashville Star" Jason Meadow headlining. Other performers are Carolina Rain and Hillary Scott as well as a slate of local performers A silent auction also will begin at 6 p.m. with a fiddle autographed by Charlie Daniels as one of many items up for bid.
"This community cares so much for this family," Hooper said. "The fund-rasiers are an attempt to take the financial burden off Lindy."
Other concerned friends have sold frames and donated the money to the family. Hooper noted March 11 is the tentative date for country music star and Wilson County native Erika Jo Heriges to perform a fund-raising concert at Mt. Juliet High School.
Smith said in addition to her mother and father's support, Hawk's other grandparents have been an invaluable source of inspiration as well. She said her son can't receive any more treatments and now it's time to load up on the memories. She holds out for that miracle.
"I pretend this is not happening," she said. "I am upbeat around Hawk. It's when he's not around me when I break down. So, I have him around me as often as possible."
Now that treatments are over, she'll go back to the classroom, a thought that has her reaching for Hawk.
"I want Hawk to live as much of life as he can," she said. "Some may think I should shut him up in the house. I refuse to do that. We went to the circus last night. This has brought so many people together and touched so many hearts."
And Smith's heart has been touched in such a way it shows in her eyes.
"Yep, you better believe it," she said holding Hawk's hand. "We are signing up for gymnastics first thing. Art classes aren't far behind!"
Mt. Juliet Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by e-mail at email@example.com.