By Rachel Tuggle
STEPHENVILLE (January 13, 2016)– Stephenville High School teacher Carl Smith’s life changed forever last fall when he learned that he had a brain tumor.
But after numerous tests and a brain surgery, Smith is on his way to a full recovery. In honor of the journey Smith is on toward full health, he will be one of the honorees at the annual SHS Coaches for the Cure basketball game.
“It was very humbling [to find out about being an honoree],” Smith said. “But I know how important it is to thank people for their support and to give encouragement to others, that we are there for each other and encourage each other.”
Smith went to his doctor last September after experiencing several different symptoms that concerned him, including a limp, balance problems and losing the fine motor skills in his right arm.
“I could be on level ground with no obstructions in the way, and I would have to widen my stance or brace on the wall,” Smith said.
After an MRI on Smith’s brain revealed a spot, he was referred to a neurosurgeon. Smith began a leave of absence from work on October 14 and visited the neurosurgeon on October 17.
“I knew I had a problem,” Smith said. “My symptoms were getting worse, and more symptoms were being added in the three weeks leading up to that Oct. 17 appointment. So, my wife and I were already of the mindset that, depending on what he says, we need to do something.”
The neurosurgeon shared startling news. Based on the different MRIs, the neurosurgeon could not determine whether the tumor was inside the brain pushing out or outside pushing in. Regardless, something needed to be done.
“So, we said we agreed and he said, “Well, I have an opening. One of my surgeries canceled tomorrow. Do you want it?”” Smith said. “[My wife and I] looked at each other and said, ‘Yes we do.'”
So on Oct. 18, Smith underwent a six hour brain surgery.
“We didn’t have time for a lot of hand wringing,” Smith said. “We were in preparation mode.”
During that surgery, the doctor found the tumor to be in between the cerebellum. He removed the part outside the brain but had to leave the part of the tumor that was inside the brain, because it was so close to the brain stem.
“So, I’ve had a pathology report of what was excised,” Smith said. “I’ve had a biopsy of what was left. I’ve had MRIs from my head, neck, chest and abdomen area all the way down the spine. I’ve had CT scans. I’ve had secondary reports of the biopsy, and I’ve had a cancer doctor look at some suspicious spots on my spine. Every one of them said clear, no problem, benign.”
Smith will go back for check-ups every six months and then every year to keep an eye on the tumor. But, other than that, life for Smith will return to normal. He returned to school last week and has been cleared for everything except driving his afternoon bus route.
“I’m happy to be back, but it is tiring,” Smith said. “I’ve got to build up my endurance and stamina. I still have some balance issues. Hearing is still a little hypersensitive, but it’s getting better.”
Smith teaches special education with an emphasis in English at the high school. He also coaches UIL feature writing. Teaching is actually Smith’s third career after spending 11 years in banking and 12 in children’s youth ministry.
“I had an opportunity that I believed was my calling to apply what I learned in business and ministry and education to make a difference in the lives of kids,” Smith said.
Smith is still heavily involved in ministry at Graham Street Church of Christ. He also loves spending time with his family. He has two sons, Brad and Steven Smith, who graduated from Stephenville High School. Smith and his wife, Terry Smith, celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary in December.
“We feel blessed where we [are],” Smith said.