CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Prom is just around the corner, followed by the glorious heat of summer. It is the perfect time for tanning; it is also the most dangerous.
Take it from someone who has been there.
Sarah Smith was born and raised in Spencer and graduated from Roane County High School in 1999. By the time Smith was in the eighth grade, her mother was an obsessive tanner and allowed Smith to tan for a Sweetheart Dance.
During her sophomore year in high school, her parents purchased a home tanning bed, and Smith became obsessed with maintaining a dark tan, sometimes tanning twice a day. She went to the pool on many occasions and said, "I never remember wearing sunscreen."
Smith went first to Marshall but later transferred to West Virginia State University, where she met her husband, Jon. In September 2008, their daughter, Addison, was born. Her world seemed almost perfect, but the family would soon encounter a major life obstacle.
On March 18, 2009, Smith was diagnosed with Stage III Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. She began treatment with the drug Interferon in June of that year and completed the 164 treatments the following June.
"I was determined to fight," Smith said. "It all happened so fast; there wasn't much time to overanalyze."
She coped with her diagnosis through faith and praying, along with constant support from her husband, family and church. She also focused on raising her young daughter.
The diagnosis only made her family closer and stronger. Jon filled the roles she could not, while still filling his own. He was the husband, wife, father, mother, teacher, cook, etc. Smith's dad and siblings would take her to her treatments and sometimes cook dinner for her family. It made everyone more aware of their current health, especially because skin cancer can be genetic.
"I have one friend, Amber Sloan, who checked on me literally everyday. She was great through it all," said Smith, who is currently in remission, though still being monitored.
After everything that has happened, she doesn't take anything for granted. Now she has a whole new perspective on life.
"Sometimes when I wake up and my body hurts [as a lingering side effect of treatments], instead of complaining, I thank the Lord that I am alive to feel the pain," she said.