Kenny Smith of Portola, California had no idea of the battle he would face when diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in September of 2010. At one point, blood clots in his lungs and legs nearly killed him, but thankfully, after treatment, Kenny went into remission.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of Kenny’s cancer story. In November 2012, he was diagnosed with a second cancer, HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer affecting is throat, tonsils, and tongue, which is believed to have been activated when his immune system was damaged by the Hodgkin’s treatments. After again receiving treatment, including robotic surgery performed on his mouth and neck and outpatient radiation, Kenny’s second cancer was in remission. This victory has not been without its price. These cancers and their treatments have left Kenny with permanent nerve damage in his legs and hands, preventing him from working in his profession as a truck driver and forcing him to survive off Social Security Disability payments.
When he was diagnosed with HPV, Kenny and his wife Sherilyn learned about the Kiwanis Family House from a friend who had been a former guest of KFH. According to Kenny, the key word at the Kiwanis Family House is “family.” During their numerous stays at the House, Kenny and Sherilyn have made many new friends, occasionally giving them money or buying them meals. Kenny has noticed how guest families lift each other up when they are enduring low points.
Financially, Kenny and Sherilyn could not have afforded to come to Sacramento for treatment without the housing the Kiwanis Family House offered. But the emotional support they have received from the staff and fellow guests has been so much more valuable to the Smiths. According to Kenny, the people at the Kiwanis Family House have helped them both to keep a positive attitude through their trials, and to even thrive. Kenny says, “I have been angry, but this is another world where everybody listens and cares. This place makes you want to care for them.” He points to the caring staff of KFH as a source of strength that both he and Sherilyn draw from when needed.
Kenny and Sherilyn are so grateful for the friendship and support they have received at the Kiwanis Family House that they regularly volunteer their time, housekeeping and landscaping around the House during their stay. Kenny and Sherilyn are currently guests of the House and their battle is not over, but both are hopeful that, with the support of their KFH “family,” they will ultimately win Kenny’s battle with cancer.