Meet Leigh Smithies, seizing the moment

South Western Times

When it comes to hardships, Leigh Smithies has faced more than her fair share, but her inspiring positive attitude refuses to let the unimaginable adversity she has faced stop her from seizing each day.

Two years ago, Leigh’s husband Regan received a life-changing diagnosis following a simple eye test.

“He was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia,” she said.

“They picked up some haemorrhages on his retina and suggested he go for a blood test and two days later we were in Perth.

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“He had to have a bone marrow biopsy just to confirm which type it was and then started on treatments.”

Despite the devastating diagnosis, Leigh said they were lucky it had been caught early.

“He had about eight weeks of generic chemotherapy and he is now on a specialised treatment for his type of leukaemia,” she said.

“It has taken 12 months for it to get under control and now he is at his molecular response, so it’s not a remission, but as long as he takes his medication he should be OK.”

Tragically, six months after the diagnosis, the couple had to face a tragedy no parent should – the death of their son Aidan at just 7 years of age.

Wearing all the necessary protective gear, Aidan was riding his 50cc motorbike, one of his favourite thing in the world, when he lost control.

“Instead of flowers we requested donations for the Leukaemia Foundation at that point and pretty much everything we have done since has been for him,” she said.

“We had a really crap six months. We had just dealt with the diagnosis and then we lost our son.

“Life has been pretty ordinary but we have come up with new ways to do things and it sounds silly to say, but we consider ourselves lucky that we still have each other.

“Regan is well and we are doing a lot more travelling, but I like having something to put my energy into, so I did the light the night last year and managed to fund raise over $2000 for that.”

This year Leigh will shave her head in Aidan’s name alongside her sister and team #travelswithaidan in March.

“Aidan would think it was funny if I shaved my head so I am going to do it,” she said.

Despite their world being plunged into darkness, the couple strives to make the most of every day and live without regrets, with Leigh recently losing an impressive 36 kilos.

“I decided I needed to be fit and healthy so I can do everything I want to do.”

“We have days with this treatments which are not so great and he still has side effects from his medication and some months he can be fine – we are just trying to seize what days we have and make the most of them.

“We have a passion for camping and the outdoors – it’s something we used to enjoy doing altogether with Aidan and we try and go at least once a month.

“We have always seized the day, but now we know it is even more significant.”

While Leigh and Regan were lucky they did not have to use many of Leukaemia Foundation’s services, she stressed the importance of the support available for people diagnosed with Leukaemia.

“We know that everyone from Bunbury has to go to Perth, you don’t have a choice,” she said.

“There is no haematologist here, everything we have done we have had to go to Perth.

“The fact the foundation offers accommodation support and counselling – my mum used the counselling service to find out information to help us out and things like that – is so important.”

Leigh said the donations had helped to advance the treatment of leukaemia significantly, as 25 years ago Regan’s diagnosis would have been terminal.

She said this was the reason the community’s support was critical and encouraged people to get involved either by cutting or colouring their hair, donating to a team or donating time a as volunteer.

Visit http://www.worldsgreatestshave.com/take-part to get involved.

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