Cancer patient urges others to live life to fullest
Rickie Smith’s Story
By Rebecca Watson Telegraph-Journal, October 12, 2015
“Sometimes you just have to go ahead, say a prayer and weather the storm.”
These words are taken from one of the daily emails sent by Rickie Smith, a cancer patient at the Saint John Regional Hospital, to everyone on his friends list, in hopes of inspiring them to keep living life to the fullest, he said.
“Every time I go into the hospital I send the message - Rickie one, cancer zero,” said Smith, who was diagnosed in May 2012 with Waldenstrom, a rare slow-growing type of cancer also known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
During his time at the hospital since then, Smith has enjoyed wearing blue wigs, telling jokes, anything to raise the spirits of those going through chemotherapy, Donna Makepeace said, who is a nurse in the chemotherapy room at the Saint John Regional Hospital.
Donna Makepeace, charge nurse of out patients chemotherapy room at Saint John Regional Hospital, laughs with optimist Rickie Smith, a cancer patient, in the oncology unit, while holding a personal photo of Smith wheeling a coffee cart. Photo: Rebecca Watson/Telegraph-Journal
“We all know him as the funny coffee man,” she said, adding Smith is a very positive, friendly and helpful person.
“In our chemotherapy room people think it would be a sad place but there’s a lot of laughter because of patients like him.”
Despite being told he would need countless hours of chemotherapy, the former superintendent of operations at Canada Post started thinking about what positive opportunities the news could bring.
“I’m not going to lie, at my first chemotherapy session I was nervous but I made a deal with God. I said to him ‘whatever comes, give me everything you got, just keep me alive so I can share with people who are going through the same thing.’ So far he’s kept his end of the deal,”Smith said.
From that point on nearly all his spare time was spent researching cancer to help educate himself and others.
“I’m a sponge of information and (the) way I see it is, if I can learn everything about the disease, I can talk to other people about it and help them too with what we’re going through,” he said.
Even before being diagnosed Smith has been an avid volunteer from being director of the Shiners band for 13 years to accepting people into his home.
Jennifer Qiao, a Chinese immigrant Smith housed when she came to Canada 15 years ago to study, says he is nothing short of a miracle to her.
“After I graduated from university we still remained friends and when he got cancer everybody worried about him but he is a very positive person. He continues sending us emails to let everybody know they can keep positive about life, and don’t feel scared for him but appreciate what we have today,”she said.
Although he knows there is no cure for Waldenstrom, Smith says he doesn’t think about life in a set number of days.
“If someone’s given five years to live and you’re in year three, I look at it like two years will bring further technology to keep me alive longer and hopefully find a cure,”he said.
Last year Smith proved his upbeat attitude following four stem-cell extractions over four days; roughly four hours a session.
“It felt like they tipped me upside down and shook me. I joke but that’s what it felt like,” he laughed, adding some days are better than others.
Caroline Clark, the sister of Murray Richard Erb (a.k.a. Rick), one of Smith’s friends who recently died from cancer, says Smith helped her brother more than he knows.
“He came to see him in the hospital all the time and is just the type of guy who wants to be there to help out. My brother had a positive attitude too, the both of them dealt with the cancer, but it’s inspiring how (Rickie) made other people feel better about his own illness,” Clark said.
Today Smith gets chemotherapy about once every two months and still gets extreme nose bleeds among other side effects of his illness.
“The nose bleeds are one of the most painful things I’ve ever endured. The doctor pushes gauze up my nose and then puts a second tubular reinforced gauze up my nose after that. Very painful. But you know, I look for the benefits of having cancer. I’ve learned that once you get your card there’s no waiting in line at the hospital,” he said with a wink.