Gayle Smith is funny, smart and accomplished. She has an infectious laugh, the kind that, when you hear it, you know it can’t be anyone else.
A former nurse, the North Canton resident is vice president of KEPRO, an international medical management company.
Yet, a life of medical expertise didn’t prepare Smith for a phone call from her doctor in March that changed the trajectory of her life. During a business trip in Tampa, Florida, Smith’s doctor, Mioara Tudosie, called to inform her she had beast cancer, detected during a routine mammogram.
“I never thought I’d be on the receiving end,” she said. “It took my breath away. I’ve always been as healthy as a horse. I have no family history.”
Smith said Tudosie texted her regularly, assuring her that, “We’ll get through this.”
For Smith, the diagnosis felt like a loss of control.
“I had to learn how to be a patient,” she said with a laugh.
At times, undergoing radiation treatment, she admits, felt “overwhelming and vulnerable.”
But Smith said she has many things for which to be grateful, including the care and support she received from Mercy Medical Center, as well as from her husband, Rick, of 44 years; their children, Allison and Mathew; and her four grandchildren.
“My husband was wonderful,” she said. “He pampered me.”
She said she’s also fortunate to have a supportive boss in KEPRO CEO Joe Dougher, whom she calls “fabulous.”
Smith underwent a lumpectomy at Mercy Medical Center’s one-day surgery facility, followed by six weeks of radiation.
No lymph nodes had to be removed.
“I’m so blessed,” Smith said. “There are women who are worse than me.”
Smith said Stark County is fortunate to have a wealth of high quality health care.
“I’m a big believer in local health care,” she said. “I see health care all over the United States and believe me, we’re so blessed to be in a community that has great physicians. I’m so grateful to live here.”
Smith lauds Mercy Medical Center, from the care delivered by surgeon Dr. Russell Ramey, to the support of Karen Coughlin, a longtime friend and director of Mercy’s Cancer Center.
“They were fabulous,” Smith said. “I can’t say enough about them.”
Smith, who recently finished her radiation treatment, said she advises anyone who gets diagnosed to find help in navigating through the system. For her, Coughlin, a former nursing school classmate, served as that person.
“They have a phenomenal program,” she said of Mercy. “But you need somebody to help you.”