Lucas Smith is a high-school student from Columbus, Texas and 2014 graduate of St. Anthony Catholic School. He is an avid fan of many sports, but loves to play baseball. He started playing tee-ball in the local Little League when he was four. He has also participated in the Cal Ripken League, Babe Ruth League and currently plays on the high school team.
Lucas had his first surgical biopsy of a mass in his neck at the age of 6. He had lymph nodes removed and pathology classified the mass a benign tumor. The surgeon told his family there was no way to know what it was, and no way to know whether or not he would ever have another one. Photos from his first grade Thanksgiving Feast that year show Lucas being silly in his pilgrim hat with bandages on his neck.
At the age of 12 Lucas had a new mass in his neck, but this time he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The prescribed treatment plan included three rounds of chemo, with each round having three actual days of chemo and the remainder of the days being non-chemo drugs or rest. To his baseball-loving family, that sounded a lot like a baseball game: 3 treatment days per round times 3 rounds = 9 innings. Because his immune system was weakened during treatments, Lucas was not allowed to attend school. His junior-high teachers at St. Anthony’s School worked diligently not only to ensure he understood his coursework, but to keep him connected to his classmates by skyping during specified classes. Some of the younger grades regularly sent Lucas hand-made cards filled with prayers and get-well wishes. Lucas completed all 9 innings, received a clean PET scan and was released to resume life.
A little less than a year later, Lucas developed a new mass in his neck and the following year he was diagnosed with relapsed Hodgkin’s. The course of treatment was more aggressive and required two nearly week-long hospitalizations. When he was released from the hospital after the first round, he went home and suited up to play ball. His mom tried to talk him out of it, but Lucas told her, “My team needs me.” As a first baseman, his warm up included throwing the ball to second, short stop and third base. He threw to second base a couple of times but couldn't get the ball all the way to third. He was absolutely shocked at his physical weakness but he was a trooper. He played when he could and cheered from the bench when he needed to and his team was very supportive. They were so supportive, in fact, that one of the coaches designed new jerseys that included Lucas’s jersey #13 on every player’s sleeve. The team wore the jerseys when they hosted the 14U Babe Ruth South Texas Regional Tournament, where Lucas was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and a summary of his journey was shared with the crowd. Many players from other teams wished him well and related to him that his story touched them, made them understand that their summer of playing ball was about so much more than baseball. He received similar sentiments when the team wore the jerseys the next month when they participated in the 14U Babe Ruth World Series in Ocala, Florida.
He returned home from Florida, started high school and radiation treatments. Lucas was measured for a custom ‘mask’ that he wore during administration of the radiation treatments. The mask was placed over his head and neck, then bolted to a table to prevent him from moving. Treatments lasted two weeks. Again, Lucas received a clean PET and was released to resume life.
Two years later Lucas developed a new mass in the same area of his neck. Again after watching for a while, then surgery, for a second time Lucas was diagnosed with relapsed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, his third diagnosis, in March of 2017. Now he and his family are waiting for testing, results and the team of doctors to propose a treatment plan.