During his 25 years on the force, San Diego Police Officer Christopher Smith has come face to face with criminals of all sorts.
The strong and steady demeanor Smith forged in the line of duty has also served him well in his battle with cancer.
In 2004, Smith was diagnosed with colon cancer and had the tumor surgically removed. After radiation and chemotherapy treatments, he remained cancer-free for the next four years. But during a follow-up visit in 2008, a CT scan revealed the cancer had returned.
This time, the tumor was growing in the inner lining of his abdomen and invading into his muscle, bladder and small intestine. The spread of cancer cells made complete surgical removal nearly impossible. Nor was chemotherapy viable, since the drugs would become too diluted upon reaching the tumor site.
Smith was sorting through possible treatment options when he began consulting with Scripps surgical oncologist Dr. Mark Sherman. Dr. Sherman informed Smith about a relatively new, two-pronged strategy that was showing impressive results with abdominal cancer patients.
The first step is to surgically remove as much of the tumor from the abdominal surfaces as possible. With the surgical site still open, the second step is to apply heated chemotherapy solution directly to any cancer cells that may remain in the abdominal lining – effectively bathing the entire abdomen with chemo. The cancer-killing property of heat enhances the treatment’s effect.
“I took the approach of wanting to be as aggressive as possible to get rid of it, but also needing to be able to function effectively in my daily life afterward,” Smith said. “After researching what was available and talking at length with the team at Scripps, I was confident and ready for the new approach.”
Following successful surgery by Dr. Sherman and his partner, Dr. Cheryl Olson, at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Smith embarked on a months-long journey of recuperation and rehabilitation. This included walking, biking and eventually sailing with his teenage daughter, which provided physical and emotional healing.
Now returned to health and cancer-free, Smith, 49, has resumed active duty as a patrol officer, where he feels his work has the greatest impact. “I’m back to where I want to be, in a position to help people,” Smith said.
Smith, Dr. Sherman and Dr. Olson will be honored during pregame ceremonies June 1 at Petco Park. Scripps has been the official health care provider to the Padres since 1981. To find a Scripps physician, call 1-800-SCRIPPS.