Nelson County man receives a second chance at life with new medical trial

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Marnie Smith feels at peace on the farm.

"There's something about being on a tractor where you get away from the world," Smith said.

Growing up with 14 siblings and 800 acres in the countryside of Coxs Creek, he calls this a way of life where the work is never really done.

"We were never short of food. We raised our own food, even the cows and the butter," he said. "It's been an interesting life."

Though these days, Smith worries less about the tilling, the plowing and the mowing outside and more about what's growing inside of him. "They first discovered it in 2014. That's when they found the bladder cancer," Smith said.

Smith received a clean bill of health in September, but by December, "he was coughing a little bit and they did a scan," said Jeanie, Smith's wife.

"One of the worst CT scans I'd ever seen in my life. His bladder cancer metastasized or spread to his lungs and his bone," said Dr. Arash Rezazadeh, an oncology specialist at Norton Healthcare.

"It was so bad my wife had to help me get my feet in bed," Smith said.

"That was about as weak as I'd seen him. One night I wasn't sure we were going to get from the den to the bedroom," Jeanie said.

Cancer ravaged Marnie Smith. By March of 2016, he could barely stand, let alone walk. Doctors told him time was running out. Radiation and chemo no longer helped. "He said you can either go home and live about six months or you can try something new," Smith said.

Referred to an oncology specialist at Norton Hospital in downtown Louisville, Smith entered clinical trial, testing a drug not even approved yet by the FDA and so secret, the maker won't reveal its name.

"This particular trial that Marnie went on is targeted therapy, targeting the gene that makes the cancer grow fast and survive," said Dr. Rezazadeh.

Two pills a day brought a remarkable recovery. "It's just unreal how fast this has changed," Smith said.

"Absolutely I've never seen anything like that, never seen anything like that in all my years of medicine," said. Dr. Rezazadeh.

"You pray and you expect the Lord will answer prayer, but you don't expect it to be within a week. It's going to take longer than that and it didn't," Jeanie said.

Attacking the cancer gene reduced the tumors in Smith's lungs to half their original size. Within days of the new treatment, he was off oxygen, on his feet and feeling cancer free.

The 76-year-old man has been given a second chance at life, almost like a story made for a movie. Almost.

When WDRB asked about Marnie's diagnosis, Dr. Rezazedah said, "I think he will most likely die of cancer."

"We don't think that this is a cure. It's control of the disease rather than cure of the disease," said Dr. Rezazedah.

Nonetheless, it's a promising breakthrough for millions of other patients like Smith who are considered terminally ill, who could possibly live comfortably with the disease.

It's a way to manage cancer more like diabetes.

"I don't have any guarantee that I will live to be 100 but at least I've got a quality of life now," Smith said.

The family cherishes every minute they've been given back knowing the inevitable.

"We just got back from Gatlinburg. The whole family got to go. That was a blessing," Jeanie said.

"I think that's always in the back of your mind in terms of 'okay, how long is this going to last,' but you take it day by day," Jeanie said.

When asked what does having more time mean, Smith responded, "I guess it tells me God's not through with me yet and I guess I gotta figure out what he wants me to do. Someday I hope to be able to go out and do a regular days work."

What do you do with more time? If you're Marnie Smith, you make it count.

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