Ready to make his comeback after a compound fracture in his right leg turned into a life-threatening infection, Alex Smith was testing out his new leg, that had been rebuilt over 17 surgeries, by sliding down a ski slope in Big Sky Montana.
Smith hadn’t skied since he signed with the NFL and he hoped that after, he’d be able to make up for lost time with his wife and three children, sharing the hobby with them that he grew up loving.
Commanding the slope was a major victory in his recovery but just as he healed, his young daughter was diagnosed with a rare malignant brain tumor, which left him feeling “helpless” and terrified.”
Still a highly pursued player when he retired in 2021, Alex Smith spent 16-years as a quarterback with the NFL. But he didn’t leave the game entirely, now he’s working as an analyst for ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown and multiple editions of Monday Night Countdown.
In 2018, the former No. 1 overall pick, was playing for the Washington Redskins (now Washington Commanders) when he broke his right tibia and fibula in a November game against the Houston Texans.
After the initial surgery, Smith, now 39, developed life-threatening flesh-eating disease and then sepsis, requiring 17 more surgeries to save his leg.
Placed on the team’s reserve list for the 2019 season, it was doubtful he would ever return to the game.
But, in 2020, he affirmed his intention to play and later that year, he was activated from the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and placed back on the roster for his triumphant return where he played until 2021.
Slowly slipping into retirement, Smith and his family were building their dream home and with his body fully recovered, he wanted to make up for lost time with his three children, Hudson and Hayes, now 12 and 10, and his daughter, Sloane, now 7.
This included seeing the three kids off to school most mornings, coaching Hudson’s flag football, playing basketball with the boys and skiing with the whole family.
The idyllic setting of retirement lasted less than one year when in May 2022, his world turned upside down.
Sloane had been unusually sluggish and Smith’s wife, Elizabeth, noticed she was slurring her words and not using her right arm.
Taking the little girl to emergency, doctors discovered a slow-growing brain tumor and rushed Sloane in for an emergency craniotomy to remove it.
As Sloane was rushed into surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain, Smith was drowning in a new kind of terror.
“You just have no idea what it means…The words brain tumor are terrifying.” Speaking with the New York Times, Smith continued, “It’s different when it’s your little girl and you’re helpless with how terrifying that is.”
In June 2022, Smith posted a gallery of images of Sloane before her diagnosis to the last of her lying in a hospital bed with a huge smile and a giant stuffed unicorn.
Sharing with his fans the girl’s journey with cancer, Smith writes, “This is Sloane Kenzington Smith, our baby, the youngest of three and our only girl. She is sweet, selfless, intelligent, hilarious, witty, fun-loving, an artist, a singer, and a dancing machine. But most of all she is an incredibly strong girl that has a ton of fight in her,” Describing her after the 10-hour surgery, Smith continued to write, “…On May 10th, Sloane was rushed to the ER with stroke-like symptoms. All we know is what is most important—and that’s SLOANE. She has healed from surgery. Back to her bubbly self. Singing, dancing, laughing and feeling good.”
Smith explained that neurosurgeons “did a miraculous job and were able to remove 100% of the tumor.”
After pathology was received, the family learned that Sloane’s tumor is a “very rare malignant tumor with very few documented cases, without a clear road map for treatment.”
And it turned out that doctors had not been able to remove the entire tumor, so the girl went through a second 10-hour procedure in the spring of 2023.
“We found out last fall that essentially that they had missed a piece, that there was a little piece in there left over,” Alex Smith said.
Now, living “scan to scan,” the family is helping her through the horrifying symptoms, like the two seizures she’s had.
“I spent so many times going down these rabbit holes of what I’ll ever be able to do again and my prognosis. And what does that do for you? It’s not doing any good and certainly it’s far harder as a parent, but no different.” Smith continued, “I don’t know if you get any better at it. This is something that’s so much bigger and harder. Do you get better at compartmentalizing? I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m not sure.”
After watching their dad recover from his near-fatal infection, the three children have learned the valuable lesson of defeat.
Calling her daughter a “little badass,” Elizabeth said she sees her husband’s influence in Sloane’s character. “They know that you can overcome things, and you can fight through, and you can go back to living your life,” she said. “Right? They got to go through that journey with their dad. I think it’s probably hopeful for them, right?”
We’re sending healing thoughts to Sloane and hope the little girl sees a full recovery. Please share this story and let’s get some love and prayers going for Alex Smith and his family!
Because September is childhood cancer awareness month, we thought you might also enjoy reading this story of hope!
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