A local man's battle with cancer has become a fight for his family and friends to raise funds.
Aaron Smith of Fredonia has stage 4 kidney cancer, and his family has begun fundraising efforts to help pay for treatments and costs not covered by insurance.
Jennifer Donato, Smith's sister-in-law, will run for Smith in a marathon in Washington D.C. on March 16 and is asking for sponsorship to help the family pay for costs associated with treatments.
Formerly known as the National Marathon, the course was renamed last year as the Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series. Donato, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Pine Valley Central School, became involved with the race after a friend asked her if she wanted to do the run.
"I've run a few marathons already so I figured it would be a good thing to do," she said. "I would like people to donate just for the fact that not all treatments are covered by insurance."
Smith's wife, Jackie, said the family has "pretty decent insurance through work, but there are the co-pays and deductible, so we have all of those expenses. It's been overwhelming."
Every six weeks, Aaron travels to Roswell Park Cancer Institute for radiation in addition to daily chemotherapy pills which have side effects.
"It makes him really tired" and causes skin and other problems, Jackie said.
According to Roswell Park's website, people in the early stages of kidney cancer rarely have symptoms.
Blood in the urine, persistent pain in the side, a lump in the side of the abdomen, weight loss, fever and feeling very tired or a general feeling of being unwell can all be symptoms, however, Roswell's website cautions these symptoms are not necessarily indicative of cancer.
For Aaron, pain initially attributed to kidney stones was the first sign of illness. After a trip to a specialist, Jackie said a CAT scan revealed a tumor on one of his kidneys in 2009 and he underwent surgery. "The doctor said it was contained to where they removed the tumor, and everything was fine until June (of last year)," she explained.
Aaron was having pain in his legs, which doctors said was likely shin splints, and no x-rays were taken. His condition took an unwelcome turn when he suddenly broke his leg.
"He ended up breaking his leg and a tumor in his leg had eaten away at his bone. The cancer had spread to other areas," Jackie said.
"A red flag for me was when he started having night sweats, and his sheets were just drenched. We made an appointment for June 12, but on June 8, he ended up in the emergency room because he broke his leg," she said. A rod was inserted into his leg at that time and he began several weeks of radiation treatment on his leg.
"When we met with the (cancer) doctor (at Roswell) he wanted to wait until Aaron finished with radiation but since his (blood) calcium level was so high wanted to start him on chemo right away," she said.
Donato said she was aware of more aggressive treatments in New York City which are not covered by insurance, but Jackie said, "We're waiting to see what's going to happen. We haven't gotten an appointment with them yet. It's got to be up to Aaron if he wants to do that or not," Jackie explained.
Jackie said she will not likely be able to attend the marathon Donato is running to raise money for Aaron's treatment. "I'm having to miss time from work to go to appointments and everything, so I will probably not be able to go to the race."
Family members have set up a PayPal site where people can sponsor Donato in the marathon and donations may be made. The link can be found at the fund raising page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004779186426
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