Written by Summer Smith

Mackenzie Smith, a wonderful friend to many.

Last month, our Student Government organization hosted a color run to support Mackenzie Smith and to raise awareness of melanoma. The proceeds raised will help Mackenzie and her family take care of medical bills. Additionally, Mackenzie requested that a portion of the proceeds be donated to help fund the AIM at Melanoma Foundation research. Thank you, OKWU family, for partnering with Mackenzie in numerous ways: praying for Mackenzie and her family, sending encouraging notes, volunteering at the color run, and (of course) participating in the run. Twenty students volunteered; fifty students ran, and about two thousand six hundred dollars was raised. What a beautiful example of the Body of Christ caring for one another and taking on each other’s burdens.

Mackenzie Smith’s journey and battle against Melanoma started a year ago, October 2020. The diagnosis, officially given in December 2020, shook the Smith family’s world. As they have tread through the darkest days, they have learned to lean on God and each other more. Mackenzie reflected on how her family has grown during this time. “My family has simply been there for me. They have cried with me, laughed with me, and walked through this with me.” These dark days have also taught Mackenzie “the importance of loving your people and loving them hard… it is so important to make memories with the people you love.”

“She is so encouraging to me.”

The hills and valleys Mackenzie faces have helped broaden her perspective on blessings. Has this battle against Melanoma been a blessing to her? “I would not say that this has been a blessing,” she states. “But I am amazed at how God has blessed me and so many others through this. God has answered so many prayers and blessed me with the support of so many believers during this vulnerable time. I have also seen God use my story to encourage other cancer survivors and other believers.”

No, this mountain that Mackenzie is facing is not a delightful blessing; however, Mackenzie knows where her Help comes from, the God of the hills and the valleys. May Makenzie’s example of unwavering faith in the Lord help inform our ways of viewing God, His sovereignty, and His love for us. Please read her full story and more on her Care Update Page.

Mackenzie also shows her gratitude for her friends. “My friends have prayed for me and stayed by my side, encouraging me throughout my cancer journey.” A few of her closest friends are Lacey Coffman, Zoee Granville, and Marcus Randall. Each friend talked about how Mackenzie has supported and loved them. Lacey shared Mackenzie has been a rock in her college career: “Kenzie is the reason I survived my first semester of college.” On many occasions, Lacey and Mackenzie went on study dates, jam and drive sessions, and ice cream runs; those times have uplifted Lacey on her worst days. Zoey calls Mackenzie her cheerleader because of her encouraging spirit. “When we were roommates, she would leave handwritten notes for me on my desk when she knew I was having a tough week. She still sends me letters.”

Marcus, Mackenzie’s boyfriend, talked about how Mackenzie embodies empathy. “Kenzie is one of the kindest, most supportive people I have ever met. She always knows the right things to say. She is always engaging in random acts of kindness.”

All three friends elaborated on Mackenzie’s selflessness. She makes care packages for other patients and listens intentionally to anyone who needs a friend. This Melanoma has not stopped Mackenzie from living out her purpose. Yes, many loved ones are supporting Mackenzie, yet in countless ways, Mackenzie continues to uplift others.

“She is someone who can pick me up on my worst days.”

Mackenzie addressed two misconceptions that those unaware of a cancer patient’s life may think. She hopes that people will be enlightened and will use this new awareness to help cancer patients. Though some may believe that once a former cancer patient is healed, everything (their thought life, anxiety levels, physical strength, etcetera) goes back to normal. That is not the case.

“Once someone is diagnosed with cancer, their whole life changes. Cancer patients experience the same PTSD as war soldiers. Between, symptoms that remind them of a scary time or scans that hold uncertainty for the future. A diagnosis comes with a lot of mental challenges as well.”

The other misconception is that all cancer patients look sickly and weak. “Thankfully,” Mackenzie reassures, “there have been huge innovations in medicine recently! This means that not everyone who has cancer is treated the same. Many of these treatments do not cause visible side effects such as hair loss or nausea. But that doesn’t mean these cancer patients are not hurting or experiencing other side effects.”

How can you support Mackenzie and her family? The primary action is to learn about cancer and read people’s stories. If you would like to know more about Melanoma, Mackenzie’s treatment procedures, and updates, the information on the illness and be sure to check her Update Page. On that page, she also shares how you can pray or partner with her family and other cancer patients. Secondly, whenever you can give. Donating supports families financially, advances research, and helps medicines and treatments become more affordable to others. A special and well-appreciated way to support cancer patients is through prayer, encouragement, and acts of kindness. Start a prayer group, write encouraging notes, or visit hospitals. Ultimately, support others as God leads you. Whatever you do in His name will not be undervalued or overlooked.

“She is an inspiration for how to brighten the world.”

Thank you, Mackenzie, for letting God minister to you and through you. You are loved, and we have your back.