Former Butler big man Andrew Smith now facing leukemia

Andrew Smith and wife, Sam, in 2014 after his heart malfunction. (Sam Smith)

A week ago, former Andrew Smith was finally let out of the hospital after a 33-day stay. The former Butler center who previously beat cancer and amazingly came back from a heart episode that temporarily left him dead had an unfortunate renewed fight with the disease over the summer.

Smith’s latest lymphoma diagnosis required a bone marrow transplant, a procedure that was ultimately delayed for a month but finally took place Nov. 6. His Nov. 30 hospital discharge was supposed to be the next big step, but Monday, Smith’s wife, Sam, announced some heartbreaking news. The 25-year-old is not only back in the hospital, but he has now been diagnosed with leukemia. Sam Smith divulged the information via her personal blog. She starts the latest post with this sombering sentence: “I believe in my heart that someday I will be able to update you all with good news on Andrew’s condition, but today is unfortunately not that day.”

The Smiths never really settled back in their new home last week. Sam Smith wrote on Monday about “a gnawing feeling that something just wasn’t quite right” almost immediately upon getting home.”

Andrew Smith was part of the famed back-to-back Butler Final Four teams in 2010 and 2011 that defined that program and changed some of the landscape of college basketball in the past decade.

The latest tests on Smith’s body indicate the bone marrow transplant was not successful, and so now his lymphoma fight has become a leukemia one. Sam writes:

This means it is no longer a targeted mass that we can treat, it is now running through the veins of his entire body in his blood. I won’t mince words; this is very, very bad news. We are worried. We are scared. We are devastated. At this point, the transplant has failed. Essentially, this vicious disease has chewed up and spit out every single drug and treatment we have tried in the past two years like it was nothing. So, we potentially have one final treatment option left and that is a clinical study. Our incredible team of doctors is fighting endlessly on our behalf making phone calls to every potential institution that might have a trial for us to be a part of. But at the end of the day, we need a miracle.

Andrew Smith is currently back at University Hospital and awaiting on which big decisions come next. The family and their doctors are looking at the best of the best nationwide to see which hospital/treatment center could be his best bet. They’re even considering Boston. Coincidental, as Smith’s former coach at Butler, Brad Stevens, is now coaching the Boston Celtics.

“I won’t lie, this news has knocked us off of our feet and left us broken hearted,” Sam Smith wrote Monday. “It has rattled our faith. It has made us question the purpose in the past two years. It has left us feeling completely helpless. We have screamed and cried. I can’t eat or sleep. This has cut deep into the innermost parts of my heart and soul and at times, the pain seems absolutely unbearable.”

Andrew Smith’s health battle began in December 2013, when he was playing overseas and noticed a lump in his neck. Shortly thereafter, he flew home and was diaganosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But by the end of 2014, he’d taken his final dosage of chemotherapy and was cleared. Adding to the horror, he also suffered a cardiac-arrest episode in July 2014 that left him unconscious and technically dead for more 22 minutes. Not only did he miraculously survive, but he was the inimitable case where he walked out of the hospital with no discernable brain damage.

“We don’t know why this is happening and why this battle never seems to end for us, but we so deeply, deeply appreciate the outpour of love and prayers covering us,” Sam wrote on Monday. “Please continue to lift Andrew up in your prayers. We need a massive army behind us storming the gates of Heaven and praying for each and every step we make in the days to come. We will be treading carefully.”

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