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The City Journals

Walking Away Cancer

Oct 07, 2015 10:29AM ● By Bryan Scott

Dale and Joanne Smith walk every day through Draper’s neighborhoods, despite her arduous cancer treatments.

By Linnea Lundgren

Draper - Through sun, snow, and chemotherapy, long-time Draper residents Dale and Joanne Smith hold each other’s hands and walk.  They walk every day.  Dale wears his work clothes, Joanne dons a hat, and they both slip on sensible shoes before they cover three miles in Draper’s neighborhoods.  They traverse the quiet streets, admiring manicured yards, and appreciate the changes of each new season.  

“It is the best part of our day,” said Joanne, who has battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since 2011 and is now “in the clear” until a future test reveals anything to the contrary.  The couple had walked for years prior to her diagnosis, but when cancer struck, they vowed to walk every day. 

“We weren’t going to let cancer get a hold of us,” Joanne said.  

Dale works full time but makes a daily appointment with his wife for their hour excursion. Even when they’re stuck indoors, they walk. 

In 2013, when she was hospitalized for 22 days and underwent an arduous stem cell transplant, Dale took her hand and walked with her in the hallways. 

“We didn’t miss a day, although some walks were shorter than others,” Dale said. 

When sidewalks become too icy, they walk through the hallways at their nearby church. 

“Come on, dear; you can do this,” Dale used to say on the many days when Joanne felt too weak from cancer treatments for much exercise at all.  She’d often stop to rest on people’s garden boulders to regain her strength.  But with determination gleaned from her motto “hard work is what we do,” she’d take his hand to steady herself and continue on. 

The Smiths have been married 50 years and discuss anything and everything while they walk – work, their children, grandchildren, schedules and treatments.  But, most of all, they absorb the day. 

“There are so many perfect hours to enjoy the beauty of nature,” Joanne said.  “We’ve learned to share that joy together.” 

Walks, they say, do more than give them physical exercise and stress relief.  The simple act of walking together fosters closeness. 

“Often in today’s world couples’ daily lives can take them in different directions.  We need to find what we can do to bond,” Joanne said. 

Dale was born and raised in Draper,  Joanne in Sandy.  She enjoys working in the yard, appreciating nature, walking and baking treats for Sunday family dinners.  In the early 2000s, they served two LDS missions, both in the Philippines.  Even there, despite the oppressive heat and humidity, they held hands and walked.  

“We hold hands a lot,” Dale said.  “At church, in the mall, wherever -- it is just natural for me to reach back and grab her hand.” 

Regardless of what the next test reveals or what the next day’s forecast might be, they plan to continue walking. 

 “We’ve made so many friends along our walking route.  They come out of their homes and say, ‘Don’t change your route. We need to see you.  You inspire us!’” Joanne said with a smile.