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Woman triumphs over adversity

May 10, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

FALLING WATERS, W.Va. - Appropriately for her last name, Carol Smiley hasn't let sadness consume her life.

She battled three forms of cancer - in her ovaries, colon and spleen - within two years.

Within a few weeks, she had a toe, then part of her foot, then half of her leg amputated, due to complications from diabetes.

A granddaughter died of brain cancer. A grandson died of a viral attack.

Her husband was diagnosed with cancer.

Yet, Smiley, 53, has trudged on - with the help of a prosthesis.

"I still wobble a lot," she said.

To the congregation at Marlowe Assembly of God in Falling Waters, W.Va., Smiley is a model of steadiness.

Her friends at church thought she deserved a nice break for once, so they nominated her for a national award for her "spiritual fortitude and outstanding attitude under adverse circumstances."

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The Women's Ministries Department of The General Council of The Assemblies of God in Springfield, Mo., chose Smiley for the Deborah Award. It is named after Deborah of the Old Testament, "who demonstrated an extraordinary ability to lead her nation in a difficult situation," wrote Lillian Sparks, the Women's Ministries Department's director.

Patty Dense, an administrative coordinator with the department, said the award was established last year. Four people in the United States have been nominated and all received the award, she said.

Smiley's strength in coping is anchored in religion.

"I have such a faith in God," Smiley said in an interview after accepting her award, which had been kept a secret beforehand.

Measuring each sentence, each thought, she continued, "I have faith that I can survive this, I can surmount this. I feel this has helped me through. ... This is an almighty God who can see you through all this."

Smiley, who lives in Falling Waters, W.Va., wasn't sure what to make of the reserved back rows at the Marlowe Assembly of God before Sunday morning's service. And she wondered why her mother was there.

When the Rev. James M. Lloyd II read the award letter and called for Tom to lead his wife Carol to the pulpit, Smiley thought, "No, there's got to be another Carol back there."

Linda Webb, the Women's Ministries district director, presented her with roses. Smiley dabbed at tears with a tissue.

"I take it, it was a surprise," Lloyd said, cracking a slight smile.

One of the letters of recommendation for the Deborah Award came from James Haskiell, the former pastor at the Marlowe Assembly of God. He wrote: "As her pastor, I saw an inner strength even though at times I wondered how much more she could endure."

Smiley, an optician at United Optical in Hagerstown, said small doses of compassion and love sustain her.

"Sometimes, in the darkest hours, when you think it can't get any worse, something comes along to brighten your path," she said.

"Everybody has just been wonderful," she added. "People that you don't even know. But you just get a card. ... It's amazing what just a card can do."

"I'll run into people who say, 'You're such an inspiration.' That makes me feel good," Smiley said.

Smiley said she is indebted to Dr. Michael McCormack and Dr. Ilana West of Robinwood Medical Center in Maryland. "They've put up with us since 1994."

She's also grateful for the couple's four children and eight grandchildren, and the family's friends.

And she places a high value on her church.

"I once had someone ask me how I get through the days and the weeks," Smiley said. "I said, 'If I didn't have my faith in God and go to church, it would probably be quite a different story.'"

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