In 2018, mother of two Sam Smithson was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. Sam bravely battled cancer for the next four years, with her family, friends and Cancer Council SA by her side every step of the way.
Sadly, Sam passed away in September 2021. A passionate supporter of Cancer Council SA, this year Sam’s sisters and loved ones will be taking part in the Marilyn Jetty Swim to remember their sister, mum and friend who inspired so many people every day.
Sam described the day she was diagnosed in 2018 as a “day she would never forget.” Feeling tired and run down, she knew she felt unwell, but never for a moment thought it was cancer.
“My head spun as the doctors said, “You have cancer,” followed by, “It is terminal and you have about a year to live”. My first thought was “I’m not going to see my boys grow up—my boys are going to grow up without their Mummy”. It was that thought—the thought of my boys living a life without me in it—which changed my thinking.”
For the next four years, Sam did everything she could to survive for her boys Levi and Jye, while also raising funds to support South Australians impacted by cancer. In between treatments, Sam and her loved ones held Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea events, Daffodil Day Fundraisers and she also bravely shared her story whenever she could—at events, in the media and with the local community. But it was the Marilyn Jetty Swim that held a special place in her heart.
Sam said of her first swim – “It’s not every Sunday morning I get up and dress myself in white bathers and a blonde wig preparing to swim around Brighton Beach Jetty, but what a day it was! I didn’t realise how emotional it was going to be until I was gathered with all the other Marilyn’s. Each and every one of us has lost loved ones or battled cancer, while some of us are still trying to beat it.”
“I felt I belonged. As I swam, I noted my family and friends on the jetty. To have them there was like icing on top of the cake. When my feet could finally touch the sandy bottom of the sea, I felt a lady grab my hand and together we all walked out of the water with pride … Sisterhood at its best!”
When Sam passed away last year, her sisters knew they wanted to continue her legacy and support South Australians who needed it most—and knew that the Marilyn Jetty Swim was the perfect way to do it.
Sam’s sisters Penni, Kylie and Kimberley, together with some of Sam’s friends, will be taking part this year in a team called Sammy’s Angels. Penni said that knowing how much the event meant to Sam inspired them to continue to give back.
“Even throughout her toughest of times, Sam was committed to helping others. Cancer Council SA was her favourite charity to support, and she had done it for the past four years, ever since her diagnosis. Each year she would recruit more and more of us to join her because it was so much fun and she wanted to share that with us. It’s been an annual event for a group of us for the last couple of years and we look forward to taking part for many years to come,” said Penni.
“We feel wonderfully grateful to be able to swim in memory of Sam and to be involved to support other cancer sufferers, survivors and their carers.”
Penni and her family know first-hand the important role Cancer Council SA plays in supporting South Australians impacted by cancer every day.
“The team that supported Sam during her cancer journey were amazing! We support Cancer Council because they supported Sam and us. There are so many other families out there that need this help too, and we know that Sam would want us to continue to do all we could to help those who need it. Every single Marilyn who takes part is an inspiration and is helping families like ours—so thank you.”
“I know it might seem daunting, but it really is an incredible event. Be brave, have fun—and you will look amazing in the white togs, I promise!”
The Marilyn Jetty Swim will be held on Sunday 6 February as a part of the Channel 7 Brighton Jetty Classic. You can show your support for Sammy’s Angels by donating via the Marilyn Jetty Swim website here.