Janae Smith prepares for a 10K run to raise money for breast cancer research. Courtesy of Jami West Photography

Two-time cancer survivor runs to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research

When she was 24 years old, Janae Smith and her husband were at a friend’s house when she felt stabbing pains in her breast.

She wasn’t sure what it was but after performing a self examination and finding a large lump in her right breast, she went to the doctor to see what it was. A biopsy showed that it was a spindle cell tumor.

The combination of this rare type of tumor and her relatively young age brought her case in front of the medical board at Swedish Medical Center.

“My original diagnosis was bad,” the Kenmore resident said. “I did not have a chance.”

But when Smith, now 36, was told this, her thoughts for the doctors were, “You don’t know me.”

The co-founder and chief operating officer of the Kirkland-based telecommunications business Audian thought, she had done it before and she could do it again.


This is because when Smith was 6 years old, she was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. As a child, she went through “massive chemo” in addition to what she called the regular “cocktail” of chemotherapy. The additional chemotherapy included brain, neuro and spinal.

“I didn’t have much of a childhood,” Smith said. “I spent my childhood just trying to survive.”

She said T-cell lymphoma is very rare in children and there is a 50 percent survival rate, crediting the positive attitude she kept as how she was able to get through it all.

Doctors attributed Smith’s second round of cancer to all of the radiation she had been exposed to as a child and said the tumor had been growing for years.

Smith had a double mastectomy and because her markers were not as big as doctors originally thought, she did not have to go through chemotherapy again. And while there were many reasons to be grateful for this, one of Smith’s first thoughts was how glad she was that she wouldn’t be losing her hair again.

“Kids were very cruel,” she said, recalling her experiences with chemotherapy and losing her hair when she was younger.


During her second battle with cancer, Smith’s main focus once again became just to survive. It was for this reason that it didn’t hit until afterwards, what it meant to lose both her breasts at age 24.

“You feel almost like they’re taking your womanhood,” she said.

While she was recovering from her double mastectomy, the doctor removed a drain tube and when they did, Smith said it felt like being cut by a butcher knife. She knew something wasn’t right. Initially, she was told it was just her body under a lot of stress.

But it turned out that there had been bacteria on the drain tube and the infection had become septic.

Smith went into organ failure and as doctors worked on her, she said they told her husband to be prepare for the worst. She remembers doctors running in and out of the room while she was not able to move or even speak, describing the scene as like something out of the NBC show, “ER.” Smith said she had a 105-degree fever and at one point, she thought she was going to die. But she also thought that was not how her story was going to end.

“And I’m here,” she said, once again showing how she has defied doctors’ odds.

Following this experience, doctors left Smith’s chest open for two weeks, packing it with gauze, which was changed twice a day.


Smith has had 26 surgeries. Seventeen have been directly related to the either of her cancers — and 10 of those procedures were for her breast cancer.

Smith has also had reconstructive surgery following her double mastectomy.

“It’s a very very painful process,” she said.

After living through cancer twice by the time she reached her mid-20s, Smith said it is a huge part of who she is and where she is in her life now. But it is not all of her.

“(Cancer) doesn’t define me,” she said, adding that she knows she is strong and can get through anything.

Her experiences as a child forced her to grow up faster and see the world differently. Smith said she knows how fragile life is.

“I enjoy the smaller things in life,” she said.


Since she has been in remission, Smith has volunteered and participated in various efforts that raise money for breast cancer research, including the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.

Her most recent effort is this week as she is running a 10K to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This is an individual run through Moon Joggers, an online running community that brings together runners from around the world and offers them opportunities to do their own runs for the cause of their choice. Smith said participants pay an entry fee and a portion goes to their charity.

Smith’s route for her run this week starts at her house in Kenmore and ends at the Caffe Ladro in downtown Kirkland.

The 10K, which is 6.2 miles, is the longest Smith has run since she had hip surgery a few years ago — another remnant of her cancers. She said she would like to do a half-marathon next year but has no intention of running a full marathon because while she often refuses to take “no” for an answer, Smith also knows her body’s limits.

In addition to raising money, Smith would also like to spread awareness about breast cancer and the importance of getting checked, especially to young women and let them know that it could happen to them. But as important as this is, Smith also acknowledged that it is not exactly something people typically look forward to.

“It’s very scary,” she said.

Janae Smith and daughter Brooklyn share a smile in their pink gear for breast cancer awareness. Courtesy of Jami West Photography

When she was 24 years old, Janae Smith and her husband were at a friend’s house when she felt stabbing pains in her breast. She wasn’t sure what it was but after performing a self examination and finding a large lump in her right breast, she went to the doctor to see what it was. […]

More in Life

Waste Management drivers visit with Kirkland boy battling cancer

Jessica Muller said her son loves garbage trucks and watches videos in bed while undergoing chemotherapy.

(Left to right) Jérôme Vasseur, Katya Samoylenko, Julien Bouetard, Clarisse Podalin, Cédric Barnet will all star in the Les Seagulls production, “Le Prénome.”Photo courtesy of Sébastien Plisson
French Language theater production opens in Kirkland

The play, “Le Prénom,” will be entirely in French with three showings on March 23, May 4 and 11.

Kirkland author releases illustrated book

In My Father’s Garden is a collaborative effort between a Kirkland author and a Seattle artist.

Pack 567 announces winner of racing event

The race was part of an annual derby event.

KirklandCERT hosting power outage help event

The event will take place on April 9.

Kirkland now accepting Human Services Grant applications

Applications must be submitted no later than April 10.

Recreation registration to begin mid-March

Registration is slated to start on March 15.

Kirkland Senior Council to host tax relief forum

The forum will take place on March 13.

Kiwanis foundation announces scholarship availability

Graduating seniors must submit applictions by April 16.

EvergreenHealth partners with Sacred Art of Living for workshop

The workshop will take place on March 16 and 17.

Summit aims to connect Kirkland youths to community

Teens are being encouraged to apply for an educational opportunity to learn about the community.

Lake Washington School District announces innovation program

Through partnerships with Lake Washington Schools Foundation, Lake Washington School District has… Continue reading