All along, Gary Smith knew. He was a health freak who was used to having boundless energy, and now he couldn't summon enough strength to lift a fork to his mouth? The nights sweats, the trembling hands, the crushing fatigue … no matter what the experts told him, he knew something was wrong.

And when he was proven right, he also knew. Despite the grim diagnosis -- could it get more grim than cancer? -- Smith was certain he would do what needed to be done. Bring on the chemo, bring on the trips up I-64 to see his doctors in Richmond. Bring it all on, because he knew he'd beat this.

And now, eight months after the ordeal began, Gary Smith has been proven right again. The cancerous cells that were in his bone marrow are gone. He's in complete remission.

So save your tears, though he appreciates the concern.

"Just because you're diagnosed with cancer, that doesn't mean you have to die," said Smith, who as a senior at Hampton High School was named the Daily Press Basketball Player of the Year in 2003. "I tell people all the time, I'm not dead and I ain't dying. It's just something I have to deal with.

"Now I'm able to sit here and say I've got a clean bill of health. And I said once it left my body, it wasn't going to come back."

There is one final hurdle, an important one. To make certain the cancer doesn't return, Smith needs a bone marrow transplant. So far, a suitable donor hasn't been found.

Smith doesn't want to wait. So he's organizing a bone marrow drive, which is set for next Saturday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at the Boo Williams Sportsplex. His goal is not only to find a match for himself, but to increase the number of African-Americans on the national registry.

"A lot of people in our community aren't on the registry, which makes it hard for another African-American who needs a transplant," Smith said. "If I can find a match and get more people on the registry, that's really what I want to accomplish on that day.

"This is a situation where I can't focus solely on me. I want to help others as well."


Before all this, Gary Smith was the picture of health. Seven years removed from his senior season at Hampton, when he averaged 21 points a game, he was still playing on the side and working out. He was conscious about every morsel he put in his body.

Six-feet tall and 170 healthy pounds. "Monstar," as everyone knew him, had his degree from VCU and was living life.

But this past February, not long after his 25th birthday, he began feeling sluggish. He went to his doctor, who conducted test after test and determined it to be mononucleosis. But weeks went by and he didn't feel any better. In fact, he felt worse.

One day in April, he came home from his sales/marketing job at Xerox, and his hand began trembling. His temperature reached 105 degrees and he couldn't feed himself. He went to the emergency room but was told it was only the effects of the mono and dehydration. They sent him home.

The next day, he was no better. Back to the ER he went, and this time they admitted him to the hospital. Five days and several tests later, they released him. There was a minor concern about his white blood cell count, but that had improved. You're fine, they told him.

Except Smith knew he wasn't.

"I was worn down," he said. "And I knew something was wrong when I had these real, real, real, real bad night sweats. I was dripping. I knew something was up. And that was the scariest part. I knew something was wrong, but they just couldn't find it."

Bad news comes in the strangest ways. Because Smith had developed a throat infection, apparently a result of the mono, he had his adenoids and tonsils removed in June. No big deal. But two weeks later, he got a call from his doctor.