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Beating Breast Cancer - Diane Crocker Ralston Smith

Diane Smith and daughters

While breast cancer affects one in eight women, it is highly treatable when caught early with a screening mammogram. The stories of Diane Smith, Sherri Hendrix and Charlotte Keener exemplify the importance of routine mammograms starting at age 40 (unless there is a family history of breast cancer). The best line of defense against breast cancer is early detection, which is why mammograms truly save lives.

Diane Crocker Ralston Smith
Calhoun, Georgia

Coach Diane Smith coaches her athletes on the softball field.

Diane Smith was an accomplished four-sport athlete growing up. She excelled in high school sports and was named the softball, volleyball and basketball MVP at Calhoun High School in the early 70s. Smith continued competing in athletics at Berry College and received the Lady Viking Award for the most outstanding female athlete. Smith played adult travel softball and together with her team, won the softball National Championship in 1987.

A naturally gifted athlete, Smith’s heart has always been rooted in teaching and coaching. At the early age of 17, she started her coaching career as the Calhoun High School JV girls’ basketball coach. She taught physical education at Calhoun Middle School for 39 years while also coaching softball at the Calhoun Recreation Department for 31 years. This season marks her 37th year as head softball coach at Calhoun High School. Before being the head softball coach, she was a Georgia High School Association (GHSA) softball umpire. Smith has coached in some capacity in the Calhoun City School System for 51 years. This fall, Smith has shattered records with 800 wins in her career so far and is the winningest softball coach in Georgia.

As a player, Smith is a member of the Georgia ASA Softball Hall of Fame and the Georgia USSSA Softball Hall of Fame. As a coach, she is in the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame, and she was inducted into the first inaugural Calhoun-Gordon County Sports Hall of Fame as a player and coach.

In 2014, Smith was in the middle of a busy middle school basketball season. One day, she felt a lump on her breast but put off a doctor’s visit until the season was over. After getting a mammogram, Smith went back to work and was in the middle of a conversation with a colleague who had recently been diagnosed with cancer when her phone rang. It was the doctor’s office asking her to come in. With her daughter, Jaime at her side, Smith sat in front of fellowship-trained surgical oncologist Craig Box, MD, and heard the dreaded words, “You have cancer.”

Dr. Box counseled Smith that she would need a single mastectomy, and she cheekily asked if he wanted to go ahead and remove the other breast as well. People who know Coach Smith well understand that she is a constant jokester, lightening up even the heaviest of situations.

“It was the best-case scenario,” said daughter Jamie Garrett, Calhoun Elementary School principal. “Watching her go through cancer showed me just how strong my mom really is.”

Smith’s surgery was successful, and she did not need to go through any radiation or chemotherapy post-operation. Smith relied on her upbeat attitude and sense of humor to drive her through her six-week recovery at home. As soon as she could coach again, Smith was right back on the field.

“I have always been a competitor no matter what the sport. Coaching is rewarding and satisfying. I love seeing young athletes succeed and have fun. They make me laugh and keep me young,” said Smith. “Coaching gives me a powerful sense of self-worth, inner happiness and career satisfaction. I love the game, and I want to pass that love on to my players.”

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