Dr. Christina Smith will assume part-time role during treatment

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For the past two decades, Dr. Christina Smith has driven daily from her home in East Asheville to Black Mountain, where the optometrist sees a steady flow of local patients.

Through the years she’s developed a bond with the community and the individuals within it. So when Smith learned that she would be spending less time in her office due to a health issue, she wanted to let those who care about her know what's going on.

“I want people to know that I have been diagnosed with an early-stage breast cancer,” she said. “It’s highly curable at this stage and I’m very fortunate regarding that.”

But Smith's treatment, which she began recently, will cause her to miss time at her office in the Lakey Creek Health Center on Jane Jacobs Road.

"The treatment in the coming months will leave me only able to be in the office part-time," she said. "I don't yet know the specifics as far as when or how long I may be out."

Smith wanted to assure her patients that her office would still be able to accommodate them.

"We are currently in the process of hiring a fill-in doctor so we can continue to meet the needs of our patients," she said. "We don't want anyone left out in the cold in terms of their eye care."

Some of her patients were made aware of Smith's diagnosis in recent weeks.

"Over the 20 years I've been here I've formed real relationships with a lot of my patients, and they feel like family and friends," she said. "I know they care about me the way I care about them. So I wanted them to have accurate information about what's going on with me, and I appreciate all of the love they've shown me."

Smith said she had "absolutely no risk factors for breast cancer," so she wants to encourage women to listen to their doctors regarding the need for mammograms.

"There are a lot of mixed message women have been getting through the years about how often you should get mammograms," she said. "Some people say don't get them until you're 50, or that every two years is enough.

"I would encourage women to always go with their doctor's advice on this matter. I waited a little longer than I should've, and I'm kicking myself because we probably would've caught it even earlier if I had gone when my doctor said I should have."

Smith is "comfortable and confident" with the journey that lies ahead, she said, and the diagnosis has led to a shift in her perspective.

"It's really made me appreciate my life and how good it is and how fortunate I am," she said.

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