Harris: Defensive end's son will be able to travel to Super Bowl

| Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009

On Sunday, Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith advanced to his second Super Bowl.

On Tuesday, Smith received even better news.

Smith's only son, Elijah, 5, was given medical clearance to travel to Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla.

In October, Elijah was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia - cancer of the white blood cells. He has responded so well to chemotherapy that doctors pushed back his treatment scheduled for next week until after the Steelers play the Cardinals in the Super Bowl.

"He's home, (and) he's doing great," said Smith, a father of four who is in his 10th NFL season. "The Lord has blessed him and all of us abundantly."

When he learned of Elijah's disease prior to the Steelers' Oct. 26 game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field, coach Mike Tomlin told Smith he needed to be with his family.

Despite not practicing all week, Smith showed up and played in the game.

Elijah is healthy enough to watch his father play in person in what may be the most important game of his career.

"This will be the first time he's traveled (since being diagnosed with leukemia)," Smith said. "Dependng on what his (blood) count comes back as, he doesn't go too many places.

"A simple virus or a simple cold can be very dangerous. We have to be careful what we expose him to. I think the fact that he gets to go someplace is more exciting than actually going to the game."

Playing pro football and being a dad isn't easy under normal circumstances. Smith said Elijah's illness has been a tremendous test of his faith, but that wife Jaimie's steadying influence has helped the family endure through the toughest of times.

"I'm a dad first," he said. "It's not easy. Basically, I'm burning the candle at both ends. My wife has done an unbelievable job."

Elijah has reponded well to chemotherapy, which is scheduled every 10 days. Doctors pushed back his next treatment, which was scheduled for the end of next week, to a couple of days after the Super Bowl. The disease has an 80 percent survival rate, doctors told Aaron and Jaimie.

"He's like any other 5-year-old right now," Smith said. "He gets up, usually torments his sisters a little bit, does some school work with his mom, torments his sisters some more, plays some games with them. Just like anybody else's family. He's about as normal as he can possibly be. Except he takes a little bit of medicine (antibiotic) every day.

"Right now, he doesn't require a lot of attention. It's not like he's wiped out. When he doesn't feel good, you let him rest. You might give him some medicine to make his tummy feel better.

"He's an amazing child. He was skipping around the house on Monday. Wednesday, he was showing me how fast he could run. He just deals with it."

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