Husband continues late wife's legacy through HAPPY SHOES Project
Sandi Sammons, 47, visited her doctor for what she thought was a routine physical.
Chest X-ray images showed nodules and tumors covering 30 percent of her lungs.
More tests revealed spots on her liver. Soon after, she heard those heart-wrenching words, “you have cancer.”
“We found out she had stage 4 (Adenocarcinoma) colon cancer that had spread to the lungs and liver,” her husband, Keith Sammons, told Channel 3.
For the next few days, Keith Sammons said they sat at home and “stared at the walls.”
They were shocked because Sandi had no symptoms and seemed to be in good physical health. She worked out three to four days a week.
Later, the couple learned the type of tumor Sandi had was rare which meant they would need to find a trial treatment that wasn’t chemo based.
Keith Sammons said they looked all over the country and eventually found a trial that was perfect for Sandi at Sarah Cannon Cancer Center in Nashville.
Keith Sammons went to every treatment with his wife and encouraged her to write about her experience. For the first three months of treatment, she said she wasn’t ready. Then one day Keith Sammons noticed something unusual.
“She had her iPad out, and she had her shoes on, and she had her legs out, and they were crossed. She took a picture of them. I asked her what she was doing and she said just taking a picture of my shoes,” Keith Sammons said.
Sandi posted that picture on Facebook with a message. “She wrote ‘these are my happy shoes of the day.’ They were red, leather with white soles,” Keith Sammons said.
That was the first of several posts about her shoes, which she referred to as her HAPPY SHOES, during treatment.
People began responding, encouraging her to write more and sometimes sent her shoes.
“She wrote the messages for herself, but in the end, they became an inspiration to people everywhere,” Keith Sammons said
Those popular Facebook posts led to a blog which Sandi named 'HAPPY SHOES blog.'
Sandi and Keith started compiling her writings to put in a book to pass out to cancer patients during their treatment.
Sandi wasn’t able to see the project through. She died on April 27, 2018.
“She lived 20 months and two days past her diagnosis date, and she really lived those days,” Keith Sammons said.
Keith and their son decided to continue the project, HAPPY SHOES, in Sandi’s honor. HAPPY SHOES has also branched out.
“If you’ve ever been to cancer treatment, they have to take their stuff with them. They have to take their medical papers. They have to take something to read because you’re there for hours. Many people have to take their own individual snacks,” Keith Sammons explained
Keith Sammons decided cancer patients needed something to carry their things in, so he began calling companies to try to get sponsors to donate totes, blankets, shoes and other merchandise.
The totes are being passed out to cancer patients at CHI Memorial Hospital as part of a pilot program. Sammons said the project may expand to other hospitals too.
He hopes his wife’s legacy will live on through the project and offer hope for people battling cancer.
“Sandra wrote in one of her blogs, 'what do you do when you’re walking through the journey of healing? You keep walking by faith,'” Keith Sammons continued, “My wife got up every day whether she felt like it or not. She got up, and she kept walking. Don’t let cancer define you. Lean on your family, your faith and your friends and keep walking.”
He said he has a desire to help people and hopes he can make a difference just like Sandi did.
“There is nothing, nothing, nothing that brings you more excitement, more gratification than watching someone’s life be encouraged by a gift that you give them,” Keith Sammons added.
For more information visit www.happyshoes.org.