Gunner’s Story

Gunner, born April 25, 2007, is the first born child of Brandon and Brittany Smith. He is the older brother to his two sisters, London and Gracelyn. Gunner was “the All-American” boy next door type who loved to be outside playing basketball, football, and occasionally any other game he was talked into or made up. He loved basketball, he loved playing basketball, watching basketball and memorizing insane statistics of every player who seemingly ever shot a ball.  Gunner also loved Bible study, history, traveling and just being with family.

In August of 2017, we found a life threatening brain tumor. Gunner was airlifted from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, TN to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, TN for emergency brain surgery. Before boarding the helicopter, Gunner asked for only one thing…his shirt that said “All Heart”. We had just received atrocious news but he was already showing his warrior spirit. That night before going to sleep Gunner informed his parents that “God had chosen him for this.  We got this.”

Early the next morning he underwent a successful 6-hour surgery followed by six weeks of recovery. The cancer diagnosis was a high-grade multi-form glioma. One result of the surgery was severe right-sided weakness, meaning he had to learn how to walk again and how to use his right hand again.  After 5 weeks of  recovery from surgery, he started 6 weeks of daily proton radiation along with 2 oral chemotherapies. Upon finishing radiation treatments, Gunner started 48 weeks of intravenous chemotherapy at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Amazingly enough he never missed a treatment! He was able to finish treatments on Halloween day 2018.

He was cancer free until February 12, 2019.

The cancer came back and he was scheduled for another brain surgery February 15 and again on February 17. These surgeries were said to be successful, but again left him with the right sided weakness that this time could not be overcome, though he tried.

Gunner’s cancer remained stable for almost a year before discovering it had spread again in May 2020. Gunner tried yet another chemotherapy. However, the cancer still grew. There was one more oral chemotherapy we could try along with an intravenous chemo he had been on before.  That combination stopped the growth of the cancer for a few months.  However, the cancer continued to grow. The doctors then decided to have him undergo 7 weeks of daily proton radiation treatment again. It was at this point we discussed what we should do and told Gunner there is no shame in stopping with treatments. We all knew that every known drug that has been shown to work we had done and there was nothing left. We all knew radiation would prolong his life, but not save him. He did not want to stop anything; Gunner is a warrior and would fight up to and through the end.  

Sadly, on May 28, 2021 at 3:27pm Gunner went to be with the Lord.  He passed at home with his loving parents and sisters by his side.  He battled the entire way, while inspiring people all over the country.  Gunner will be missed by many, but the impact he had on the world will live forever.

In Gunner’s memory, the All Heart Gunner Foundation has been established to aid other children and families in need.  Gunner would love knowing he is bringing more awareness to pediatric brain cancer and helping others.

We humbly ask for prayers for the family of Gunner, and your continued support.