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Nevada Sen. Smith cheered upon return after brain surgery

CARSON CITY — State Sen. Debbie Smith made her session debut in the Nevada Senate on Wednesday and was welcomed by ovations, cheers and tears following her treatment for a malignant brain tumor.

Smith, D-Sparks, was diagnosed with a tumor just before the 2015 session began in Feb. 2. She underwent surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to remove the tumor and has been undergoing follow-up treatment for the past two months.

“This is what I’ve been working for for the past two months,” Smith told reporters before entering the Senate chambers that was packed with colleagues and well-wishers.

Smith was greeted by a prolonged standing ovation and a slide show of family photos set to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.”

Smith, 59, said the song “has become our mantra” to keep the family strong through the tough times, though she quipped, “We were going to change it to ‘Shave it Off.’”

Scars on her scalp visible, Smith recently shaved her head because of her treatment. Her husband, Greg, and daughter, Erin Smith Marlo, sported closely cropped hair to show their support.

Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, gulped on tears as he welcomed Smith back to the chamber and Legislature she has served in for more than a decade.

“You’re our friend. You’re our family. And we missed you,” Ford said.

Smith said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and encouragement from her colleagues and strangers who have reached out to her in the past two months.

“Thank you for all the love and support you’ve given me,” she said.

Smith will work half days while she continues to gain strength. She serves on the powerful Senate Finance Committee and will attend daily, midday floor sessions.

Smith is assistant minority leader in the Senate. She served five terms in the Assembly before being elected to the Senate in 2012.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb.

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