When people throw out the word cancer, you can often hear a pin drop in the room. When Highland resident Deanna Schmidt heard the word cancer in her doctor’s office a few years back, she thought, “Worst case scenario – it’s skin cancer.”
Even though Schmidt wouldn’t know until the biopsy came back, she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that starts in white blood cells that are part of the body’s immune system.
The weeks leading up to the doctor’s visit that tested and informed Schmidt of her results were carefree. Schmidt hadn’t really been worried when she started noticing something on her arm. She eventually went in to see her doctor about it, but it was without any urgency.
“I had a really sensitive bump on my arm and I thought it was maybe a cyst. I kind of ignored it. I thought, ‘You know it’s just a cyst – it’ll go away,’ and when I finally went to the doctor, he did a biopsy right then and there and he said, ‘Well you know there’s weird cancers out there’, and I thought, ‘Worst case scenario – it’s skin cancer,” Schmidt recalled.
That’s when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s, something she had never even heard of before.
“I would have never thought of that. You don’t hear of that,” said Schmidt.
Once the oncologist that Schmidt was seeing put her in touch with a surgeon, it was smooth sailing. Since the cancer was in a localized spot, the surgeon was able to remove the tumor. Unfortunately, although the surgery was a success, it ended up coming back, but in two more places.
Initially, Schmidt’s case was a more common type of lymphoma, and an easier one to treat. What came back this time around were T Cell lymphomas, a cancer that isn’t as common and that would require radiation to defeat. Without any fear or worry, Schmidt was off to Rush Hospital, receiving her radiation treatments in the four weeks that she transitioned into a survivor.
Waiting for test results to come back negative wasn’t Schmidt’s favorite pastime, but she passed that time with nothing more than a positive attitude. Although she felt tired and suffered a few blisters and burns after time in her treatments, she said radiation visits were easy for her.
“I think you just go through the motions. Something like that just becomes your everyday routine. I went through Munster Community and the radiation techs were awesome. They were hilarious. They would sing and dance every time I went in there. I mean, they would literally sing and dance,” said Schmidt who was content with what she needed to do to fight. “Going to radiation wasn’t as dreadful as it could have been, and it was just a normal routine. I went over and would have my lunch, so it just became a habit, you just do it and you move on from your day.”
However, when the exhaustion did inevitably start to kick in, Schmidt could count on her family without a doubt. Having a sister that was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at the age of 28, Schmidt and her family are no strangers to living, quite functionably, with cancer. Daughter, Michaela, and son, Alex, both took the news of their mom having non-Hodgkins fairly well.
Schmidt said, “They don’t know any different and they see my sister who’s healthy and they hang out at her house, and she comes out here a lot too. I think why it didn’t scare my children is because cancer’s never been foreign to them.”
Understanding the reality of everything, from what type of cancer it was to what kind of treatments were available, made it easy for her children, husband, and immediate family to be a strong support system.
Courage like that of Schmidt and her family puts a new perspective on the word that can sometimes be perceived with pity or sadness – cancer, the outlook being that it could still be worse, you should always be grateful, and you have to do what you have to do.
Schmidt said, “I don’t like people feeling sorry for me. I feel like there are other people that are literally going through chemo and really might not have a positive outcome as far as cancer goes. I felt that mine was treatable, it’s not a big deal, just get through it.”
Since her successful radiation treatments, Schmidt has stayed cancer-free and gotten back to her normal routine, instructing at Purdue University Northwest and cheering her daughter on at all of her basketball games with her son and husband.