My Story by Will Schmidt
“Disbelief…gratitude…let’s get it done.”
Over the last couple of years I had been feeling more tired and less able to physically perform. I stuck my head in the sand and chalked it up to age, I mean I am approaching the dreaded four-zero. I skipped a yearly physical and was stressed that something was wrong; I couldn’t go upstairs without being winded or muscles aching. I finally got into a new doctor for a physical in March and had blood work done. He called me at 7:20 at night and told me I was severely anemic (probably from internal bleeding) and to immediately get to a GI doctor for a colonoscopy. I was in for my colonoscopy within days and was informed of a mass. I remember not being surprised. Colon cancer was present in my family history and I somewhat expected to get it. I was overwhelmed with the feeling and attitude of what next and when - let’s get it done.
My doctor told me I needed a CAT scan and luckily they had one on site. I went in immediately on the same morning. From there I was referred to an oncologist for my results. I went to his office the same day and the results showed a large mass in my colon that had all the signs of cancer. After a pet scan the next day that showed the cancer to be confined to my colon, surgery was recommended. We were going over options and I could only think, I only want to go to MD Anderson. Turns out, it isn’t hard to get into MD Anderson; you just have to ask.
At this point, guilt began to sink in. My wife, Dawna was with me and I could see the fear in her eyes and the anxiety setting in. I remember her telling me, “I don’t know what the kids and I would do without you.” I was angry with myself for not being more diligent with my testing and pre-screening. Colon cancer is known to be prevented with a strict regimen of pre-screening such as colonoscopies. I had let life get in the way. I started down the path of self-reproach, how could I do this to my family? This fueled the protective gene in a parent and husband. There wasn’t time for fear or “why me?” It was fight and I was mad and ready to do whatever it took. The support I received from Jason’s Deli was nothing short of amazing. From top to bottom, I knew that my recovery was first priority and nothing else mattered. I never felt pressure about my job responsibilities or the security of my position. I truly believe the support helped me maintain my attitude of “what’s next and when.” I wanted it out and I wanted it out now. I was given the support needed to make that happen. I had surgery on April 21st and spent the next two weeks in and out of the hospital. They removed the tumor and 42 lymph nodes and had to hand check every lymph node to ensure whether cancer had moved outside my colon or not. All along I thought I was in for six months of chemo but miraculously no lymph nodes tested positive. I didn’t have to do chemo; I was cancer free!
I now live in a constant state of disbelief and gratitude on my outcome. I believe I was chosen to go through this so I can serve as a vehicle to encourage and help others that either are avoiding needed tests or actually have to fight this disease. We live in a time when you don’t have to be scared of cancer, and I have MD Anderson to thank for that.
Note: Will is a District Manager at Jason’s Deli