La Crescent, MN
Chris Schubert is a doctor and when his daughter Ashley started having trouble with breath control and coordination, they made an appointment with a doctor and on the morning of her appointment Ashley was found paralyzed from the waist down in their home. Taking her to the emergency room they asked to do a scan. At one point, he turned to look into the scanning room and saw the room packed with people. Stricken with fear he realized that “She had become a teaching case”. Soon after she was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma.
The day after Ashley’s 17th birthday changed everyone’s lives when doctors discovered a tumor the size of a basketball in her chest that had squeezed it’s way between two vertebras in her back. She quickly went into surgery. Ashley had lost her hair and got down to 86 pounds. Her teachers were very supportive and sent assignments and lesson plans home for her to study and by the time it was all over, she was able to go back and graduate with the rest of her high school class senior year.
Now Ashley is cancer free, married and runs regularly.
When she got down to 86 pounds, I really thought she was going to die. But she didn’t. She went from being paralyzed from the waist down and having to be wheelchair bound, and having to catheterize herself, to now she runs regularly, and she got married last September. To me, it’s a miracle. Like I said, when I was in medical school, everyone died from Ewing Sarcoma. Nobody survived. That was a resurrection for me of my faith, and now there are routinely people that survive from Ewing sarcoma. As a physician, I realized that a lot of things have changed. Not just with medications, but with things like timing of surgery, and waiting till they shrunk the tumor with chemotherapy, all that had changed remarkably since I was in medical school. There was hope. I think a lot of people in the United States view cancer as being this terrible, terrible thing, and everybody dies from it. That’s not true. It is a terrible thing, but there’s many, many more survivors now, than there used to be. I think we’re making progress.
There’s a plan. We don’t understand it, and we don’t know why, and we’re not meant to. A lot of terrible things happen in the world, and we think how can a loving, caring God let this happen? But I think there are reasons, and oddly enough, in spite of it being a terrible thing on the surface… my daughter has cancer, she’s paralyzed from the waist down, and she’s undergoing all this pain and surgery and radiation, it did effect my life, a lot.
There are things I never would’ve done before. I’ve done these two triathalons raising money for the Leukemia-Lymphona society, I gained a lot of recognition that we need to be giving back. We get gifts. Ashley is a gift. She’s a 10 year survivor, and I need to think of ways to give back. I think there’s actually a lot of good to come out of it. Takes a little while to see it.
We view cancer as being the plague of our time. Cancer isn’t just one illness, it’s a multitude of illnesses. So it grows, it causes disruption, it can recur in many different areas of the body, cause many different diseases. I think we can’t give up hope, we’ve got to keep trying. We’ve got to keep doing research. Change happens.
One day at a time. You can’t look too far ahead. If you look too far ahead, and you have a family member who is undergoing chemotherapy, just try to enjoy every moment you have. Don’t worry about tomorrow or the next day.
It’s something you never see coming around the corner. You think you get your life all planned out, you know what you’re going to be doing, and then there’s this semi coming around the corner, that you can’t see.
The pain never really goes away. Ashley’s a great success story, she’s really wonderful, she’s in graduate school, and she’s married, but in my professional life, just today, I had to tell a lady that most likely the consolidation she had in her right lower lobe was that it probably cancer. Everytime I do that, and it’s just part of what I do, it brings back that memory of Ashley, even though it’s been 11 years now. It never really goes away.
Clayton Brown Philipsburg, MT
Charles Staben Vermilion, SD