Suzanne’s Lymphoma Story
In September of 2015, Suzanne Schmitz was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma. Since then, she has been on a journey to battle her cancer while battling the burden of medical costs, chemotherapy treatments, and other hardships.
“I have been a single parent of a special needs child for over 25 years now. My son, Christopher, is currently 30 years old and was diagnosed at 6 months old with cerebral palsy with developmental delays, hydrocephalus and epilepsy, along with multiple other medical conditions, as a result of a massive stroke that he had during delivery. His father has not been in his life for many years as he has severe bipolar disorder and has removed himself from everyone in his life, to include his son. Even though Christopher knows that his dad is “sick” he still misses him terribly and wants to have him in his life.
It was a very tough road emotionally, financially and physically, to raise this child who needed so much and I was his sole care giver, but I knew what I had to do and did it without hesitation because I had been blessed to have such a wonderful child. I always prayed that I would stay healthy and strong for him and I was…. until September 25, 2015.
I’ll never forget that day as long as I live, when I received the call from my doctor’s office telling me that I needed to see an Oncologist as soon as possible that they believed that I had Lymphoma. I thought that I had been through everything, that there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle. I was wrong. I physically felt like I couldn’t breathe, I kept thinking “how could God have brought me this far in raising Christopher and let me die now?” I also couldn’t bear the thought of telling him that I had cancer, how would I explain it to him? I just knew he’d never be able to handle it, who would take care of him when I was sick or if I needed to be in the hospital, how would I survive financially without working? All of those things kept racing through my mind and I had to keep it together for him.
My oldest and dearest friend, Terrie, who happens to work for my doctor, knew I was getting the news so she drove the 30-40 minute drive to my house to be with me, knowing that I’d be a mess. We hugged, we cried and we decided we were going to fight this thing together!
I didn’t tell my son until about 2 weeks later when I had a final diagnosis, which was stage 4 Non-Hodgkins B-cell lymphoma. He was absolutely amazing, he took the news much better than I did and said, ‘Mom, when you lose your hair I will shave my head too.'”
I went through 6 months of torture, receiving 2 types of chemo for 3 days every 3 weeks for 6 months. It made me so sick, I couldn’t eat, could barely drink because I had sores in my mouth and throat and could not swallow, blinding headaches that lasted for 5 days at a time with no relief. For 3 weeks out of each month I was totally incapacitated from the treatment. My insurance would not cover the anti-nausea meds as they were too expensive but the one medication that my insurance did cover did nothing to help the constant nausea and vomiting.
I lost 50 pounds in 6 months and was so weak, I could not walk from one room to another without losing my breath or feeling like I would pass out. I wasn’t receiving a full pay and disability payments were late or sometimes didn’t come at all so I had the added fear of losing my house because I did not have enough money to pay my bills.”
“Then there were the medical bills, deductibles and co-pays that my insurance did not cover. I felt like I was drowning and had no way out.”
“It was then that I learned when things are at their very worst, people come together to help one another in need. There are many wonderful people in this world; two of them being my dearest friend and her daughter/my godchild, Ryann. They decided to put my story out there on social media to see if they could get me some help with everything that I was going through. The support that I received was absolutely incredible. I received cards and donations from people I did not know or barely knew, people and friends that I hadn’t seen in years, friends that I went to high school with contacted me to see what they could do to help! Neighbors that would send over food for my son to eat because I was too sick to cook. I’ve never in my life felt so much love and support – I was added into prayer groups all over the country and I truly believe that prayer and faith were what got me through this awful time in my life.”
“I also learned that I am definitely not alone in this battle. The day of my 2nd chemo treatment, I looked over at a woman sitting across from me in the treatment room, she looked so sad and ill but very familiar. We both recognized each other at the same time and realized that we had worked together years before and were good friends but lost touch over the years. We started talking and before we knew it we were laughing and joking remembering stories of when we were young and all of the fun we had. We started seeing each other every week that we were in treatment, pulling strength from each other; when one of us was down, we would make it a point to cheer the other one up. In fact, all of us in treatment became friends, telling our stories and building our hopes on each other’s small achievements or improvements.
I started bringing my son to treatments when I was able to and he went around the entire department, talking to the patients, complimenting them on how strong and brave they were, making them laugh and feel good about themselves. He was my greatest inspiration throughout the entire 6 months of treatment.
I am currently in remission, as there is no cure for the type of cancer that I have. I’m in a maintenance program, receiving chemo every eight weeks for the next two years.
There are no answers for me as to when the cancer will return, only that it will return. However, I have decided that I will not live the rest of my life in fear of when the cancer will return. Rather, I live every day like it is a gift, a blessing from God and I don’t worry about the “small stuff” anymore. I enjoy everything in life that God has given me, I now remember to call friends and family just to say “hi” and let them know that I’m thinking of them. I don’t let my work stress me out till I can’t sleep at night. I don’t spend all of my free time cleaning, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, etc. I make sure that I’m doing something fun and spending time with the people that I love because that old saying that “life is short” has a whole new meaning to me and I’m going to appreciate every minute of that life for as long as God allows it.”