“Real Men Wear Pink” Campaign: Maria’s Journey From Breast Cancer Diagnosis To Survival
Her Midlife Return To College To Become A Nurse Was Suddenly Interrupted
FARGO, ND — “I can’t tell this story over and over and over, I’m not ready for it,” said Maria Schmidt.
It’s a feeling likely shared by thousands of women and men when they are first diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Now, it’s part of who I am.”
Maria is a proud breast cancer survivor. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
It’s also the month when “Real Men Wear Pink” to raise money and support the fight for a world without breast cancer.
KVRR’s TJ Nelson is a part of this year’s campaign and he interviewed Maria about her journey with cancer.
“As weird as it sounds it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Maria. I’m here I’m able to hopefully help other people get through the process.”
It’s the diagnosis that always comes as a shock, especially to a 20-year EMT veteran making a life change and going back to school for nursing at UND. It was almost time for finals in May 2013 when she heard the news that changed her life.
“I was on my way to the elevator to go down to class to tell my classmates what was going on when I got the call from the radiologist that I had breast cancer.”
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Maria was now one of those women.
“Shocked, because I had no family history of breast cancer. I was 40-years-old. I was a single female going to college.”
She quickly began chemotherapy treatments and then surgery.
“I had a bilateral mastectomy on October 15th.”
And good news. Everything came back cancer free. The chemo had done its job. But her cancer journey was far from over. Doctors found Her2/neu, a protein on her tumors. It was treated with a drug discovered through research funded by the American Cancer Society.
“That one drug increases the cancer free survival rate and the mortality rate by double digits.”
The journey to fighting and beating breast cancer is filled with ups and downs. But what was the toughest part for Maria?
“Doing it alone. Um, I had great support from my family but you know there’s not anybody that can go through it for me and my youngest niece was kind of my shadow at the time.”
Now cancer free, Maria gets checkups every six months. And as an oncology nurse at Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, she deals with cancer patients on a daily basis.
“It’s not the same for everybody. I don’t tell people ‘oh, I know exactly what you’re going through’ I don’t because everybody is different.”
Looking back at her journey now she says it was the loss of her hair which caught her off guard the most.
“You know out of everything else going on that was to me just, didn’t know what to think. Didn’t know what to expect.”
And you beat it.
“I beat it, I beat it. Yep.”
Maria credits American Cancer Society programs giving out free wigs and the “Look Good Feel Better” session with getting her through her cancer journey.
You can support these programs and help fund life-saving research by clicking here to support TJ’s “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign with the American Cancer Society.