Cancer Survivor Series: Verne Schrader
Verne Schrader, a Chesterton native, wasn’t going to let cancer to stop him. At 95, he looks back on his journey through cancer as just another page in his storied life.
It was the day before Thanksgiving when Schrader, then in his 70s, received “that” phone call. The spot that had been found on his colon was, indeed, cancer. The word cancer is a scary one to hear, but Schrader was ready to fight. He had watched his first wife’s fight with cancer, and he knew treatment would be difficult.
“Some people say, ‘Just keep me quiet, I don’t want to go through it.’ But I thought, ‘I’m going to make it.’ So, I contacted my doctor. He told me it wasn’t going to be easy, but I wasn’t ready to give up,” Schrader said.
This matter-of-fact attitude helped Schrader with his decision to fight. He would need to go through major surgery and treatment, but to him, there was no other option. The alternative to fighting cancer was just as difficult as the fight to cure it.
“It’s not easy to die of cancer, so why not take a chance? I took a chance, and if I died, at least I took a shot,” Schrader said.
Schrader's surgery was performed that December, and he had 18 inches of his colon removed and reconstructed. After recovering from the surgery, Schrader then started both chemotherapy and radiation. The journey through treatment was long and difficult.
“By September, man, you could have called me dead. I was skinny. Everybody was amazed that I came out of it,” he said.
During that time, Shrader found ways of coping through the pain and illness by surrounding himself with his family. He continued his hobby of woodworking and carving, many of those pieces now on display at Journey Senior Living of Valparaiso where he resides. He also looked to his church and religion for support.
“I guess I got a little bit religious, in terms of handing it to Jesus. You say, ‘I’m going to hand it to God and forget about it,’” Schrader said.
A WWII veteran who was in both France and Japan, Schrader took cancer in his own stride. When asked if his experiences in the war had given him the strength to fight and continue through his journey with cancer, Schrader humbly responded, “I guess I just had an awfully positive attitude about it. I think that’s just the way I am,” he said.
Schrader’s positivity and determination helped him decide that cancer was not going to bring him down. He took a look at his life and determined that he was not ready to stop fighting for it. He would tell anyone else diagnosed with cancer the same thing.
“Give it your best shot. Go ahead. I feel that there’s always a chance,” said Schrader.
Schrader keeps his life and story alive with the several memoirs he has written detailing his own life, and the history and stories of his family. This is his way of keeping track of where he has been and what has happened. Pages upon pages detail everything from the cars he has owned, to his children’s wedding pictures. Included in one memoir is his journey with cancer, where the stories and pictures from that time are now just pages in his book.