My story starts on April 1, 2014 when I received a call from my OB/GYN that my mammogram had come back with two questionable areas. Unlike most strange things that occur on that day, I knew this was no joke and began the process of scheduling testing to determine exactly what was going on.
I found out I had two small (like a grain of rice) size tumors in my right breast, but due to the placement, I wasn’t a candidate for a lumpectomy. I was given the option to remove one breast or both and then proceed with reconstruction if I so chose.
My choice was to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction and so the journey began. After surgery, the healing in my right breast was hampered by an infection and the spacer needed to be removed, but I found out I only needed radiation on the right side and was thankful. I counted myself blessed compared to so many others who had to suffer through chemo and other serious complications.
I finished my radiation and breathed a sigh of relief. Over the course of almost nine years, I had no issues until just before New Years of 2022. I had always worn a prosthetic on my right side and felt a small lump which I attributed to a cyst or rubbing of the prosthetic against my skin. Very quickly, however, I found the small lump had grown exponentially and went to the emergency room expecting them to drain it.
Without going into too much detail, the ER recommended me to have more testing. The additional testing led me to find out I had a stage 3 sarcoma after radiation in my right chest. The plan was to remove my right chest wall and undergo 4-6 rounds of chemo treatments which included two different chemo agents. Due to the inclusion of the agent called ifosfamide, I would need to be hospitalized for all treatments. The surgery would be tricky due to the overwhelming size of the tumor at that point…it was huge and leaking.
The surgery to my right chest wall was very successful and far less painful than expected thanks to a spinal block, but the recovery from such an invasive surgery which fileted my lat muscle and pulled it forward from my back onto my chest wall in addition to removing skin from my leg to create a layer of skin over that muscle was full of healing issues which delayed moving forward with treatment.
Once healed, I started chemo treatments and thought after round one, I thought I was going to handle everything without a problem. Round 2 proved me very wrong when the ifosfamide got to be too much and I ended up with something called neuro toxicity which made my feet go numb (I fell and injured my nose) and my mind became scrambled. I couldn’t answer simple questions, became incontinent and lost almost 48 hours of time due to the inability to think.
For the next round, we developed a plan to lower the dose, lengthen the time administered of the ifosfamide and start me on an antidote called mythalene blue from the start to avoid further brain issues. Unfortunately, none of those measures worked and once again, I fell into neuro toxicity.
It was determined for my final two rounds to eliminate the ifosfamide altogether and just move forward with doxorubicin alone. My fourth round was a success and I’m preparing for my last round now. Provided all scans are clear after that, I’ll be in the clear.
I know I’ve lost my hair, gone through some pretty traumatic changes, feared for myself and family and children, but I continue to think brightly about the future. I know my circumstance is rare, but believe behind me is a long list of people who can benefit from my experience and story…some of them don’t even know they’re in that line yet. I want to get through this and then help others who find themselves on this journey. There is such strength is support, I want to give back to those who need it.
Our friend Brad Schnure has worked for NJ government primarily in the Senate Republican office for the past 22 years. This week he received a devastating diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer. He is currently hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism and has had multiple surgeries over the past several days.
As a result of his diagnosis, Brad has decided to take a disability retirement and focus on treatment and spending time with his family which includes his wife Nora and his three children Andrew (13) Matthew (11) and Anastasia (8).
Brad's dedication to public service over the past 2 decades and his supportive presence for all needs to be recognized. While we keep him and his family in our prayers, I ask that anyone who can, please give to provide support to Brad and his family as they face the battle ahead.
“I’ve been in the hospital for the past 10 days following an emergency room visit for severe difficulty breathing.
Unfortunately, following scans and tests, I was diagnosed with advanced metastatic lung cancer, likely Stage 4, that has already spread to other parts of my body.
I’ve also had multiple pulmonary emboli reach my lungs, any one of which could have killed me.
I was told that the cancer is probably not curable, but it might be treatable, which could buy me some time. I’ve already had multiple surgeries to try to address both the main tumor in my lung and the PEs. For now, the PEs appear to be the immediate risk.
I was actually set for discharge on Sunday when a massive clot broke off (probably from my leg) and nearly killed me while I was waiting for a wheelchair to take me down to our car. A CT scan showed that it was a huge saddle embolism that was almost completely blocking my lungs.
Nora has saved my life multiple times during all of this. First, she got me to the hospital when I was hesitant to come. Then she noticed the immediate change when the saddle embolism hit my lungs and insisted that the nurses and doctors check me out instead of letting me leave. After I was moved to the ICU, she caught a mistake a doctor was about to make that might have prevented me from getting surgery yesterday to remove the new embolism that was almost completely blocking my lungs.
Nora has been by my side for the entire stay, and she has been a hawk for me to advocate for my needs. I cannot put into words how thankful I am to have such an amazing wife.
I’m also extremely thankful for my parents, siblings, extended family, and colleagues who have shown me an immense outpouring of love and support since this all started. It really has kept me going.
Given everything that has happened, however, I was forced to make the extremely tough decision to take a disability retirement from work. It’s not how I expected to leave a job I love after more than 22 years in public service, but it’s something I realized the other day that I have to do, both for me and my family.
I don’t know if I have weeks or months or maybe even years left, but I’m committed to doing everything I can to fight this.
Please keep my family in your prayers. I know we’ll need them.”
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