arrow copy Created with Sketch. FightCRC Logo fcc-logo-light

Abbey Schnell

Patients & Survivors Stage III Colon Cancer Nebraska
Back to Champion Stories

Story: "October 4th, 2012, started like any other day. I work from home so I went into my home office to start working. An hour into my shift, my water broke and I was on my way to the hospital to have my second son- exactly one month early. I’m a very organized person, and I had all my time off from work planned out, so I was very frantic when this happened because this wasn’t a part of the plan! This was just the beginning of me being challenged with accepting that sometimes I have no control over my plans.

"Two weeks after having my son I was sitting at home, and suddenly I had uncontrollable bleeding. I called my husband immediately and had him take me to the ER. It was there that the doctor ordered me to have a colonoscopy. I went into the colonoscopy just thinking the bleeding had something to do with just having the baby, so I did not think much into it. I do not remember much from that day besides the nurses commenting about the tattoo on my foot. It’s a saying from my grandpa:

“Hope for the best, expect the worst, and take what you get.”

"That was the last thing I remembered before going under for the procedure. That saying could not have been recited at a better time. After I woke up from the procedure, I only remember the doctor saying, 'You have colon cancer.' It seemed like a dream, I just sat there so confused.

"I didn’t know what to think. My mind went right to my kids, especially my new baby, Remy. Who would raise them if something happened to me? My husband Adam was there, of course, but they needed their mom. I knew if I was going to win the battle I had to do one thing. Make my mind run my body. I couldn’t let my body tell my mind what to do. The body will always give up. It’s always tired in the morning, noon and night, but the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. I was about to learn what it really meant to be tired as I was thrown into everything so fast.

"All my appointments and doctors were given to me within hours and I had a plan of action within a couple of days. I went into surgery to have a port placed in my chest so I could wear my chemo pump 24/7. The day before Halloween I started chemo. I remembered saying to myself that I would take my boys trick or treating no matter what! With the pump strapped to my waist, I was able to hide it under a baggy shirt and make Halloween as normal as I possibly could for my boys. Regardless of how I felt inside, I always tried to stay positive. My thought process was that when life gives you every reason to be negative thinking of all the positives can help you overcome your struggle.

"Thinking positive in a time like this can be difficult, but that was the only way to get through it. I endured months of chemotherapy and radiation, had surgery, and then more chemo. I was sick but knew I had to win this battle to be there for my kids.

"Even with how horrible I felt, I knew that the pain would be temporary. My doctors and nurses would tell me that people who go through this always say that they feel better than ever when it’s all over. I took their word for it and knew if that was the case, then the victory from the fight would override the temporary pain. And so it began, I became a stage III fighter. When all was said and done, I had 13 inches removed from my colon and was left with a permanent colostomy. Despite the way I felt during my treatments, being told I had to have that bag the rest of my life was one of the hardest things for me to accept.

"Thank God for my support system, especially for my husband. He made it known to me that it was not a big deal at all. It would just be different, but nothing we couldn’t take on together. My husband did a lot of research and found out how you can irrigate your ostomy, so I started doing that a few months after surgery.

"I thought to myself, 'At least I’m not losing a limb, things could always be worse.'

"I am not ashamed of my colostomy, as sometimes you have to do things to save your life, and this was what I had to do. It is simply my reminder that I was stronger than the cancer that tried to hurt me. I felt at this time that I had been through it all. Having cancer at a young age and I had just had a baby. It was a lot to go through for one person. Not only was I affected, but those around me were all affected too.

"Just when my family and I thought we could celebrate my victory, life took another turn on us. Two weeks after my last chemo treatment in May 2013, my dad went into the ER with chest pains. He had the pain for a while but ignored it, as he thought it was probably nothing compared to the pain I had gone through. Come to find out, it was something. He also had cancer, but his was lung cancer that had spread to the neck, throat, liver, and brain.

"Even though I was still not at my strongest; I was still there to help him as much as I could. My dad ended up needing a colostomy as well. My husband and I helped his nurse when she was unsure what to do in certain situations. I could tell my dad was grateful for that. Who knew that I would be helping someone so close to me with the same issues I was having.

"In the beginning, I questioned why things were happening the way they were, but I never gave up hope. After about a two-month battle, my dad passed in August 2013. I think anyone could agree I had one hell of a year. During all of this, I also was a confidant to a friend whose spouse was fighting the battle as well. Through all the pain, I always kept myself surrounded by good company and never felt sorry for myself.

"Little by little, I was seeing positives coming from all the negatives in my life. By doing this, my outlook on life was altered, and I knew everything was meant to happen for a reason. My victory did not come from my remission diagnosis, but rather from how I chose to live my life while fighting this disease. I strive to be happy as much as I can. I will never forget the pain I felt that year, but I will now be able to inspire others due to what it taught me. Now I appreciate things differently, I have more empathy, and a new understanding of life that fills me with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Winning your battle against cancer is a big accomplishment. But with every worthwhile accomplishment, there are stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle, and a victory.

"Just when I thought I won the battle, I learned that I was about to start the fight again. When I went in for a check-up scan, they ended up finding a spot on my lungs. The spot was there from the beginning but it was ignored since I wasn't a smoker, but it grew. I ended up getting a biopsy on it, and it turned out to be metastasized colon cancer in my lungs. Back at it again, I ended up switching doctors and started chemo again in September 2015.

"Since then I have been on chemo and radiation as well. There are still spots on my lungs, but by doing chemo every other week, I am hopeful this will slow down the growth. I still stay as positive I can and share my story whenever possible, hoping that I can inspire and give hope to anyone else out there fighting this horrible disease."

Advice: "Always have hope and keep the faith. Having faith makes you feel like you are never alone in this fight. Hope for the best, expect the worst, and take what you get."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Stories

Patient/Survivor Stage IV Rectal Cancer

Kristie Reimann

Side Effects, Fatigue, Rectal bleeding or blood in stool, Ongoing change in bowel habits, Narrow stools, Unable to have a bowel movement (bowel obstruction) or constipation, Stomach cramps/bloating/fullness
Patients & Survivors Stage III Rectal Cancer

Michael Holtz

Early-Age Onset
Patient/Survivor Stage III Colon Cancer

David Coulter

Treatments, Chemotherapy, Surgery