Laura Schmitt lost her husband, but she isn’t losing hope.
“This is a horrible disease and I don’t want anyone to go through this.” Laura Schmitt of Greenville, Delaware is on the front lines to raise awareness about an illness that claimed her husband’s life. In 2008, Schmitt’s husband, Don, a healthy and active 51 year-old man, started experiencing a loss for words. Schmitt says the problem progressed, so they sought medical attention. Several doctor visits and tests later; Don was diagnosed with the most common form of brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme or GBM.
The passing of Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden has brought attention to the fight against brain cancer. According to experts, brain cancer, while relatively rare, is one of the most difficult types of cancers to treat.
What makes treatment so challenging is threefold.
Dr. Steven C. Falchuk, Medical Oncologist at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute at Christina Care, says in some cases the tumor can be difficult to diagnose because there is no standard screening for it like a mammogram or colonoscopy. The location of the tumor can also pose a challenge. Dr. Falchuk says some tumors are in areas that are not readily accessible to surgery. While there are a few chemo drugs that do work, those used to treat other cancers like breast and lung don’t penetrate the brain.
Mrs. Schmitt doesn’t want any more families to go through what she and her children have experienced. Her respect and gratitude for the doctors and researchers that helped her and her husband during that difficult time led her to look for ways to help them make strides in finding a cure.
She’s involved with several organizations including the Delaware Brain Tumor Walk, a yearly event in Wilmington, which is in its 8th year, and the National Brain Tumor Society. Her advocacy work with the National Brain Tumor Society has led her to Capitol Hill, to participate in the organization’s “Head to the Hill” project. This year nearly 130 delegates from more than 30 states lobbied lawmakers on behalf of issues important to the brain tumor community. Among the National Brain Tumor Society’s top issues are securing increased funding for the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute. Schmitt says there is ongoing research that desperately needs to be funded.
Dr. Falchuk says there have been improvements on treatment for brain tumors and he’s very hopeful that progress will continue.
Mrs. Schmitt, who dubs herself a fixer, says she wasn’t able to fix it for her husband, but she’s not giving up. Despite a successful removal of the tumor, Don Schmitt’s symptoms returned. He died one day shy of his 52nd birthday. Schmitt lost her husband, but she hasn’t lost hope. She’s now working to fix it for others fighting brain tumors.
If you would like to learn how you could help advance research to find a cure for brain tumors and cancer, you can visit the websites of the following organizations: braintumor.org, nih.gov and cancer.gov.