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Schumacher expects to defeat cancer

Park Rapids high school sporting events just weren't the same for most of August and September.

It wasn't tough to miss the reason why.

John Schumacher's presence was missed at several athletic events at the beginning of the fall season. Since becoming the Panthers' activities director, Schumacher has been a noticed fixture at every home event.

That changed this fall when Schumacher was diagnosed with cancer on his right tonsil. Fortunately, the prognosis for Schumacher to return to the sidelines is promising.

Last winter, Schumacher noticed a lump on the right side of his throat, but thought it was just an inflammation due to a cold.

The lump didn't go away and on Aug. 5 Schumacher went in for an exam. Surgery was performed on Aug. 13 to remove a lymph node. Tests revealed Schumacher had squamous cell carcinoma cancer in his right tonsil.

Surgery was scheduled for Sept. 16 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to remove the tonsil and find the source of the cancer. During the five-hour surgery, 79 lymph nodes and the tonsil were removed. The tonsil proved to be the source of the cancer. The doctors called the surgery a success.

"The doctors said the cancer was very treatable and the success rate was very, very, very good," said Schumacher. "The tonsil and lymph nodes were intact, which was great news. If they had burst open, it would have attacked my lungs. The cancer was confined to that area and the doctors feel they got it all."

Schumacher was discharged from Mayo on Sept. 19 and has been recovering ever since. He had been working a little every day before starting back full time this past week. Once again, Schumacher has been a fixture at all home sporting events.

"The toughest thing has been that I can't move at the speed I want," said Schumacher, who has lost more than 20 pounds since the surgery. "I'm getting better every day. Last Thursday was the first time that I felt that I was back."

Recovery will continue with radiation treatments five days a week for six weeks beginning Oct. 18. The doctors are confident that Schumacher will make a full recovery.

"Without the radiation treatment, there's a 90 percent chance the cancer will come back. With the radiation, there's only a 4 percent chance it will come back," said Schumacher. "The administrative team, the coaches, the kids and the community have been so supportive. It means a lot that people took the time to send cards and e-mails and said they were praying for me. It was very special seeing how many people care for you. The outlook is great. We have a game plan and we're going to attack it. When I was coaching, I always told the kids that you play the cards you're dealt and you go after it and get the win. That's what I'm going to do."