September 28, 2017
By Ed Byrne
The Brillion News
MILWAUKEE – It was a year ago that Jim Schwantes, a seventh grade teacher at Brillion Middle School, learned that he was going to become a fighter.
That’s when doctors found that he had a cancer called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and it was time to fight.
The fight is seldom short or easy and these days Jim is in Froedtert Hospital, one of the top centers in the U.S. for fighting cancer.
Sue Schwantes, Jim’s bride, is nearby – living at Kathy’s House a mile west of the hospital campus.
For the Schwantes family, the fight against cancer is like a marathon ride on a roller coaster.
“It is definitely a roller coaster, but it has been for the last year, since Jim was diagnosed,” Sue said early this week. “We have learned to deal with the ups and the downs by just trying to stay level – don’t get too discouraged, but don’t get too excited about things either. Just try to stay in the moment, and stay even-keeled.”
Sue gives a lot of credit to Fox Valley Hematology, in Appleton.
“They have a wellness clinic that has been really, really helpful to both Jim and me,” Sue said. “The counseling and Yoga therapy have been very helpful. And Froedtert offers those same services to their cancer patients and for the caregivers – and that’s been very, very helpful.”
The Fox Valley Hematology Wellness Clinic, Sue said, laid the emotional groundwork for the marathon battle of fighting cancer.
Because Jim is being treated at Froedtert, he and Sue are calling Milwaukee “home” for now. Sue said the whole hospital community works in teams, and it’s impressive.
She said Jim’s case has been complicated and teamwork is a necessity – wound care, dermatology, oncology, physical therapy, occupational therapy.
“He’s had it all and is having it all,” Sue said.
She also said that food at Froedtert is awesome – and that’s important. She said the hospital is top-notch in every aspect.
“We are here and we cannot leave the vicinity of the hospital until around Thanksgiving,” Sue said.
Sue is staying at Kathy’s House, a residence for people who are in treatment and their families.
Think of it as a college dorm.
“It’s a lot like dorm living, but the difference is it is much quieter – which is good,” she said. “We’re all sleeping by 10. We’re all very lucky [to have it].”
The housing is affordable and it allows Sue to stay close to Jim.
“That’s been really a God-send for us,” Sue said.
But there are other forces at work, helping Jim and Sue.
“Our friends and family have helped tremendously,” she said.
Sue found she had strength greater than she ever imagined.
“Complaining isn’t going to change it. So you just have to take it one day at a time,” Sue said.
It is a day-to-day thing because Jim’s health can change so quickly. On most days, Sue posts something on Jim’s “Caring Bridge” site. The ups and downs are glaring.
“There isn’t an ‘over the hump’ or ‘out of the woods’ and that’s something we’ve just learned to deal with,” she said. “We really, truly take it one day at a time. I know everyone uses that cliché, but it really is true.”
The Caring Bridge journal has the ups and downs, but almost every day has something positive.
“That’s what we really try to look for … and some days, there’s a lot of good,” Sue said. “But some days, we really have to look to find that one good thing.”
Some days, the blessings flow.
Please see the complete feature in the September 28, 2017 edition of The Brillion News.