Cancer-Free for One Year, Survivor Celebrates by Riding for Research During Pelotonia

Laura Schoettmer

When Laura Schoettmer asked her doctor about a lump on her jawline, she never thought it would lead to a diagnosis of cancer.

The spot turned out to be nothing of concern, but imaging revealed a nodule on her thyroid gland. A biopsy showed that the nodule was benign, but within three months, it had tripled in size and had to be removed. In the meantime, Laura discovered a second lump – this one behind her ear – so the surgeon agreed to remove it at the same time.

Two days after her surgery, she learned the lump behind her ear was lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.

“I was absolutely shocked, because I felt fine. I’d had no symptoms except excessive night sweats, which I attributed to menopause. I had no idea this was a symptom of lymphoma until I was diagnosed,” Laura recalls.

She was referred to a private-practice oncology group but quickly transferred her care to The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James), where she was treated by Robert Baiocchi, MD, PhD, and his team.

“Every single person I encountered at the OSUCCC – James was so positive and reassuring. I felt completely cared for. That compassion and positivity kept me going,” Laura says.

She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, given in combination with an immune-boosting drug called rituximab. On Aug. 8, she will have been cancer-free for one year.

While Laura found fulfillment in her volunteer work in the chemotherapy unit at the OSUCCC – James for several years before her own diagnosis, the work is even more meaningful to her now as she approaches it with new perspective.

“I know I am fortunate. So many others go through much more difficult treatment or will be on treatment for the rest of their lives. I have experienced guilt that my cancer is gone and so many others continue to deal with this disease,” says Laura.

She felt compelled to do more, so this year, Laura will ride 25 miles to raise money for cancer research through Pelotonia. She is joined on the ride by her husband, teenage daughter and brother.

“The hills are hard, but they are a heck of a lot easier than chemo. I am riding for all those who can’t,” says Laura.

The OSUCCC – James recently announced the formation of the Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology, a comprehensive bench to bedside research and patient care initiative focused on harnessing the body’s immune system to fight cancer at all levels – from prevention to treatment and survivorship. To learn more about the PIIO, visit cancer.osu.edu/PIIO.