“Just one more test.”
It was June 24th, 2015, and Emily Karcher Schmitt saw her doctor for what was supposed to be a routine appointment. Emily was being monitored for another non-cancer-related health issue, a benign lump in her breast, and was having some testing done.
“So much of my story is divine intervention. It was the monitoring of that benign lump that led to the discovery of my cancer. Decisions were made to not remove that lump. We discussed removing it. For some reason, we decided not to.”
And if it were not for that decision, to NOT remove that benign fatty lump, Emily’s cancer might not have been discovered until it was too late.
On that June date, Emily’s doctor, after performing all the routine tests, for reasons even she does not understand, still was not convinced. The scans and ultrasounds all looked normal, but something was not right. She suggested getting one more test, a high-resolution ultrasound.
“You are fine. All is good. Let’s do one more test, and you can go live your life…”
And there it was:
It was bad.
It was large.
And completely hidden.
“It looked like an octopus. No matter how many times I got a scan, no matter how many times I got an ultrasound, it didn’t matter. It was hiding.”
Everything went incredibly fast after that.
“Our choice was simple. In fact, there was no choice. To survive, you must begin this treatment immediately.”
At the time, Emily’s children were 2, 4, and 6 years old. She was about to celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary and now, they were all about to go through cancer together. Emily and her husband not only had to deal with this life-threatening situation, but their three young children were about to see their mom in quite a different light. “We were very concerned about what to say to the kids. How would they deal with this? How would WE deal with this?”
Emily begins her treatment:
“Fast forward; I am in a wig shop in Annapolis. This is where I would first hear about Wellness House. It was the program they had called, ‘Look Good, Feel Better,’ and I remember wanting so much to be that, and to be a part of that program.”
Emily had a close friend, Tara, whose mother had gone through cancer. Tara’s mother was also a Wellness House member. As the conversation shifted to their children, Emily fell back to how concerned she and her husband were about the kids, and how they were handling what she was going through.
Tara told Emily about the Wellness House of Annapolis, specifically their Paint Your Rainbow Summer Camp. Tara had just signed her kids up to participate in the camp to help them deal with their grandmother’s cancer diagnosis.
Emily thought about this opportunity after speaking to Tara and about sending her children to the summer camp. “I am the kind of person who isn’t the first to do anything. Even though this was all so new to me, I felt my kids could benefit from this.”
The response, and result of the Wellness House kids’ camp, was immediate for the entire family. “It took one day for us to realize what an amazing experience the Wellness House provides. My kids were, and still are, so excited to be a part of everything they have to offer. It continues to be a feeling of, ‘This is too good to be true. How on earth is this free? How can it be this all-encompassing good feeling, with no strings attached?’”
Programs like Paint Your Rainbow Summer Camp and Kidz Coping helped her children connect with other kids who were going through or had gone through exactly what they were going through. As the Schmitt family went through this process, it opened a brand-new world up to them, one of selflessness and giving. The Wellness House of Annapolis is an organization explicitly designed to help people like the Schmitt family – one that lets those dealing with a cancer diagnosis know that they are not alone in their struggle.
“Going through cancer, you realize there are these groups where you feel like YOU are the lucky ones. You don’t wish cancer on your worst enemy. As unlucky as you are to be going through the fear and trauma of the cancer experience, you wish everyone could have access to groups like this. The fact is that they are not just fun, encouraging, and backed by therapy, they’re also amazing.”
“Everyone talks of 2020 being the worst year, and it certainly was, but 2015 was our 2020. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and I felt my kids needed something like this. To be surrounded by other kids, to be supported by an organization like this. They made an immediate bond with the other kids in the program. I remember seeing the counselors giving my kids piggyback rides, and my response was to call my husband and tell him, ‘You will never believe this place. It was exactly what they needed.’”
Emily Karcher Schmitt is a Crofton-based photographer and owner of Picture the Good: Studio & Workshop. She is the proud mother of three kids, now 7, 9, and 11 years old respectively, and she has been married for 15 years and counting.