It began with a routine check-up. Dr. Gregory Greek, of Altru Family Medicine Residency, noticed a swollen lymph node at the base of Richard Schultz’s neck and recommended he get it checked. Never did Richard and his wife, CK, think they would receive the news they did.
Cancer at 40
Richard was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the young age of 40, but chose to live life as if he didn’t have cancer.
“We didn’t want cancer to be the centerpiece of our lives,” said CK. “We were at Altru Cancer Center, and we didn’t want to be there. No one wants to be treated for cancer. But the nurses, physicians, and staff made it okay for Altru to be our second home.”
During his treatment, Richard and CK traveled to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to see if he would qualify for clinical trials. Upon reviewing Richard’s medical records, the oncologist told them they were in great hands at Altru. There was nothing he would change with Richard’s treatment plan.
“Never for a moment did we ever question the care he received here,” said CK.
In January 2009, about a year and a half into cancer treatment, Richard and CK were blessed with twins, Natalie and Noah. “Natalie is very much like her dad, very kind and considerate of others, which are some of the traits that initially attracted me to Richard,” explained CK. “Noah is a lot like me, very intense and emotional. He wears his heart on his sleeve.”
Side by Side to the End
After three hard-fought years, Richard and CK were told the cancer had spread. He made the decision to go on hospice. In September 2010, Richard passed away at home, with CK by his side.
“I’m incredibly thankful that in those last moments I was in my home,” said CK. “It was where Richard and I were most comfortable.”
From family medicine and Altru Cancer Center, to the Family Birthing Center and lastly, hospice, CK can’t say enough about the staff who cared for her family.
In fact, she was so moved and inspired by Altru’s team, CK has decided to pay the generosity and kindness forward.
Paying it Forward
One of the last conversations CK had with her husband was about her future.
“I didn’t want to be talking about it, let alone thinking about what my life would be like without him in it,” she remembered. “Richard told me, ‘This is your chance to do something greater, and don’t settle.’ So many nurses touched our lives, and I want to pay that forward. I want to be a person in someone’s life who they can turn to for support, knowledge and direction during difficult times. I want to be in that capacity to help as so many others helped my family.”
Not only does CK support Altru Health Foundation, in January 2013, CK decided to return to school and become a nurse herself. She enrolled in nursing at the University of North Dakota and returned to Altru as a certified nursing assistant on the oncology floor.
“Once I finish school and become a nurse, I hope to work at Altru,” she said. “I’m an advocate for this organization because quality care is right here and it’s accessible. The staff here deal with the person, not just the case. I think when given a chance, people will be incredibly impressed with the quality of care they have access to right here in Grand Forks.”
It only takes one person to make a difference. How will you make a difference today?
Friends of the Foundation is a series of stories shared by the supporters of Altru Health Foundation. Whether through monetary gifts, giving of their time or sharing their talents, our donors help us provide outstanding programs, technology and education for Altru patients and their families. Altru Health Foundation thanks these generous individuals for their passion and commitment to high quality, nonprofit health care.