Relay for Life Honorary Survivor John Schultz shares his battle with bone cancer

The Isanti County Relay for Life is holding its annual cancer walk Friday, Aug. 10 at the Isanti County Fairgrounds in Cambridge. This is a community event to raise money for research for the cure for cancer. The festivities begin with a reception for cancer survivors at 5 p.m., and the opening ceremony will start at 6:30 p.m., with the survivor lap at 7 p.m. The luminary ceremony is at dusk. It is an enjoyable evening for everyone.

Anyone facing cancer treatments embarks on a challenging journey—one likely filled with miles for treatments, a fear of the unknown, and the hope for a successful outcome.

The annual Isanti County Relay for Life, coming Aug. 10 to the Isanti County Fairgrounds, has become part of that journey for many local families.

John Schultz with wife, Sandee, whom he credits as a positive catalyst during his cancer treatment. Photo by Greg Hunt
John Schultz with wife, Sandee, whom he credits as a positive catalyst during his cancer treatment. Photo by Greg Hunt

One of the three Honorary Survivors for this year’s Isanti County Relay for Life is John Schultz. Schultz was raised in the Swanville area. He and wife Sandee have resided in Isanti County the past 28 years. They first lived in the Weber area before moving into Cambridge.

Schultz works at Advanced Telemetry Systems (ATS) of Isanti. The couple’s three children (along with three grand kids) live within a short drive.

Schultz was first diagnosed with bone cancer of the sternum 13 years ago. Getting treatment at the Mayo Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, his sternum and small sections of his ribs needed to be removed. They were replaced with a flexible piece of Gore-tex® rubber.

But after that treatment, cancer metathesized into the lungs the following years. “So over the first four years, I had 10 or 12 surgeries -– with a little bit of chemo and all that kind of stuff. It was a journey those first four years,” said Schultz. “And there were some infection complications mixed in. So, not like I was counting, but there were like 75 days in the hospital over those four years.”

“But that was the first four years. So I’ve been cancer-free for nine years, then,” he quickly added. “I’m still working, and getting out and doing stuff.”

John Schultz
John Schultz

Schultz is also quick to attribute his survival success to the fantastic support system he had around him.

“Those first four years were a real journey, and I had lots of help to get there,” he reeled off. “Along with the people at the Mayo Clinic, I had family, the help of God, and prayer chains from coast to coast. A large extended family who was always there to help. ATS was very understanding: ‘come back to work when you can. Your job will be here.’”

“Since I was a little older when I got cancer, our three kids were old enough to understand and find ways to help and encourage. So they were a great help.

“And last – but most important – was that Sandee did more than anybody could imagine to get me through, to get me to where I needed to be. Being my chauffeur. Taking care of her job and the household. Trying to get me to eat something. So the reason I’m here after all that is probably because of her.”

To keep celebrating their time together, the Schultzes have an RV campsite on Pokegama Lake west of Pine City which is their get-away spot.

“We get there as much as we can. We go fishing whenever we can, and there’s a little golf course there so we try to golf once a day. We get up there for the Fourth of July. We were just up there for five days last week,” said Schultz. “It’s a good little community to be part of.”

The same can be said of the Relay for Life crowd which commits to fundraising for cancer research so that more survivor journeys can be chronicled.

This will be the fifth Relay for Life Schultz has attended, and he will share his tale before leading the way on the Survivors Walk that evening.