By Linda Lane
When Taylor VanSchoick rises in the morning, he makes his bed and pushes himself to get moving, knowing he’ll feel better if he does. This young man who turned 29 in mid-October never complains, never feels sorry for himself. He sees himself as “a really lucky guy.”
That’s remarkable for a young man who has battled cancer three times over the past 15 years.
“Oh, what I love most about Tay,” mused his mom, Patsy VanSchoick, “is his amazing outlook and joy for life. It doesn’t matter what you go through in life, it’s about finding the joy in every day. He’s here with us, and today’s a good day,” Patsy said.
Lovingly dubbed “Tay” by his family, his cancer started in middle school with a malignant brain tumor. Before 8th grade, Taylor had two brain surgeries, underwent six months of daily chemotherapy and radiation for six weeks. Taylor lives with numerous side effects from surgeries and chemotherapy but would rather make the most of everything he still has instead of complaining over anything he’s lost.
“He just never complains. Even when he was young, I didn’t know Tay lived with constant ringing in his ears, because he simply would not complain,” Patsy said. “You’d never know some of the deficits he has lived with, like hearing loss, double vision, even learning to walk again.”
Taylor graduated from Vicksburg High School in 2009 and became an EMT with Pride Care in Kalamazoo and a fire fighter with the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority. But Taylor found another goal: to become a diesel mechanic. He quit his two jobs and moved to Naperville, Ill. to become a certified diesel mechanic. Halfway into the program, Taylor had a sinus infection which wouldn’t go away. An MRI revealed a tumor behind his left eye in the ethmoid sinus. Taylor was referred to the University of Michigan Hospital where doctors told him if they had to remove the tumor surgically, they would also have to remove his eye. Instead he took a “radiation vacation,” consisting of eight weeks of radiation and three weeks of chemo. The rigorous treatment worked and the cancer was gone without surgery.
“We’ve had so much fun—not in spite of, but because of cancer,” Patsy said. Tay’s family made trips to Ann Arbor fun adventures, going to a local brewery, enjoying Michigan basketball games, and other local events.
Taylor became a diesel mechanic and started his new job with FreightLiner of Kalamazoo. The difficult cancer treatments caused double vision. A neuro-ophthalmologist performed surgery on his eyes and corrected the problem.
In January of this year, Taylor bought a house. But in April, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and later discovered the cancer was back. It had metastasized to his lungs. It was a rare cancer; the tumors were too big to operate. Taylor again did three more rounds of a new chemotherapy over the course of nine weeks. The cancer still grew.
U of M Hospital didn’t have any treatment options left to help Taylor, so the VanSchoicks traveled to other cancer specialists at The University of San Diego, MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, and Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University searching for different options and potential treatments.
Costs for Taylor’s cancer treatments have mounted, with travel expenses adding to the high health care costs. The cancer treatments have left Taylor unable to work, forcing him to pick up COBRA expenses to maintain his health care coverage. To support the VanSchoicks and Taylor financially, friends and family organized a golf outing fundraiser at the end of summer, with 128 people participating and 30 volunteers.
The VanSchoicks remain positive about the future. While Tay is still getting chemo every three weeks at Wayne State, they’re hopeful he may start new treatment with an inhibitor drug to stop the growth of cancer cells, and possibly immunotherapy. They’ll travel back out to San Diego in December to learn the results of some immune and genetic testing. For now, Tay is finding a way to live with cancer. But the VanSchoick family believes the future may pose hope with new treatments or drugs to help with his rare cancer.
“He’s really amazing. He’s had brain cancer, cancer behind his eye, and now lung cancer, but he tells me, ‘Mom, I’m pretty lucky! It’s not if I beat it. It’s WHEN I beat it!’ He’s still got stuff he wants to do!” Patsy said.
People can follow Taylor’s journey on Facebook “Team Taylor VanSchoick.” They’ll find Taylor’s positive attitude pervading updates, such as “p.s. no sad faces, no ‘I’m sorry’s’, no downers allowed. We have EVERYTHING to be grateful for and nothing to be sad about!”
Donations may be made to Taylor to assist him with medical and travel expenses at: