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Sunday
Aug072011

Fred Schneider

My father lived a very rewarding life for more than 52 years. He was born in the Bronx in the summer of 1944, and was raised in a modest apartment with his mother, father and twin brother.  His colorful personality, great sense of humor, and strong work ethic all contributed to his successful professional life. In 1964, he started his career with Superior Printing Ink, a small printing company based in New York City. Over the following 32 years, he was a key contributing member to the growth and success of the company. In 1978, he was named the branch manager of Superior’s newly opened Marlboro, MA facility. By 1984, my father was promoted to regional manager; and in 1995, after successfully overseeing all of the company's northeast operations and growing its customer base, he assumed the role of Senior Vice President. 

In the midst of all the time and effort he put into his career at Superior, he met the love of his life, my mother Judy. They met at a Chinese restaurant (which probably explains my family’s continuing love for Chinese food) and didn’t date long before getting engaged and ultimately married in September 1970. My father and mother always loved being close to their family and friends in New York City and both had difficulty in moving up to MA when my father was promoted in 1978.

Through all of the challenges that came with the move and the promotion, my father always made plenty of time for his family, friends and hobbies. Every summer while growing up, we rented a house in Dennisport on  Cape Cod, where we enjoyed relaxing and enjoyable summers together as a family. My father coached my little league and youth soccer teams  as I grew up, and he took great pride in coaching and spending time mentoring me and my younger brother Zach. His other passions included bass fishing and maintaining the lawn. He was a member of the South Middlesex Anglers Club and was an avid tournament fisherman. In his free moments at home (although few and far between), he worked tirelessly to have the “greenest” and most well maintained lawn in the neighborhood. He found great enjoyment in fertilizing and cutting the grass ,no matter what time of day.

In August 1996, everything changed for my father and our family. He was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (“AML”), a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. In AML, the bone marrow makes many unformed cells called blasts. These blasts normally develop into white blood cells that fight infection, however in AML the blasts are abnormal. They do not develop, cannot fight infections, and the number of abnormal cells (or leukemia cells) grows quickly. They crowd out the normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets the body needs.

My father kept his spirits up and remained optimistic despite this difficult prognosis - this was one of the many reasons that I always looked up to him. In fact, he encouraged me to continue on to my freshman year at the University of Florida while he was back in Boston fighting this terrible disease. He also encouraged my mother and brother to maintain their daily routines. This was just a small example of how he always put others in front of himself.

For the next two and half months, my father endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy before it was determined that a bone marrow transplant was a necessity to defeat this disease. During this time, I often found myself confused and angry that such a young, caring and seemingly healthy man could be struck with such a serious form of cancer. On Halloween in 1996, he received a bone marrow transplant from his twin brother Marty. The transplant was a success, and my father was in remission. After a month of close monitoring and isolation at Brigham and Women’s hospital under the care of his wonderful doctors and nurses, my father was finally sent back home.

 He was able to spend the holiday season with my mother, brother and me as I had just returned home from college for winter break. One of my greatest memories is of my father and I watching my beloved Florida Gators defeat their arch rival Florida State Seminoles for the 1996 National Championship. I cherished every minute together during my three week break and returned to Florida thinking that it was only a matter of time before he would be back on his feet doing what he loved – spending time with the family, fishing, landscaping and even working. 

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out this way…

My father developed pneumonia while still at home in late February 1997.  On February 27, 1997 he ultimately lost his long, hard fought battle with the dreaded disease. Throughout the six month battle, he was courageous and selfless, which is exactly how he lived his entire life. After almost 12 years, I still miss my father greatly and often struggle with the thought of how much of his life was taken from him way too early. There are so many milestones in my life that we will miss sharing together because of this dreaded disease. I have co-founded StopLeukemia.org for this reason and many others. It is an effort to provide support to others impacted by leukemia. My goal is to continue to share my experiences with others and hopefully, help individuals, families and friends who are facing a similar battle.