Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dreaming Big, Living Large

Attached is an article that was in today's Stanwood Newspaper, written by Jeremiah O'Hagen.  I thought those of you from out of town would appreciate a chance to read it.

When Doreen Schmitt passed away last week, it wasn't a death so much as a miracle.

Schmitt was diagnosed with stage-four, non-smoking lung cancer in April 2006.  She wasn't supposed to live for five-and-a-half more years.  But did she ever.

Scroll through her blogs (cancersurvivor2006.blogspot.com ; imaginenocancer.blogspot.com) and you will lose yourself in a woman's insatiable appetite for life.

You might also cry.

"I woke up this morning feeling really scared for the first time," she typed on April 30, 2006.  "I looked in the mirror and I saw Doreen... and then I remembered the 'C' word.  I remembered how 11 days ago I was just living a normal life and then it all changed."

But you will also laugh and rediscover with her the simple pleasures of wearing flip-flops ("life's too short not to"), or of Copper River salmon, or of a reunion with 8 former cheerleaders.

"We laughed about the past, talked of the present, and dreamed about the future," Schmitt wrote the next day.

And you will learn, really feel it in your guts, that when Schmitt dreamed about the future, she dreamed of life so full her arms couldn't contain it.

So, she spilled in onto her family and friends.

"My mom's story is about family, not cancer," said Amy Schmitt.  "She was very grateful for the opportunity to become an advocate for living life to the fullest."

Schmitt's other daughter, Angie, said, "In many ways, (her final years were) more inspiring than sad.  It can make you or break you- it made us."

Not that watching Schmitt get sick didn't break hearts.  And after Schmitt was diagnosed, her husband Rick found out he had cancer, too.  He died 18 months ago.

"We were just getting over that, and now mom's gone, too," Angie said.  "A tough part of it is the permanence piece."

If loss is permanent, good can be, too, and Schmitt lived that belief, infusing her world with energy and grace.

"If you were to poll the audience (at her memorial service), you'd find many people who would say that she was their best friend,"  Angie said.  "She was so welcoming to everybody.  She didn't judge people.  As my sister said, there were no strangers to my mom, only friends she hadn't met yet."

"She was as much of a role model for adults as she was for children," Amy said.  "I think of her laugh, and that infectious smile that lit up the room.  And, although it doesn't seem real that she isn't coming home, I find joy in knowing she's no longer in pain."

Schmitt most often signed off her blogs, "Dreaming Big."  Over the last months, she took to typing, "Love you more."  Between the two sentiments, you find a life.

Angie said her mom's goal was always, always, to "beat this disease." 

"She was a person with cancer, "Angie said, "She was not a cancer patient.  She didn't let it define her."

Schmitt didn't beat death.  No one does.

But, wielding unflagging optimism, voluminouss love and profound commitment to dreams, to leaving something precious and vital in her wake, Doreen Schmitt beat cancer.

(Staff Reporter Jeremiah O'Hagen: (360) 629-8066 Ext 125 or ohagan@scnews.com)

Loving you more... when you're dreaming big....


  1. What an amazing tribute! The first time I ever even heard of your mom was at a Relay for Life team Captain kick of Meeting in Bellingham it must have been in 2007. She was a guest speaker! I had just lost my Grandma to Leukemia and decided to start a Relay team. I have followed this blog since the first time I heard her speak. I am sorry for your loss but I know that you mom lived every day to the fullest!!! I hope you all find peace in knowing she is in a better place. Even though I never officially met her this blog has touched me. As long as you update it I will continue to read it.

  2. I'm sorry for you loss. I just started reading your Mom's blog, and wishing that I could have met this amazing woman. As I continued to read I realized that I was getting to know her. I am Thankful that I followed Nancy's link to her site. I was at a standstill in my life and her words and life have pushed me to move forward. God Bless.

  3. What a great commentary on your Mother and her Life. They said it right, Cancer did not Define her!! Your family will always be in my prayers. Dream Big....
    Maureen Crosby Bowles

  4. We are just...speechless. Thank you God for the Schmitt family, a shining example for us all.
    --from the ferris family

  5. Still loving you more and dreaming big...something we all will never take for granted!