Chuck Landon: Schoolers can use a hand in this fight
Football isn't the most important aspect of the Schooler family's lives, right now.
That never has been said before.
Perhaps, because it never has been true before.
But it is now.
That's because the patriarch of the family, Brian, is fighting to get his life back after, first, losing his left leg to cancer and, now, battling cancerous nodules in both lungs.
Besides putting Schooler's job as an assistant football coach at Collegiate High School in Wichita, Kan., on hiatus, now football in general simply isn't as important to this family.
"My dad is 49," said Alex Schooler, who still is in school at Marshall earning his second degree after finishing his football career last season as the Herd's 6-foot-7, 303-pound starting right guard. "It's a little rough.
"I grew up with my dad being my hero. I always picture him as a big, strong guy and nothing could hurt him. I never imagined that something like this could happen."
No one did.
Particularly the elder Schooler, who simply jumped down from a short, retaining wall in July, 2012, and seemingly tweaked his knee. Four months later, Schooler discovered he had been walking around on a tibial plateau fracture.
While trying to piece his tibia together during surgery, orthopedists discovered a tumor. Then in April, 2013, it was determined that Schooler had Myxoid Chondrosarcoma, a bone cancer that also affects soft tissue.
Next, cancer nodules were found in his lungs. After intensive chemo Monday through Friday 24 hours a day, he took two weeks off and, then, did the regimen again five times.
Then, there was more bad news. His entire leg would have to be amputated before trial drugs could be administered to his lungs.
So, Schooler's leg was taken in early December.
Yet, there he was three weeks later in Washington, D.C., sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a Marshall letterman's jacket, while watching his son, Alex, help Marshall to a 31-20 win over Maryland in the Military Bowl.
"Football has pretty much been our life," said Alex. "My dad coached me in high school for all four years. And he coached my brother, Spenser, all four years as well."
Those days seem so far away now.
"I mean, it's pretty rough," said Alex. "It's just hard because I can't do anything about it. I am up here finishing school, so I can't get home and I can't work to make any money to help pay for medical bills or anything right now."
That's why the Schoolers are trying to raise money to defray medical expenses at www.gofundme.com via Facebook. So far, $14,000 has been raised toward a goal of $50,000. Any contributions can be made through that web site.
"We are trying to raise money for his prosthetic right now, so he can get back to work," said Alex. "The prosthetic costs $45,000, but then they have to pay for all the fittings. It has to be customized. They have started the process, but it's a long process."
And the lung cancer?
"His first clinical trial he had five blood clots -- three in one lung and two in the other," said Alex. "I am supposed to find out pretty soon whether the nodules have shrunk or gotten bigger."
Blitzing linebackers never overwhelmed Alex like this.
"It shakes you," he said. "It's really a scary thing. It's definitely the hardest thing I've ever had to go through in my life."
Say a prayer for the Schoolers today.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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