Seven years ago is when Ray Schulte was first diagnosed with lung and prostate cancer. He still receives treatments for both cancers, but the more vigorous treatments are for his lung cancer.
"Lung is — I'm fighting that and I can't really do prostate until the lung is fixed, and it ain't fixing very fast," Schulte said.
The Mexico Ledger is doing a series of interviews with cancer fighters and survivors. This is the third in the series leading up to the Audrain County Relay for Life on Sept. 14. The event will take place at the downtown square of Mexico starting 4 p.m.
"I guess I'm a fighter. Maybe not as strong as some others are, but again, I'm doing as the doctors say. I'm not going to give up. I've gone this far," Schulte said. "I hope the fighters that are fighting [cancer] keep on fighting."
A small portion of Schulte’s lung was removed in 2014 as part of the treatment process. The biggest difficulty he's faced during his years of treatment is contracting pneumonia on three separate occasions. Those instances have prevented his treatment from progressing as quickly as it could, he said.
"I get another X-ray in the next month to see if anything is doing better, staying the same or getting worse," Schulte said. "The reports have been up and down. It's nothing alarming, but not real good news either."
The first bout of pneumonia was the worst, he said. It was feared it would kill him, and he spent more than a month in the hospital.
"I spent 23 days in the [intensive care unit], and another couple of weeks, or thereabouts, in what they call step-down. It's still pretty close watched. I was weak as a dog then," he said.
The other two times, the pneumonia was caught earlier, and so were not as severe. "Best we could tell is that [chemotherapy] took my immune system down so far, that I just couldn't fight it off," he said.
Schulte takes his days as they come. He receives treatments on a weekly basis. "Chemo is chemo. It doesn't just go to one spot," Schulte said about the treatments for his two cancers. "My lung is more important. That's where I stand on it."
He has managed to not have many of the side effects associated with chemotherapy, such as nausea, but it has affected his energy levels.
When Schulte received his diagnosis, it didn't really surprise him, he said, since he's been a smoker for nearly six decades. "Did I want it, no, but it didn't surprise me," he said.
He was working for M&M Golf Cars when he was diagnosed. Thirty years prior, he’d started in the service shop and rose the ranks as the business grew, retiring as a sales and service agent in 2013.
"I kind of watched over the shop and mechanics and in later years our rental business grew, and I pretty much took care of that," he said. "I won't say I did it all, but I helped out where [it was needed]."
Schulte also was in business for himself around 15 years where had a radiator repair shop and auto service station with Sinclair.
Schulte's wife, Regina, and his family are his support system. His daughter, Stephanie, is a nurse who works in Atlanta, while his son, Scott, lives in Columbia.
"My daughter, she checks on me quite often, and my son we talk back and forth. On the day of [treatments] it's just a routine to go through," Schulte said. "If you don't succeed the first time you have to go back."
Schulte said he learned the lesson about taking days as they come from his experience in the Vietnam War. He also said that he learned to never feel sorry for himself. He was in the infantry in country through 1968 and a few months into 1969.
Schulte went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood and Fort Hood in Texas before flying from Seattle to Vietnam. He transported supplies, ammunition and troops as part of the infantry's motor pool, sometimes under enemy fire.
"Most of me and the guys, we kept busy enough that we didn't have time to worry about ourselves," Schulte said.
He also doesn’t worry over how active or not he is due to his cancer treatments.
While he can’t do some activities like golfing anymore, Schulte still enjoys having good conversations, most often with the morning coffee crowd that gathers at Casey's General Store.
"I try to get around and visit friends. I have gone out a couple times and chipped and putted in golf, but I can't do the whole routine. I do what I can and go on," he said. "I enjoy the fellowship."