There are many ways that sports can provide metaphors for real life. The ups and downs of a season, the heartbreak of losing a close game, the suffering experienced during training and the sweet taste of victory all mimic the experiences of ordinary people on a day-to-day basis.
Cody Scheuerman draws parallels between the sport of running and his own life. The 32-year-old commercial fisherman has run a long race of his own, a 18-month long battle with non-hodgkins lymphoma that has taught him valuable lessons about both himself and life.
“I consider myself lucky that through all of this, I’ve been able to grow,” he said. “You don’t realize how lucky you are to be able to go for a walk until you’re sick for a day where you don’t feel like going for a walk, and then the next day you feel better so you can.”
Scheuerman completed a half marathon at the Mount Robson 50 kilometre event on Sept. 9, but sweeter than completing that run was the love and support of his friends, family, fiance Samantha Kasdorf and the Prince Rupert community that helped to get him there.
“I don’t know if i’d still be here if it weren’t for them,” he said.
Scheuerman arrived in Prince Rupert in 2005 while he was attending Northwest Community College. Originally from Calgary, he split his time between Alberta and Prince Rupert, gradually being won over by the the warmth and hospitality of the people in the city. Once, when an old, beat-up dodge he owned was broken into, he arrived at class to find a bowl of split-pea soup and a loaf of bread left by a neighbour who saw the car’s smashed windows and figured it belonged to a student from out of town.
“She went to the college to find out who it was and give that person some food to brighten up their day,” Scheuerman said. “That was my welcome to Prince Rupert story, and that sense of giving and caring hasn’t changed. You expect nothing less from people really.”
That sense of community, combined with the beautiful landscape and proximity to the ocean helped Scheuerman make his move to Prince Rupert permanent. He got a job working as an aquatic technician for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, enjoying his time outside and on the water. In 2011, he recalls driving through town with a colleague when he saw a woman walking down the street who was so attractive he did an immediate u-turn in his truck.
When his friend in the car asked what he was doing, he replied, “Did you not see that girl?” and he joked that it would be funny if she were one of the people he would have to train as a part of his duties as a DFO officer. Sure enough, Kasdorf arrived the next morning at the DFO office to receive instruction as she was working on a charter control vessel in Prince Rupert.
“I was like, ‘Holy smokes!’” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
The two would eventually become a couple, and the next season, was hired to work at fisheries, and moved to Prince Rupert.
“Working together was not always easy,” Scheuerman said. “We went through our times, but it worked out.”
It was not long before Kasdorf settled into the community, as she shared Scheuerman’s passion for outdoor activities.
“She fit right in,” Scheuerman said.
Life continued, with Scheuerman working at the DFO until 2014 before transitioning to commercial fishing. He first became ill at the end of 2015 when he began to feel constantly ill and fatigued. As an active and fit individual, he found that simple activities like walking his dog on the Butze trail made him feel excessively drained.
“I got home from a walk and wondered how I could be so tired,” he said. “It felt like after a long day of fishing or after doing a long hike, I was that exhausted.”
Scheuerman sought a medical opinion in January 2016 where doctors found a fist-sized mass in between his heart and lungs. A biopsy of the mass resulted in the non-hodgkins lymphoma. Even though he had been mentally preparing himself for the worst, Scheuerman still says it was difficult news to swallow.
“It was one of the hardest days of my life,” he said.
Over the next few months, Scheuerman received chemotherapy in hopes of shrinking the tumor. While initially hopeful, doctors reevaluated their prognosis after the initial treatments did not work completely.
“It was like the treatment was chasing the cancer,” Scheuerman said. “Parts of the tumor would shrink, but other parts would grow in other places.”
Scheuerman continued to receive treatment throughout the year, but complications from it led to him retaining dangerous amounts of fluid around his lungs, above his diaphragm and throughout his body where the cancer was. He was re-hospitalized at the end of February 2017 where doctors drained approximately 25 litres of fluid from his body.
“I could hardly breath,” Scheuerman said.
With his health becoming increasingly fragile, doctors gave Scheuerman an experimental treatment not typically used in lymphoma cases. The treatment works by tricking the immune system into recognizing cancer cells that it would not otherwise recognize.
Scheuerman said that as soon as he received the treatment, his condition began to improve, and by April he was released from hospital.
“I could feel myself shrinking and improving each day,” he said.
While his health was improving, it took some time for Scheuerman to regain some of his physical fitness. For the few weeks after his release, he said housework and vacuuming felt like workouts for him. Eventually, he began to join Kasdorf who was training to run an ultra-marathon in the fall. He would ride his bike alongside her as she ran.
“I was gassed as she was running,” he said.
Over time, house work and biking turned to hiking, which in turn became running. Eventually, Scheuerman was able to join Kasdorf on her shorter, five kilometre recovery runs, gaining confidence with each physical milestone he was able to check.
Scheuerman did not even train for the Mount Robson half-marathon he completed Sept. 9. Originally, he had planned to cheer the group of runners who were participating in the 50 kilometre event, but when a number of athletes dropped out at the last minute due to poor whether on the weekend of the event, Scheuerman decided to give the race a try. He eventually finished seventh out of 26 in the male 19-39 category with a time of 01:53:38.0.
“It was the hardest I’ve pushed myself in a long time because I ran the whole thing,” he said.
Scheuerman’s fight with cancer still is not over. While he has regained some of his strength, he is not quite in remission and is scheduled for a bone marrow and stem cell transplant later in October. But Scheuerman says he is ok with the fight, and event embraces. Like a long run, battles of this nature aren’t conquered in one leap, but by constantly putting one step in front of the other and until the finish line is crossed.
“A struggle is ok. It almost seems like it’s healthy, that’s why it’s so easy to link running with Sam and myself,” he said. “You just have to put up with some pain for a little while and you’re improving yourself. You know what you’re capable of if you push yourself a little bit.”