Sharing his story to help others kick the habit

Published On: Nov 15 2012 04:59:28 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 15 2012 07:25:45 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Each year, lung cancer kills more than 150,000 people in the U.S., both smokers and non-smokers.

But one lucky man, hopes his experience will help others kick the habit.

In his 74 years, Fred “Fritz” Schubert has had a lot of time to reflect on his life.

“I've learned to appreciate things that were perhaps taken for granted before,” said Schubert.

But there was a moment in time he sometimes wishes he could take back.

“I've been anticipating that you'd ask that question, and I really can't come up with a reason,” said Schubert. “People were smoking, so I started smoking and kept on for many, many years.”

For nearly 40 years, he smoked a pack of cigarettes a day.

Then in 2005, after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to quit, he was determined to keep a special promise to his three kids to kick the habit for good and it worked.

“I didn't want to disappoint them and have them be disappointed,” said Schubert.

But after five years of being smoke free, Fritz would be faced with one of the greatest challenges in his life.

“I coughed up some blood and I went into the emergency ward,” said Schubert.
The diagnosis was lung cancer; stage IIIB -- a very advanced stage of the cancer.

“It was one of those things that happen to other people,” said Schubert. “It doesn't happen to you.”

The chance of him surviving the cancer at this stage, was just 15 percent.

“When I heard those statistics, it was, ‘Alright, let's get at it. Hopefully I'm going to be one of the 15 percent,’” said Schubert.

After months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the cancer is gone.
Schubert still has a ways to go, but time is now more on his side, and he hopes by sharing his story he can help others before it’s too late.

“The results are something that doesn't necessarily happen to other people,” said Fritz. “It can happen to you. You will be much better off if you give it a serious effort to quit.”

It has been almost three years since doctors told Schubert his cancer is in remission.

He still has a couple of years to go before doctors can tell him he has officially survived lung cancer, but he's very determined he'll make the five-year mark.

Lung cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the U.S.

Dr. Roger Kwong at Gundersen Lutheran said the problem of smoking still persists, but in recent years while more adults have been quitting more adolescent smokers are still starting.

He said the earlier people pick up the habit the greater the chance they could have lung cancer in the future.

“Your chances go up with length of exposure [and] depth of exposure, but it also makes a difference depending on other things,” said Kwong. “So, if your parents were heavy smokers, you're going to have that much more of a heavy burden head start [and] if there's a family history of susceptibility of lung cancer, that even increases your risk higher.”

Kwong said even if patients are diagnosed with lung cancer at the very first stage, the earliest stage possible, the chance of surviving the cancer is less than 50 percent.