Santa Fe Trail Coach Teaches Lessons About Physical, Emotional Fight Against Breast Cancer

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Santa Fe Trail High School counselor and volleyball coach Joy Schmidt believes in her players.

She is seen on the sidelines encouraging and correcting, giving direction and leading the cheers.

For their part, the players believe their coach will knock down the opponent life put in her path - breast cancer.

Schmidt says the reality of it is unbelievable to her at times. She says she regularly had mammograms and even sonograms, since she was prone to cysts. She says part of her knew something was wrong when she finally went the check which led to her diagnosis in March.

Schmidt had a breast removed - a mastectomy. She underwent chemo and continues radiation. She's also grateful her surgeon at the Stormont-Vail Cancer Center began her journey by looking toward how it would end. She says he immediately set up an appointment with a plastic surgeon for a consultation on breast reconstruction.

That doesn't always happen. Studies show as many as 70 percent of breast cancer patients aren't informed of their options when it comes to breast reconstruction.

Dr. Jack Peterson, of the Center for Plastic Surgery in Topeka, says women deserve to have all the options laid out for them.

Peterson is drawing attention to Breast Reconstruction Awareness - or BRA - Day. It is being held on October 16th this year. It aims to raise awareness of the options women have to regain what they may have lost due to a mastectomy.

Peterson says, from a physical perspective, it's important for women to have the information early on because timing becomes important in the reconstruction process. If women make a decision early, they may be able to save a step in what can often be a year-long process.

Plus, Peterson says, there is a huge psychological component involved in mastectomy. He says "it's a body-changing event," which makes reconstruction not a cosmetic procedure, but a step in recreating a patient's body and self image.

Schmidt says she didn't hesitate to have her mastectomy and she's not hesitating to move forward with reconstruction. She says it's a process that makes a person feel whole and complete again.

She's also made it a point to attack her cancer with openness and honesty, especially with her team, who often trade their Santa Fe Trail Charger red and blue for pink, in her honor. Schmidt says their support, along with that of her own two daughters and the rest of her family, has helped her get through it.

The team wears shirts that say, "Cancer won't steal our Joy." Coach Joy hopes she can serve up a little in return.

"I want to be a good role model for them," she said. "You can persevere through most things. The whole ordeal has made me a better person and I want to pay it forward."

In addition to "BRA Day" Oct. 16, you also can join the fight at Making Strides against Breast Cancer." The fundraiser for the American Cancer Society is October 20th at the Statehouse. Sign up, donate or get details at