The Ottumwa Courier

October 8, 2013

Carol Northup Stutzman: Celebrating her birthday today

Courier staff writer

---- — SIGOURNEY — Eighteen years ago was a busy time for Carol Northup Stutzman. She was running through life with two young boys and had family and friends that would do anything for her.

One day, she noticed a small lump on her breast that had never been there before, but she didn’t think too much about it. Since she didn’t have any sisters or history of breast cancer in her family, she wasn’t all that concerned about the possibility of the little lump being life threatening.

She decided to see a doctor, merely just to be completely sure. The doctor performed a mammogram, and that was when she started to feel a little irked. She knew that she should have felt more comfortable in the doctor’s office that day and knew she had to get a second opinion.

“I walked out of his office feeling very numb and sick,” Stutzman said.

After switching doctors, she decided to undergo a biopsy to further understand what was happening with her body. Her experience with the second doctor was much better, and she left his office with a much brighter attitude than the one before.

A few days passed, and on her lunch break from work, she decided to give the doctor a call to see if the results had come in. That’s when she got the terrible news that would change her life forever. That little lump was cancer.

She didn’t go back to work that day and knew she wouldn’t be back in for quite a while. The thought of losing control of her life while she had 3-year-old and 8-year-old sons was a lot to think about, but she developed a thinking that helped get her through the hardest time of her life.

“That started my journey,” Stutzman said. “You have two ways to survive: you can cry or you can kick butt. So I went through it with the mindset of 'I’m not going to let it control me, I’m going to control it.'”

The next few months were a whirlwind for her with making all of the necessary appointments and going through presurgery. Luckily, they were able to catch the cancer early enough that it had not reached her lymph nodes.

She went through 38 radiation treatments in all, which surely would have broken down a woman with less going for her. Thankfully, she had the incredible support of her sons Sean and Dillon, her husband John, and her best friend from high school, Michelle. There was also plenty of prayer and love from her church family.

After the treatments and too many doctor appointments to count, she was able to pull through and was diagnosed as cancer free. For the last 18 years, she has lived as a survivor, and she uses her experiences to help those who are having a tough time with cancer.

“God put everyone here for a purpose, and I want to help anyone going through cancer that I can,” Stutzman said. “Keeping a positive attitude, family, friends and prayers will help you through anything.”

Carol and her family now live happy and healthy in Sigourney. She is very involved with Relay for Life and tries to help anyone she can. If she had to give any advice to those struggling with cancer, it would be to get a second opinion if you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable with your first doctor.

“You have to have a doctor that you trust 100 percent,” she said. “It’s not just the medicine; it’s how they make you feel.”

Thanks to the treatments and life-saving support from her loved ones, Carol is able to celebrate her birthday today, and many more to come. She even was able to get her name put on a wine bottle, courtesy of Madison County Winery.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh