Brandy Schaack is letting God take the reins
Written by: Lindsay King< Back to Articles
“God has a plan and I am just living it. That’s all I can do,” said Brandy Schaack, from Hyannis, Nebraska. The 23 year old was diagnosed in March with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “He dealt me this hand and I just have to keep going because I know I will get through it.” She finds her strength in knowing that if God brought her to it, he can bring her through it. This is how Brandy has always been and perhaps accounts for her success in the arena and on the court.
“Since I started competing, rodeo has been my niche. I have never not wanted to rodeo, said the 2015 Nebraska Class D2 top five three-point shooter for basketball. She was certainly never bored growing up. In addition to qualifying for the NHSFR, Brandy was an all-star athlete in both volleyball and basketball while being an active member in her FFA. “It was hectic for sure, but we managed. When I got home from practice, my mom would have the horses at least caught if not completely saddled for us. We roped until it was dark, did homework and then went to bed just to do it all over again the next day.”
When the time came for Brandy to decide on a college (2015), volleyball and basketball almost won out. “It was a hard decision to make actually, but I knew that I loved rodeo so much more than anything else.” She made the 2016 CNFR in the breakaway roping while competing for Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado. This was nothing new for Brandy though, as she made the high school finals in breakaway three years in a row (2013-2015) and once in the barrels (2014). This past fall was shaping up to be just as monumental as the previous ones. This past January, Brandy was set to rope in the American semifinals. That’s also when she unknowingly strapped into the roller coaster ride that has become her life.
She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) in late January. This University of Wyoming elementary education junior simply saddled up and dealt with it. Brandy went back to school competing on the rodeo team immediately. However, she was left with a compromised immune system that makes her very susceptible to catching any and all air-born sicknesses.
“My mom and I got back on a Sunday night (March 24) to my apartment at school after Torrington’s college rodeo. My leg felt like it was constricted. I just thought I had pulled a muscle or something. It got bad enough that by Tuesday night I couldn’t walk, so I went to the ER.” Brandy was sent home with what the ER diagnosed as a strained muscle. Luckily, procedures for Brandy’s UC and a worrisome lump were scheduled for that Thursday in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
“I’ve had a crazy life ever since then,” Brandy jokes about the last four months that eventually landed her in a Denver, Colorado, hospital in late April. “A blood infection traveled to my right leg and caused compartment syndrome.” This was why Brandy could not walk on it so suddenly at the end of March.
If there was a good time for her leg to get infected, that was it. “The doctor said I needed surgery on my leg right away.” Doctors made two cuts from Brandy’s knee to her ankle on either side of her shin bone to release the pressure. “I am going to have some pretty sweet scars. They said I could have picked up the infection anywhere. It was basically like strangles in horses. The Scottsbluff doctor said I am only the second person he has ever seen with this.” They will never know where exactly it came from.
“I had three procedures back-to-back that day in Scottsbluff while I was under anesthesia. When I woke up, they told me I have cancer.” Initially, the doctors in Nebraska were only worried about the cancer they found in the suspicious lump. When the staples came out of Brandy’s leg two weeks later, a PET scan revealed it had spread quickly to her liver and bones with small spores all over her body. “We were given a referral to Dr. Haverkos, a specialist in all types of lymphoma cancer. My family and I traveled to Denver on Sunday, April 14. That night, before my appointment with the cancer doctor, I couldn’t walk again. We had to do another surgery on it. And because of that, we had to wait to start chemo because it would prevent my leg from healing .”
On April 26, Brandy started her first round of chemotherapy. She spends five days in treatment at a hospital and then goes home for 16 days before coming back for more. “My leg is in a splinted cast. We are just balancing my leg and chemo right now. I have a pic line sewn into my arm that I can give myself antibiotics for the infection in my leg.” During those 16 days at home, Brandy gets blood tests twice a week just to keep an eye on everything. Nothing about Brandy’s demeanor hints that she is afraid of the future, mostly because she isn’t scared of the unknown. At no point in this journey has Brandy felt alone; that comes from the support of her family, friends and community. “I don’t think I can name everyone that has reached out or been there for me. The rodeo community has been phenomenal. People I have not seen since high school are reaching out. I just want everyone to know how loved and supported I have felt through all of this.” On that same token, the University of Wyoming has shown Brandy their support as well. “I love the university; they have been really great to work with through all of this. Most of my professors have come up with academic plans so I can finish out the semester.”
Brandy’s goal of becoming a kindergarten teacher to fulfill her love for children has not changed. Neither has her passion and drive for rodeo. However, her perspective has shifted. “This has kind of opened my eyes to the fact that there is more to life than just rodeo. We all want to be at the top and doing our best, but your overall health has to come first.” As Brandy heads into an estimated 18 weeks of chemotherapy, she is letting God take the reins. She knows He has a reason for His timing just the same as she only throws a loop at precisely the right second.