Tatum toughs out cancer

Aloha Kitchen displays Team Tatum wins on their sign on 4th street.

A drive down 23rd Street revealed the heart of a community invested in one little girl. Pure Water, Aloha Kitchen, Sports Zone–their signs all read the same: “Team Tatum wins!”

At long last, six months from her surgery, 10 months after the discovery of cancer in her leg–Tatum Schulte has toughed out cancer.

We feel like through this whole process we’ve learned so much about ourselves and we’ve learned so much about the good in other people.

— Travis Schulte

Doctors declared Tatum Schulte, 8-year-old daughter of head boys basketball coach Travis Schulte, cancer-free Sept. 7.

“She was released from her back surgery, got the scans of all clear, no more cancer,” Travis Schulte said. “That’s also the night she walked on her own across our living room on her prosthetic for the first time, so that was a really big day for us.“

Exactly six months from her last surgery, Tatum returned to the hospital for a check-up bone scan. Later that day, her parents received a call which changed their lives. Their little girl is now cancer-free.

“Everything was as good as we could possibly want it to be,” Schulte said. “There were no question marks. There were no areas of concern. We’re just positive she’s cancer free right now. There was nothing. It was an all clear, you’re good to go and we’ll rescan in three months and make sure you’re still good.”

For the next five years, Tatum will rescan every three months to make sure everything is still clear and there are still no signs of cancer.

“As hard as the road was that we traveled from December to where we were earlier this month to when we got the news, that’s a long time of a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear,” Schulte said. “We put our trust in God through the whole process, but it’s still good to know at the end when somebody tells you there’s no more cancer and all the scans are clear. It’s just an extreme relief I’ve probably never felt before in my life.”

It feels like the whole community is celebrating with us and that’s a really cool thing.

— Travis Schulte

Schulte said the experience brought their family together and taught them how to make the most of every situation. He said the life-changing experience was not all negative.

“We’ve become better people. We feel like through this whole process we’ve learned so much about ourselves and we’ve learned so much about the good in other people,” Schulte said. “We’ve learned not to take for granted the good days you have. There were some bad things and some bumps, but there was a lot of good that came from the process as well, the whole journey.”

Schulte said the entire family felt an overwhelming, indescribable relief. He compared the feeling to one of a dark cloud, a heavy burden, being lifted so the sun can shine again.

“She was grinning ear to ear,” Schulte said. “She giggled and laughed and smiled and was just ecstatic about the whole thing. Just lots of hugs.”

Shaylin, Tatum’s 11-year-old sister, was her biggest supporter through the whole process. When she found out her little sister was cancer-free, her father said she radiated pure joy.

“It’s been really hard on her but she has been very strong through it all, and she’s kind of been Tatum’s rock,” Schulte said. “They’re definitely best friends, and they do everything together. She encourages her, she pushes her to be better and she’s hard on her sometimes just trying to get her to be stronger and do better on her new prosthetic leg.”

Schulte said while the adjustment to her new leg has not been easy, Tatum finds more positives than negatives and continues to find motivation to get stronger.

“She went to the gym last night with one of her friends and did a little basketball lesson, and we videoed that,” Schulte said. “She’s out there with no crutches or anything–just out there standing on two feet and dribbling and doing all the things she used to do prior to this deal. She’s getting better all the time, and once she gets to the point she’s able to do it all on her own without thinking about it so much, of course she’s going to love it.”

As Tatum becomes more confident using her prosthetic leg, the community continues to support her. Anywhere she goes, people recognize and speak to her. As an 8-year-old girl, these encounters are overwhelming at times.

“Any restaurant we go there’s somebody there who knows exactly who she is,” Schulte said. “You know how a little girl is shy sometimes, and sometimes she just wants to nod. We say, ‘you need to speak to people because they’re the reason we’ve gotten through this with all the prayers.’”

Schulte said the prayers and support of the community are incredibly encouraging. Seeing the signs around town reminds their family she no longer has cancer and verifies the joyous feeling for them.

“It feels like the whole community is celebrating with us, and that’s a really, really cool thing,” Schulte said. “We couldn’t be more grateful to be where we are. There is no better feeling than knowing people are thinking about you, but more importantly praying for you, and praying for Tatum most importantly.”