Steven Schank had been experiencing continual bouts of sickness for months until finally, at the behest of his wife, Sharon, he decided to face what was before unthinkable, and undergo a screening for cancer.
Sharon's intuition turned out to be potentially life-saving. On March 28 Steven was diagnosed with T1 high-grade bladder cancer. This is a very aggressive type, which has the potential to spread to lymph nodes and other surrounding organs. However, because it was caught relatively early, there is still hope that it has not spread further through his body.
Steven, a retired director of ministries at the Jamestown Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, and currently a pastor for the church at Emeritus senior living center, credits his faith and his church community for helping him through this immensely difficult time.
Steven Schank in his Jamestown home.
Photo by Gavin Mead
"When I found out I had cancer, it was the worst and darkest day of my life," Steven said. "I am trying to look at it as a blessing, and have been praying that it will make me a better pastor. I want to be a comfort and blessing to others."
The illness has put a significant financial strain on the family. Steven is a retired truck driver who up until his diagnosis was supplementing his retirement income with his work at CARTS. However, since his diagnosis, he has been too ill to continue working. His time as a pastor at Emeritus is volunteered. Now that his cancer has forced him to stay home, getting by financially has not been easy.
"We are cutting off everything," Steven said.
Adding to the strain are the costs of his recent surgery for cancer removal, which Steven underwent on July 2 and from which he is currently recovering. The surgery consisted of a cystectomy, with the hope that the bladder can be removed before the cancer has spread to surrounding organs.
Worried about the incidental costs of the surgery, such as transportation and hotel expenses during the Schanks' stay at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, especially given the reduced income of the family while Steven is forced to stay home from work, Steven's brother suggested to Sharon that they should have some sort of sale or raffle to aid with the expenses during this difficult time.
Inspired by this idea, Sharon began talking to other members of her family and community.
"Someone would come up with one idea for the benefit, and then someone else would come up with another, and eventually the idea started to grow," Sharon said.
As a result, what started out as simply a yard sale has grown into something much more multi-faceted. Also part of the event are basket raffles, a bake sale, craft sales and the sale of Steven's compound bow. Sharon's sister, Wendy Newberry, offered her yard to serve as the site for the benefit.
"We have friends from all over the country sending in their homemade crafts for us to sell," Sharon said.
The Schanks are very grateful for all of the help they have so far received during this very difficult time, with support coming from their family, friends, neighbors and members of their church community.
"The reaction so far has been overwhelming," Steven said.
The benefit will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at 240 Howard Ave. and Central Avenue, West Ellicott. The family is looking for donations for the benefit, including hot dogs, condiments, water, soda and snacks. For more information, or to offer donations, Sharon Schank can be reached at 488-2538.