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Akron man faces biggest fear

As a skydiving instructor, Daniel Schuder is well acquainted with fear.

For about 40 years, he did something scarier than jumping out of a plane: He smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. "I started in high school -- you know, trying to be cool," said the Akron resident.

His doctor referred him to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, where physicians detected a lesion, a possible tumor, on his right lung.

Schuder agreed to have the lesion removed using a new minimally invasive surgical technique called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), in which the growth is removed through a tiny opening between the ribs.

Schuder's lesion was determined to be precancerous, so doctors removed a section of his lung.

"I was lucky it wasn't yet cancer. If it had, I probably wouldn't be here to talk with you today," Schuder said.

With the VATS, Schuder was out of the hospital in a few days and several days later returned to his job as a computer graphics designer for Buffalo's Keller Bros. & Miller on Franklin Street.

Schuder's experience has made him a star. He is one of Roswell Park Cancer Institute's Stars of Hope -- so designated by the hospital to be an inspiration to others.

He has lofty praise for his treatment at Roswell.

"You go in for an appointment and everything -- all the tests, blood work, doctor's visit -- are done at the same time. The staff is organized," he said.

The technology, he said, "is well ahead of anything you can imagine. Diagnostic tests are the latest. Doctors work with computers and robots, which make the treatment of cancer, or in my case precancer, as innovative as Dr. McCoy operating in 'Star Trek.' This is really advanced stuff."

Schuder also offers a message of hope to others facing that decision.

"Cancer can be a frightening experience, but you can beat this disease," he said. "Early screening tests can and do make a difference. Don't be afraid to get mammograms and colonoscopies or whatever your doctor recommends."

"It could save your life," said Schuder, who added that cigarettes are no longer a part of his life.

"When someone says you may have cancer, that scares you enough to quit," he said.

"When I left the hospital the first time, I had a cigarette, then left them in car -- and that was that, for me and smoking."

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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