NAUGATUCK — Charles “Chip” Schofield is resolute and straightforward when he talks about his battle with a neuroendocrine tumor — a fight he hopes will raise awareness about the rare cancer and help others in his shoes realize they are not alone.
“My mindset is I got this thing beat. It doesn’t control me,” said Schofield as he sat in the kitchen of his Naugatuck home last week.
Schofield, 49, retired from the Naugatuck Police Department on Sept. 27, 2019, after 20 years on the force. Three days later, the former detective started a new job as an armed security guard for Watertown Public Schools and began a new chapter in his life with his wife, Melissa, and their three daughters, Kyrstin, Erin and Megan.
A few days before Thanksgiving, Schofield experienced severe abdominal pain. Schofield went to see a gastroenterologist, who sent him to St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury. A CT scan found that he had a 6.7-centimeter-long tumor growing on his pancreas and lymph nodes in the area were enlarged.
On Nov. 26, 2019, Schofield was diagnosed with cancer. After a few more tests, doctors found the cancer had spread to his neck, bronchial tube and lymph nodes in his lower back. He began chemotherapy treatment within two weeks of being diagnosed.
Neuroendocrine tumors are rare and can occur anywhere in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic, and most occur in the lungs, appendix, small intestine, rectum and pancreas. There is still much that isn’t known about neuroendocrine tumors, including the exact cause.
“It’s a very unknown cancer,” said Melissa Schofield, who works at City Hill Middle School.
Doctors are still trying to pinpoint exactly what type of neuroendocrine tumor Schofield has, he said, and waiting to see how his body reacts to chemo to see whether they need to go a different route for treatment.
Schofield, who vows to not let the cancer identify who he is, said he wants to spread awareness of neuroendocrine tumors. He experienced abdominal pain twice last year before being diagnosed, but each time blood tests came back normal and the source of the pain was thought to be a less-severe ailment, like kidney stones.
“I wanted to get this cancer out there,” he said. “Everybody’s heard of breast cancer, colon cancer.”
Schofield’s father, Charles, died from lung cancer at 49 years old, and colon cancer runs in his family. But, he said, he doesn’t know anyone else who has had a neuroendocrine tumor and felt isolated at first. He hopes that spreading the word about what he’s going through may help someone else with a neuroendocrine tumor who doesn’t have the support system he has backing him.
“I don’t want them to think they’re alone,” he said. “There’s people out there that are fighting this, as well.”
Schofield is not alone in his fight. Among his support system is his close friend, George Mudry, a fellow Freemason.
Mudry, whose mother died of cancer when he was young, said when he heard the news about Schofield it hit him personally.
“There was no way that I was just going to sit back and do nothing,” he said.
Mudry started a GoFundMe page to help raise money to cover Schofield’s $4,000 insurance deductible. As of Jan. 8, the page had raised $7,765 in donations.
Melissa Schofield said the support from the community, including the Naugatuck and Watertown school systems, has been amazing.
“We’re overwhelmed by the support and the compassion,” she said.
The Schofields are also working to do their part in the larger fight against neuroendocrine tumors. The family is selling T-shirts, with all the proceeds going to benefit the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation.
Kyrstin, Erin and Megan designed the T-shirts to honor their father’s fight and support neuroendocrine cancer awareness. The front includes a cancer ribbon with zebra stripes — the symbol for neuroendocrine cancer — and the back includes the phrase “IN THIS FIGHT I’M NOT ALONE” and “#CHIPSTRONG.”
“In this fight, I am not alone. It’s because it’s directly affected everybody in my life,” Schofield said. “They are standing shoulder to shoulder with me in my fight.”
The T-shirts are $20 each for small to extra-large sizes, and $25 each for double extra-large to quadruple extra-large. For information on how to buy a T-shirt, email Melissa Schofield at email@example.com.