Xavier’s Ali Schuchmann stayed strong while ‘boxing out cancer’

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By Kya Loffwold, Xavier senior

CEDAR RAPIDS — Life is all about perspective.

Xavier girls’ basketball player Ali Schuchmann found a way to look on the bright side of things despite what she has gone through.

The sophomore was diagnosed with stage III Primary mediastinal B-Cell lymphoma on April 29, 2020. She started her first round of treatments on May 1 and was officially in remission on Sept. 15.

During this time, Schuchmann leaned on her family, friends, teammates and basketball to get through.

“My friends and family have been my biggest supporters and have helped me stay positive, even when times were tough,” she said. “They were always there for me to have a shoulder to cry on or to just have a laugh with.”

The girls’ basketball team found ways to support Schuchmann despite the COVID-19 outbreak during the spring when she was at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital for treatment.

“Upon Ali’s arrival home after her first hospital stay, which was 36 days, a surprise parade of cars with teammates, coaches and friends showed her support,” said Rita Schuchmann, Ali’s mom. “The basketball parents also sent many messages of support to me. A simple text saying they were thinking of us meant so incredibly much.

“Coach Stephanie Potts (assistant coach for the girls’ basketball team) ordered bracelets with ‘Rally for Ali’ to be handed out and the Arnold family (a Xavier girls’ basketball family) helped design, order and deliver T-shirts with ‘Big Al — Boxing out Cancer.’”

Ali has grown so much throughout her diagnosis and rehab.

“The crazy thing is Ali never had a pity-party. It is hard to admit, but Ali’s attitude kept me in check when I wavered from the positive side,” Rita said. “During her treatment, Ali often acknowledged how blessed she was that her body tolerated and responded so well to the chemotherapy.

“I am so inspired by how Ali looks at personal situations now. Even if a situation she is in is not ideal and she wants to be upset about it, she is fairly quick to notice others may have it worse off than her, which puts her situation into perspective.”

A big key to Ali’s positivity was her ability to continue to play basketball throughout her treatments.

“Basketball has always been a huge outlet for me,” she said. “This summer my doctors told me that I needed to stay active in between rounds of chemo. I thought what better of a way to stay active than to play basketball.

“So after a little convincing, my doctors agreed to let me play AAU basketball in between treatment. This was a great distraction from always being so focused on my health.”

Ali’s ability to continue to play basketball for Xavier this season has brought her and her parents joy.

“Ali knew the game was moving fast and worked outside of practice on shooting and agility,” said Dave Schuchmann, her dad. “She embraced the opportunity to play on the JV2 team where she was able to get back into her rhythm. Coach (Erica) Kearns provided encouragement, which was exactly what Ali needed.

“We saw Ali’s performance improve each JV2 game, which carried over to the JV1 games. Ali’s confidence has increased and she now feels closer to her ‘basketball normal’ and is ready to contribute to the varsity team when called upon. The cancer is gone, but it left its fingerprints on Ali’s game and confidence.”

Emma Arnold, a sophomore who played on the Xavier’s varsity team, has been playing with Ali on Team Iowa since they were in sixth grade. They immediately connected through their sense of humor and have been friends ever since. Basketball has been something they have shared for a long time.

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“Ali is a true warrior and one of the strongest people I know. Nothing can get in the way of Big Al, through all of her treatments she has remained positive,” Arnold said. “She continued to come to open gyms, train at CR Performance and attend Team Iowa practices and tournaments. I’m amazed by her dedication and strength to not only recover from cancer but grow as a student-athlete.”

Ali was recognized at the Xavier girls’ basketball game on Feb. 9 against Kennedy. The players wore their “Big Al — Boxing out Cancer” shirts for warm ups and the fans wore them in the stands.

Ali is looking to continue to spread positivity throughout the 11th floor at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in the near future with her new puppy, Bentley. She has taken him to puppy obedience classes and plans to get Bentley certified as a pet therapy dog once he is old enough.

She wants to be able to give back to the staff members that supported her throughout her journey and any patients who might be going through something similar.



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