Life-threatening diagnosis turns into lifelong friendship

Two Iowans are extra thankful this Thanksgiving after spending the last year battling cancer.

posted on 11/24/2023 in Features

 WHO 13 NEWS by: Calyn Thompson– 

“Miracles. Two miracles right here,” Rick Hoffman, of Templeton, said. 

Hoffman and Julie Schmidt are thankful to be here after receiving the same news nearly one year ago.

“My diagnosis date was December 8 with my colonoscopy,” Schmidt, of Audubon, said. 

“November 13,” Hoffman said. “November 13. I can remember that day like a book.”

When doctors diagnosed them with rectal cancer their lives forever changed.

“Treatments, treatments, treatments, doctor’s appointments, lab work,” Schmidt said. “It was like that’s what you live by.”

They were both going to St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll. 

“I felt like I lived at the cancer center,” Schmidt said. 

They had the same doctors and similar treatment plans causing their paths to cross.

“We met in the infusion center, and everything just seemed to be,” Hoffman said. “They scheduled us at the same time, the same day, the same everything.”

That allowed them to connect.

“And you just compare,” Hoffman said. “Man, I feel like crap today. Yeah, I do, too. How do you feel, huh? So do I.” 

They stayed in touch all throughout treatment and radiation.

“You know, towards the end there we would just look at each other now and go, oh, she don’t feel good,” Hoffman said. “You didn’t even need to talk to each other.”

“You can tell by the look of him,” Schmidt said.

And then came surgery.

“During the initial surgery, which I think was pretty tough on both of us,” Hoffman reflected, “there were some days when I didn’t even want to get out of bed just because they shook everything around.”

Dr. Ohmar Coughlin, with The Iowa Clinic, was their surgeon.Lifelong Friends

“In rectal cancer, there’s usually a second operation to get things hooked back together,” Dr. Coughlin explained. “And by this point, they had become really close. They had become friends. And each of them independently asked me if they could have their surgery on the same day as the other one.”

Dr. Coughlin and the rest of the medical team made that happen so Hoffman and Schmidt could recover together. A connection they cherish as they went through this journey side-by-side.

“Somebody that really knows 100% what it feels like,” Schmidt said. “I mean, family does good, but unless they’ve been in your shoes, it’s a hard thing to fill. And he’s been in the same shoes. So that’s very nice to have somebody to walk in the same shoes as you, together.”

And they’re still together in remission. Cancer free and forever bonded.

They are sharing their story to remind people to get their colonoscopies. Those are recommended at age 45 or earlier if you’re at higher risk. Talk to your doctor if you have questions.

View the full story with video at:


  1. cancer rehab services
  2. cancer services
  3. cancer support group
  4. cancer survivor
  5. colon

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