Why I Ride: Michael Schaefer

Michael Schaefer was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma in 2017. At the time, Michael and his wife Chrissy visited multiple Philadelphia-area hospitals to identify the best place and team for his ongoing treatment. It was an easy decision after meeting Lynn Schuchter, MD, and the Penn Medicine team. They agreed to take the wait-and-see approach, and thankfully, Michael remained cancer-free for just over five years. However, in 2022 the cancer returned. Michael has undergone three surgeries in the last year and a half, is currently four treatments into his second year of immunotherapy,  and just completed 20 radiation treatments under the care of John N. Lukens, MD.

Why Does Michael Ride?

During an appointment last year, Dr. Schuchter asked Michael if he was aware of the Breakthrough Challenge. He was not, so she introduced him to the nonprofit organization that has raised funds for Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center for over ten years (11 now, as of 2024). Instead of just donating - Michael asked if he could participate in the event and even suggested riding a tandem bike with Dr. Schuchter!  That didn’t work out, but they did have a laugh. Unfortunately, the ride was canceled due to severe weather, but he still rode 25 miles the day after the event. 

Michael raised over $3,800 in the first year of participation in the Breakthrough Challenge. His fundraising success, vast community of friends and family, and his professional network made him realize that there is so much more he can do to support Penn Medicine’s melanoma fundraising initiatives. 

Michael is currently working with Karleigh Rose Pettit from Penn Medicine’s development team to explore creative ways to ensure that his aggressive goal of tripling last year’s fundraising total is realized. 

His father had a 25-year battle with several different cancers during his fight.  Michael grew up in Buffalo and his dad’s treatments were at Roswell Park Cancer Center. In addition to his treatments, his dad volunteered for 10+ years at Roswell Park, and was instrumental in helping new local and out-of-state patients deal with the reality of their diagnoses. Michael has always strived to follow in his dad’s footsteps - this is just the start.

Michael is a lifelong athlete, having played Division 1 baseball at Saint Bonaventure University.  He was a 4-year starter at 3rd base, earned all-conference honors and was 10th most challenging in the nation to strike out his freshman year. 

Michael and his wife Chrissy recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. They have 3 amazing boys - Ryan, Kevin, and Steven. He is co-founder of a consulting company and is currently a partner in a new venture launching later this year. It is focused on cancer awareness, community support and raising money to help fund treatment research and ultimately cures. The Breakthrough Challenge is grateful to Michael and his family for their continued support.