Tomahawk woman loses home, turns experience around Submitted: 02/26/2015

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TOMAHAWK - Sometimes it feels like you've had a rough day. But as the old saying goes, "someone out there is having a tougher day than you." We caught up with a Tomahawk woman who lost her house in a fire and is battling cancer. Some Tomahawk kids told us how she's able to keep a smile on her face and bring cheer to others.

"She's a very strong woman. She's very cheerful. Despite all of her hardships she still can smile. She still has a loving heart," said 18-year-old Umran Abdul Majeed.

Judy Schroeder always has a warm smile on her face. Even after she lost everything last Wednesday night in a house fire.

"I called 911 and they said get your animals out. I have a cat and dog and we got them out of the house," said Schroeder.

But before she called 911, she noticed something strange.

"My TV did this ring, I have a dish, like when it snows, sometimes it goes off and I thought, 'It's not snowing out.' I walked into the next room and the wall was in flames," Schroeder said.

Schroeder and her husband moved from Wisconsin Rapids to Tomahawk 3 years ago. Soon after he passed away.

"He had a rare genetic disorder and have been doctored for a lot of years and there was no cure," said Schroeder.

And a year ago, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. You might think experiencing life changing events like a husband's death, cancer, and a house fire would be traumatic, but Schroeder takes it and shows the kids of Kinship of Tomahawk how to look at life in a positive light.

"The period that I've been here, from what I see, how she acts with the kids and how she acts with me and how she's with everybody, she's wonderful. It's just great to be around her," Abdul Majeed said.

"Very passionate, very loving, she has an amazing history. I just love listening to her stories," said Kinship of Tomahawk Executive Director Patti Hilgendorf. "I've been to her home many times and everything in her home had a meaning was a treasure; everything came from someone special or had a story behind it. Things that you can't replace."

Those things are now gone, but Schroeder had an idea of turning it around.

"My thought was the night after the fire 'Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.' So that's what we're doing," said Schroeder said.

She will literally sell lemonade to benefit Kinship of Tomahawk on Saturday at a polar plunge. Then she'll jump in herself.

"They told me today (Wednesday) that I should be sure that I have a grandson, I talked to a girl who had done it last year, she said just have your kids grab you on each arm so you don't slip when you hit the bottom," Schroeder said.

It takes a strong woman to take such a brave dive, especially after her recent challenges.

The plunge will take place at Lake Mohawksin off the beach behind SARA Park at 1 p.m.

Story By: Shardaa Gray

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