Valerie Schreck

First post: Jan 14, 2018 Latest post: Sep 4, 2018
On Dec. 22, 2017, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and several days later with thyroid cancer. To say this news caught Rob and me by surprise is an understatement.

It  started in June when I had trouble swallowing. In July, I saw an ENT doctor and the diagnosis was acid reflux. In late October, my voice became hoarse and raspy and I would lose my voice after a few sentences. In November, I felt a lump at the base of my throat. With these new developments, and the fact that the reflux was not getting better, back to the doctor I went on December 11. He ordered a couple of tests, these led to more tests and several other doctors getting involved and here I am with a diagnosis of two types of cancer. I have no family history of these cancers, I lead a healthy and active lifestyle, never smoked, am only a social drinker, have all the regular and preventive check ups. So the medical term for "why me?"  is “bad luck.”

What’s next? This is a marathon; all the testing and doctor visits have been the warm up. The doctors think the two cancers are separate, meaning one did not metastasize to  the other location. Because of this my case is being  presented January 8 at the NW Tumor Board meeting, a meeting of interdisciplinary doctors. 

Based on the outcome of this meeting the treatment plan will be set. Most likely the race will start with the first chemo treatment on Tuesday, January 9. There will be two to three rounds of chemo every 3 weeks to start, then a round or two of chemo and radiation, then surgery. They need to shrink the tumors before they can operate. There are two tumors in the esophagus, one higher up stage 3 and one in the mid section stage 1. The thyroid surgery plan is still being developed, but I will have surgery at some point to remove the esophagus. They will reconstruct a new one from my stomach lining, something they have been doing for 20 years. I will have a feeding tube for a while. I will be in the hospital about one week for the surgery and at home recovering for one to two months. Then tests to assess how clear everything is. I am optimistic the tests will come back clear and that will conclude the marathon. 

Family,  friends and co-workers have been incredibly kind and compassionate. For those of you Rob and I  were not able to contact directly please understand. This has been a whirlwind of doctors' appointments and tests and is exhausting and emotionally draining to retell. This is an overview and may be too much information for some and not enough for others.

I am fortunate to have excellent doctors at Northwestern; all the doctors are optimistic and positive. The company I work for has been very supportive and accommodating. There are also support organizations like Imerman’s Angels, American Cancer Society and Gilda’s Club that we have yet to connect with.

If you're thinking of me let me know; call, text, email, or mail a card. You can't reach out too much, never think "this may not be a good time." It is ALWAYS a good time to reach out. I may not always respond, but I need the encouragement.

Rob is my rock…he is granite! I have never loved him more. He is strong, encouraging, so very smart,  makes me laugh and is taking the best care of me. I can only imagine how difficult it is to be the caregiver. Remember, the caregiver also needs care and support.

There will be good days and not so good days, but the focus is always on the goal - crossing the finish line cancer free. I believe in modern medicine and am only thinking positive thoughts. I am going to beat this; I am going to finish this marathon strong! 

Rob and I will need your continued support and encouragement during this marathon.

Updates will be posted, although, I am not sure with what frequency.

Thank you.