Health Check: Esophageal cancer
They are as close as it gets for mother and daughter. Even though mom, Sue Everett, lives in Lincoln, Neb., and Kate Schmitter lives in Cranston, they talk all the time.
One phone call two years ago was a life-changer.
"She called me and said the test results came back and it's cancer. Yep," Schmitter said.
It started months before that diagnosis.
"I had a cough," Everett said.
It didn't go away. Her doctor sent her to a pulmonary doctor.
"He said your lungs are fine, no problem there. So then they sent me to my (gastroenterologist)," Everett said.
That doctor scheduled her for an endoscopy to see what was going on in her esophagus and digestive tract. That's when they found the tumor.
"I did have a lot of acid reflux. Even as a child I remember that," Everett said.
Acid reflux is a risk factor for esophageal cancer. Everett underwent chemo and radiation therapy, and surgery. Two years later, she feels great. And she credits support and a positive attitude.
"One thing that I did for myself with the help of my husband was I made a check list and I put down every single treatment. I put down shaving my head. I put down buying a wig. I put down everything, and I checked things off," Everett said.
Everett said that check list got her from her cancer treatments to the end result, which is she's symptom-free and continues to work. She's a teacher.
Everett shares her story in hopes of raising awareness about a cancer that is often found in the late stages when it's more difficult to treat. Acid reflux is one risk factor. Smoking and alcohol use also puts a person at higher risk.
There's a local organization, the Salgi Foundation, that's raising awareness and money for research.