Michigan lawmaker kept rare cancer private while running for office
Andrea Schroeder's voice wavers ever so slightly. Somehow, she remains calm, considering the news she'd just gotten. The mother of three was in the midst of an aggressive political campaign for a hotly contested seat for state representative in the 43rd District, an area of Oakland County that includes her hometown of Independence Township. As she drove home from her hairdresser's in Birmingham on the afternoon of Aug. 16, 2018, she got dreadful news. "I have cancer," she said in a voice recording, almost like an audio diary, made just 20 minutes after her doctor called to tell her the results of a test done earlier that week. "I have a very rare form of stomach cancer, and it's gonna kill me." Since symptoms of stomach cancer often do not appear until the disease is advanced, only about 1 in 5 stomach cancers in the United States is found at an early stage, before it has spread to other areas of the body, according to the American Cancer Society. Her prospects were grim. Few people survive stomach cancer because it's rarely caught before it's in its most advanced, and less-treatable stages. The five-year survival rate is 31%, according to the American Cancer Society. "In the United States, there isn't a general screening protocol for it," said Dr. Philip A. Philip, who leads gastrointestinal and neuroendocrine oncology at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. "The majority of the patients we diagnose in this country really do not fulfill the criteria for being very early. And for that reason, the outcome of the disease, is, in general less than what we see, for example, in a country that has screening and early diagnosis." Dr. Steve Kim, chief of surgical oncology at Karmanos and associate professor of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, performed successful surgery on Schroeder removing her entire stomach and attaching her esophagus directly to her small intestine. "The long and the short of it is, it works just like normal," Schroeder said. "I can eat anything, drink whatever I want. I try to be careful about sugars. Really high sugar-content things are hard to digest.
November 26, 2019