Pink Ladies: Where are they now? Kristie Schreck
A year ago on Mother’s Day, Kristie Schreck had more to celebrate than being a wife and mom of five great kids – it marked 10 years since her diagnosis of breast cancer.
“It was such a good feeling – wow, I made it,” she said
Schreck was diagnosed in May of 2007 at age 40. “My husband, Phil, ran in the Race for the first time the day after I was diagnosed.”
Since that time, she describes her journey as “smooth sailing,” yet added that a lot happened during the first two years.
“I found out through a genetic test that my body didn’t metabolize Tamoxifen. My cancer was estrogen driven and Tamoxifen blocks estrogen, so I was at risk to develop other cancers.” An alternate drug resulted in too many side effects, so Schreck had a total hysterectomy to prevent future estrogen-driven cancers.
“Whenever you have an appointment, there’s an anxiety that is always there, because you know they’re looking to see if it came back. You hope and pray for good news.”
So when her oncologist told Schreck that she wouldn’t need to come back for any more follow-up appointments, “I looked at her, and the tears just came,” as she realized that she had made it through the time frame when most recurrences happen. “It just hit me. I hadn’t imagined that this day would ever come.”
When she was diagnosed, she remembers being told that her life would be changed from this day forward. “It’s true. It’s all been for the better.”
Her daughter Samantha was 9 at the time, and now, she’s a junior in college, pursuing a degree in nursing. “I have to believe my experience impacted her.” Her son Jake was 12, and he’s now a teacher at Madison, S.D. Her daughter Mattie is now a senior in high school and her twins, Gabe and Luke, are in middle school.
“This has helped us grow stronger, learn to be sensitive to the needs of others and show kindness,” she said. “It’s helped us become better servants to other people and our community. “All in all I can’t imagine my life if I had not had cancer. I can’t imagine it being any better than it is now.”
Schreck counts it as a privilege when she has the opportunity to encourage others who are going through a similar journey. When women are newly diagnosed, “whatever you are feeling is normal for you. I remember being in that place and not being able to think beyond the moment. But before you know it, an hour has gone by or a day has gone by without it consuming every moment.”
Schreck is librarian at Terry Redlin Elementary School in Sioux Falls. “Teachers will come to me if they have a student whose mom or grandma was diagnosed. It’s such a high honor to be able to share some of my experience with them.”
She remains an advocate for early detection, as her own cancer was caught at an early stage during a routine screening mammogram.
“So much has changed in the last 10 years. There are new medications to help people cope with symptoms, and chemotherapy drugs that don’t have the same severity of side effects as in the past. Genomic medicine can help oncologists match patients with the best possible therapies. It gives me so much hope,” Schreck said.
Since the first year after her diagnosis, Schreck’s team of HOPE (Helping Others through Prayer and Example) has been faithfully running in the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer. She helps with planning logistics and the survivorship tent.
“It’s a sisterhood and being involved in the Race has opened my eyes to the need to be a place of belonging for all kinds of cancer.”