Milford woman shares story of rare cancer diagnosis

Greta Stifel was calm and even managed a little joke when she stood on the steps of Milford City Hall last Tuesday to share the news that she is dying of cancer, and to spread awareness about the type of cancer she has.

Mayor Ben Blake read a proclamation recognizing the Stifle Cancer Foundation for Neuroendocrine Tumors and Carcinoid Cancer and the Zebra Project & Initiative, Stifel’s social media campaign to raise awareness.

The former Milford resident said her symptoms were misdiagnosed and it wasn’t until she was in stage four that she learned she had carcinoid cancer.

“I didn’t even know about this cancer,” she said, adding with a small laugh, “Now I do.”

She shares her story on the website and on her own website,

“In the last year, Greta, 57, endured debilitating symptoms,” she writes on her website. “She was constantly experiencing flushing, redness and warmth around the face and neck, and had chronic abdominal/bowel/digestive issues and weight gain. Initially seen and diagnosed by her gastro-endocrine doctor, she was told her symptoms were caused by the onset of menopause and that she merely had irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and diverticulosis.”

According to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation, “carcinoid commonly refers to neuroendocrine tumors that originate in the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, appendix, and thymus, although they can also occur in the lymph nodes, brain, bone, gonads (ovaries and testes), and skin.”

The foundation reports that carcinoid tumors are usually slow-growing and develop over the course of many years; however, aggressive, fast-growing forms of carcinoid cancer also exist.

Stifel said doctors missed her tumor despite exploratory surgery and a colonoscopy.

“After a series of nuclear scans, MRIs and CT scans were performed to find the primary tumor that was missed in the colonoscopy, it was found,” she writes.

Stifel is now battling her cancer as a terminal cancer patient, seeking treatment and advice from doctors all over the country and the world who deal with this cancer.

Since her diagnosis, she has become a dedicated patient advocate/activist and is raising awareness of neuroendocrine tumors and carcinoid cancer.

She stresses the importance of getting a second, third and even fourth opinion and the significance of getting the best care possible, wherever that may be.

“Empower yourself with knowledge and information,” she said.

Her primary goal is to bridge the gap between doctors and their patients where this cancer is concerned. She’s pushed for doctors to learn more about the cancer, and to make literature available to their patients.

“Hopefully, my reach will be so large it will not be ignored,” she said.

Stifel is asking people to wear black and white, the colors of the zebra, Nov. 10 in observance of International Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs) Awareness Day.

On her website posting, she writes, “I want to live as full of a life as I can every day and wish to inspire, educate, motivate, and help people take charge of their health.

“I will not live a long, healthy life as I had planned,” she adds. “My goal is to not have others suffer as I am and ultimately my efforts will hopefully save lives or extend time for those afflicted, along the way.”

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