Patient Story: Emma Smrekar

Emma Smrekar was born on April 14, 2003 to Lindsey and Scott Smrekar. One thing you need to know is Emma was absolutely determined from the time she was young. She would not give up until she got it right, no matter what it was. Emma was a gifted photographer, artist, athlete, and student. She loved travel and adventure. 

When Emma was a junior, she excelled in school, math and science being her favorite. She had plans of going off to college to major in biology and dreams of working in pathology. This is when her pain started. Spring and Summer of 2020 is when her back started to hurt more and soon she was unable to keep any food down. Emma lost about 30 pounds before she was diagnosed. On September 1st, 2020, we went to the emergency room. We had been to different doctors trying to get answers. They thought she had an auto immune disease and were ready to release us when they finally got her images back. The doctor told us she had a large tumor by her stomach. It was the size of a cantaloupe. They took more images, and the cancer was already on her lung and liver. We took an ambulance to the hospital in Minneapolis. Over the next ten days we learned that Emma had Rhabdomyosarcoma. She wanted to start chemo right away. 

Already 30 pounds down at the start of chemo, Emma had a tough time keeping any weight on. The tumor was still causing stomach issues, so was now she 50 pounds down. With her chemo working, she went for radiation. But first we had a team of doctors to figure out her stomach.  With new medicine on board and a feeding tube, Emma maintained weight while she got radiation and chemo. After a two month stay at the Mayo Clinic, she was happy to go home. It was January 2021 and Emma did chemo until June. She was able to graduate, go to prom and have fun with friends. In August after her scans the doctor told us the cancer was back. Emma was heartbroken, but by no means was going to give up. We took a family trip to Maui. We came home and started a different chemo and in November we went to the Cleveland Clinic to do sbrt radiation. We were there for a week and went back home to celebrate Thanksgiving. Emma was finally able to eat this year. We had a girl’s trip in the middle of December to NYC to go to the Rockefeller tree and to the MOA to see her favorite painting by Van Gogh. Towards the end of the trip, Emma feeding tube was getting tight on her stomach. Now Emma was gaining weight the last couple months, so we thought it had to be that. After Christmas she went to the ER and to the clinic to see her regular doctors. After more testing they told us that the cancer was everywhere in her stomach. There was nothing else they could do to help. Emma went into surgery at this point to put in a drain so the fluid could come out and she could have some relief. We finally got her home, and she was surrounded by loved ones and her beloved pets for the next two weeks saying her goodbyes. She passed away on January 17th, 2022. Our lives forever changed.