Carly’s story: ‘Trust the doctor’
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Carly Kuntz embraces life enthusiastically yet matter-of-factly.
She so loves baseball that she can tell you exactly how many days it is until baseball returns in the spring. She also is realistic about her favorite team. “I haven’t suffered enough, so I’m a Milwaukee Brewers fan,” she says.
She so embraces life that she’s proactive about her health, especially when it involves what she irreverently calls “girl parts.”
“There is no substitute for regular exams,” says Kuntz, 63, who is lead pastor at Lakeshore United Methodist Church in Manitowoc.
“I look at the doctor as an ally, one of my team members in life. I have regular gynecological exams, regular breast exams.”
During one of those regular gynecological exams, a nurse practitioner saw something unusual and suggested Kuntz have a biopsy. She did, and was diagnosed with vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, grade 3. That’s a cancerous growth on the skin covering the vulva. The cancer was caused by HPV, or human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted infection.
“One doesn’t usually think of getting skin cancer in that part of the body. I was mildly nervous because that’s a sensitive part of the body, but I was calm,” Kuntz said.
Some of that calm came naturally, from within. Some of that calm radiated from Dr. Peter R. Johnson, the gynecologic oncologist who treated her. At the time, both Kuntz and Johnson were based in the Milwaukee area. He now sees patients at Aurora BayCare Gynecologic Oncology in Green Bay.
“He’s attentive, compassionate, gentle, honest, kind and skilled,” Kuntz said of Johnson, who performed a hemivulvectomy, removing part of the vulva to remove the cancer.
“It can recur again, but don’t worry,” Johnson told her.
Kuntz’s cancer returned in May 2016. She didn’t worry. She again sought out Johnson, this time in Green Bay.
“Wherever Dr. Johnson is, I’ll travel to him. He’s that good. It’s a network of trust for me,” she says.
Johnson did another biopsy and removed a cancerous area that was smaller than the first.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” says Kuntz, who’s proud of being in great health. “I haven’t had chemo. I haven’t had radiation. I just keep a lookout. The most inconvenient thing was the swelling. Ice does wonderful things. Just sitting on a cushion. I was back at work two days later. Two weeks after that, everything was wonderful.”
But as a pastor, Kuntz knows such a journey may not be so wonderful for everyone.
“Illness is a part of life. Let’s make the most of what we have,” she says. To that end, she offers this counsel:
- “Trust the doctor. I trust Dr. Johnson absolutely and completely. You get a team of people around you, friends to support you, people to pray with and for you.”
- “Annual exams are essential. We have to take care of ourselves. Women’s health issues are preventable. My cancer was found at a regular pelvic exam, not in a PAP test. Annual exams are more than finding uterine cancer. There’s the cervix, the ovaries.”
- “I’m not going to miss an exam. I’m going to be proactive, especially with women’s reproductive issues, because things can turn really ugly really fast. I don’t want to die from something that can be prevented.”
With that, Kuntz is out the door to scoot around the neighborhood on her Segway.
“I like toys,” she says. There’s also a Mazda Miata convertible and a wetsuit for swimming in Lake Michigan.
“I go play in the waves,” she says.
Take that, cancer.
Dr. Peter R. Johnson sees patients in Green Bay and Neenah. Call 844-260-3002 or request an appointment online.