Paula’s story: ‘Not letting cancer get me down’

Thursday, June 23, 2016

By: Jeff Ash

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Photo: From left, Dr. Peter R. Johnson, cancer patient Paula Lemke and Lisa Kinziger, cancer nurse navigator at Aurora BayCare Medical Center.


Paula Lemke has a stalker, one she knows all too well, but she is not afraid. She wields a smile.


“I’m not going to let it beat me,” she says. “We have a lot of cancer in our family. My mother, my aunt, my sister, all of them had hysterectomies.”


Lemke also had a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with early-stage endometrial cancer in 2013. But even with that procedure, there’s a 5 percent chance that the cancer will return.


Last December, five days after her 66th birthday, Lemke went to the bathroom. She experienced heavy vaginal bleeding. She was hemorrhaging.


“I just knew instantly that I had cancer,” says Lemke, who lives in Shawano.


Lemke’s gynecologist did a biopsy, confirmed her suspicions and referred her to Dr. Peter R. Johnson, an Aurora BayCare gynecologic oncologist.


Johnson, in turn, activated the Aurora BayCare Medical Center Gynecologic Oncology team, one of four such teams at the Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. (The other MDCC teams treat breast, lung and colorectal cancer.)


That gynecologic oncology team – which also included Dr. Nancy B. Davis, a medical oncologist, and Dr. Pamela J. Vanderwall, a radiation oncologist – worked together to plan Lemke’s treatment.


“With the MDCC, there’s a team of experts with the patient in one place, at one time, with one plan,” Johnson says. The gynecologic oncology team meets once a week.


“I like it,” Lemke said. “You have more than one opinion. Everybody explains things in different ways.”


The team decided upon radiation and chemotherapy for Lemke, then worked with her to get the process started before 2015 ended because she’d met her medical deductible for the year. Lemke’s first chemotherapy session came on New Year’s Eve.


“That was my first cocktail of the year,” Lemke says gleefully. “I’m not letting cancer get me down. I have a good attitude.”



Dr. Peter R. Johnson, who is fellowship trained in gynecologic oncology, sees patients in Green Bay and Neenah. Aurora BayCare Medical Center Gynecologic Oncology welcomes requests for consultations and second opinions. To make a request, call 920-288-8208 or do so online.

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