When Pauline Willems scheduled an appointment at Kaiser Permanente’s Long Beach Medical Offices for a sore wrist, she had no idea it would end up saving her life. In September 2008, Willems made a routine appointment for what she thought was tendonitis in her right wrist from hours spent quilting, a favorite hobby. When Willems reported in for her appointment at Dr. Amy Whittaker’s office, she was reminded that she was due for a mammogram.
The staff took the opportunity to book an appointment for Pauline for a mammogram. She received a prescription for an anti-inflammatory for her injured wrist and waited for the results.
A spot was found on Pauline’s right breast and a second mammogram was ordered, along with a sonogram and biopsy. The biopsy indicated that she had stage I breast cancer and a lumpectomy was performed.
“After the lumpectomy I was told I’d have radiation to make sure the cancer was gone. So I thought I was good to go,” Pauline says. But before radiation therapy could begin, Dr. Whittaker wanted to perform some additional tests to make sure Pauline was healthy enough to start the treatment. A chest x-ray showed a shadow in her lung that was the cause of some concern. She was referred to a lung surgeon, who promptly removed the upper lobe of her right lung after determining that she had lung cancer, again caught at stage I. After recovering from the lung procedure, Pauline was deemed healthy enough to begin her course of radiationfor the breast cancer, which she completed in April 2009.
“I’m cancer free,” she says proudly, “because both my breast cancer and lung cancer were caught extremely early. I thank Dr. Whittaker and the staff at Kaiser Permanente for encouraging me to get that mammogram. Without it, the lung cancer would not have been caught either. Kaiser saved my life. And to think it all started because of my quilting wrist! Thank you Dr. Whittaker, and thank you Kaiser Permanente.”