October 8, 2023
Paula’s Story of Support & Survival
Amidst the Covid pandemic, Paula Margenau discovered a concerning lump in her breast, no larger than a pencil tip. Initially brushed off by her primary care provider, Paula persisted when she felt the lump growing. Despite continued reassurances, Paula's determination led her to insist on an ultrasound, refusing to leave the office until it was scheduled. Her unwavering resolve saved her life.
Following a series of appointments and examinations, Paula chose to leave the practice she was working with and begin care at the Elliot Breast Health Center with Dr. Lana Shikhman. Dr. Shikhman's expertise and dedication to Paula's case were evident from the start, and Paula felt an immediate connection. The doctor's words, "It's very bad, but I can fix it," though shocking, instilled confidence and hope.
The subsequent biopsy confirmed Paula's diagnosis of Stage 2B ductal carcinoma with lymph node involvement. Soon after, Paula underwent a partial mastectomy with multiple lymph nodes removed, marking the beginning of her arduous journey. After a follow-up surgery, Paula underwent six months of chemotherapy at The Solinsky Center for Cancer Care at The Elliot, followed by two months of radiation.
Looking back, Paula expresses gratitude for her cancer care providers. “Dr. Shikhman is wonderful. She’s such a strong, confident woman. She explained everything and always took the time to sit with us. Her nurse Bethany is also amazing. They gave as much time as we needed to ask questions, cry, complain, or tell them the good things. I would recommend them to anyone.” Dr. Josy Mathew, Paula's oncologist, also provided expert care and a reassuring presence throughout her journey.
Paula credits her support system and ability to continue working with much of her success during her journey. Her husband, Keith, was her unwavering pillar of support, attending every appointment and chemo session. In a testament to her resilience, Paula continued to work remotely at Gateways Community Services. Paula's boss, Sandy Pelletier, provided invaluable support and understanding, accommodating Paula's needs and allowing her to work at her own pace. In addition, her co-worker, Amanda, was her “positive spirit” at work, covered her duties when she couldn’t function, and offered support. The ability to be productive and keep moving were critical to her mental and physical health.
Dr. Shikhman considers Paula an inspiration, explaining “Paula is an amazing spirit and her resilience and kind demeanor in the face of adversity is inspiring and commendable. It was such a privilege and honor to be and remain her ally in her cancer journey. I am always grateful to be chosen and trusted with breast cancer care of patients like Paula.”
Paula's story is one of courage, determination, and unwavering support from her medical team, loved ones, and workplace. She is certainly an inspiration to all who have the privilege of hearing her story. As Paula says, “Appreciate every minute because you never know when a doctor is going to come in and say, ‘It is bad’”.