“When Dr. Weber first saw the location of my spinal tumor she said that ‘removing it won’t be easy, but that the Abramson Cancer Center doctors would work as a team to help me.”
For Paulette Whitekettle, spending the summer at Glacier National Park in Montana with her husband, Rich, as campground hosts is one of her favorite things to do. So when in 2013, a lump on her pelvis was diagnosed as chondrosarcoma, she was determined to fight her disease and continue enjoying summers at the park.
The first surgeon she consulted deemed her tumor “inoperable.” Cue the incredible team of doctors at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC). Paulette came to the ACC looking for hope, and her team, which included Kristy Weber, MD, James Schuster, MD, PhD, Neil Malhotra, MD, and Scott Levin, MD, FACS, gave her hope and more.
Imaging that was analyzed by Arthur “Chip” Staddon, MD, revealed an additional cancerous nodule on her lung. She had surgery to remove the nodule, and then a month later set out on a six-week journey that included four surgeries on her spine and pelvis. The leader of her care team, Dr. Weber, was with Paulette every step of the way.
“When Dr. Weber first saw the location of my spinal tumor she said that ‘removing it won’t be easy, but that the Abramson Cancer Center doctors would work as a team to help me,’” Paulette shared. “Dr. Weber has been a blessing to us over and over again. She saved my life.”
Both of Paulette’s tumors were removed with clean margins. Through physical therapy—and with the support of her husband, three children, and their church community—she progressed from being wheelchair bound to using a walker. Ultimately, Paulette achieved her most important goals of getting back to being a campground host, and in the winter months serving her local community by aiding homeless neighbors as well as teaching a Bible study to women in prison.
In an effort to champion other sarcoma patients and survivors, Paulette serves on the committee for Steps to Cure Sarcoma, a local organization dedicated to fundraising for sarcoma research at the ACC, CHOP, and Penn Vet. She and her husband kick off summer by driving their motor home to the annual 5K in June, and then drive right from the race in Pennsylvania to Glacier National Park.
“I have my life back. I’ve had to make adjustments, like now riding a tricycle around the park instead of a bicycle—but most importantly, thanks to my amazing care team and the help of my family, I can do the things I love. I’m glad to be alive, and I’m glad they didn’t give up on me.”
Ryan K.Sarcoma Survivor / Read Story
“The opportunity to volunteer at CHOP will also be a healing experience for me too, to show others that there is life after cancer.”
Lou P.Sarcoma Survivor / Read Story
“Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center has been taking care of me for almost two decades. My care team has given me a quality of life that I never dreamed possible.”
Paulette W.Sarcoma Survivor / Read Story
“Dr. Weber has been a blessing to us over and over again. She saved my life.”
Arianne M.Sarcoma Survivor / Read Story
“I’ve always been a fighter, and with Penn by my side I overcame the biggest obstacle in my life.”
Megan D.Sarcoma Survivor / Read Story
“A positive attitude goes an incredibly long way. I was diagnosed with a one in a million cancer, but now I am one more survivor.”
Frank C.Sarcoma Survivor / Read Story
“Live life to the fullest because you never know what life can throw at you.”
Tracey F.Sarcoma Survivor / Read Story
“I felt so supported and so taken care of from the second I walked into Penn, and by every person in my life, from my family to my friends to my employees.”
Lindasy H.Sarcoma Survivor / Read Story
"To be part of Steps to Cure Sarcoma that connects people who are affected by sarcoma and directly raises funds for research to fight the disease is incredible.”