Breast cancer survivor says physical therapy was 2-in-1 treatment | Ascension

Breast cancer survivor says physical therapy was 2-in-1 treatment

When Paula Ring fractured her left clavicle last fall, it didn’t affect her shoulder’s mobility or strength as much as the residual effects of breast cancer 21 years earlier.

“I had to have a mastectomy on my left breast, followed by reconstructive prosthesis surgery,” says the now 62-year-old Wichitan. “After that, I had a limited range of motion in my left shoulder.”

Paula’s injury was caused by her tripping and falling as she boarded a plane home from her grandson’s wedding in Nashville.

“Living to 50 and seeing one of my grandchildren get married were a few of the goals on my bucket list while I was undergoing cancer treatment,” she says, joking that breaking a bone was something she hadn’t done before, “so it was an accidental addition to my list!”

Paula’s primary care doctor, Arthur Windholtz, MD, with Ascension Medical Group Via Christi referred her to his colleague, orthopedic surgeon Bradley Saunders, MD, for further evaluation.

“Dr. Saunders was so friendly and his team was great at working with me to create a plan to help me gain back my abilities,” says Paula.

Thankfully, her fracture did not require surgery and instead she was scheduled for six weeks of occupational therapy with Angela Gerstenkorn, a certified hand therapist who specializes in the upper extremities.

“With breast and other cancer surgeries, it can be traumatic to the body and have a debilitating impact on your movement patterns, mobility, and strength,” says Gerstenkorn, who joined Ascension Medical Group Via Christi on Founders’ Circle in August. “Therapy can be a great way for survivors to gain back what they need to live life and avoid any long-term problems.”

Working with Gerstenkorn, Paula has regained nearly all of her mobility, which she likes to demonstrate by excitedly raising her arm to show off her hard work.

“I used to be a stomach and side sleeper, so I’m happy I can comfortably do that again,” she says. “There are so many unexpected benefits to therapy that I missed out on by accepting I would have to live with my shoulder disability.”

With her therapy nearly complete, Paula says she wouldn’t hesitate to turn to physical therapy should she experience any future mobility issues.

“I want to let other breast cancer survivors know that they should consider physical therapy as part of their recovery like I now wish I had done,” says Paula, who today has two great grandchildren. “But it’s comforting to know that I have this available if I need it for another break, fall or bump!”


Find an Ascension Via Christi Physical Therapy Center near you and request a free, 15-minute phone consultation with one of our highly experienced physical therapists: Find a location here.

No referral needed except when required by insurance.