News

Dad’s Journey with Lung Cancer by Deb

My 84-year-old dad had been fighting stage 4 lung cancer for about nine months. He was treated for everything from a cold to a lung fungus before the doctors figured out it was lung cancer. My parents were advised by a very competent, local pulmonologist to go to Seattle – University of Washington to have the lung removed. They made the trip to Seattle and were so happy the doctor was able to give our family hope again. The lung was removed in February 2018.

During my parents’ time in Seattle, they stayed in a renovated dormitory provided by the University. It was a three-story building with no elevator. The occupants provided and cooked their own meals in a community kitchen. Unfortunately, the area where the dormitory was located was not in a walking-friendly area and the closest grocery store was over three miles away. For a man with lung cancer, this was very difficult. The only transportation was by shuttle or rental car to the University which was an extra burden on my elderly parents attempting to arrange and pay for. When my dad was released from his surgery, they had to go back to the dormitory in a taxi. My mom requested a first floor room due to not having an elevator and my dad’s recent surgery but unfortunately none were available and they were placed on the second floor. My dad was three days post-lung removal and he had to climb the stairs sitting on his buttocks because of the intense surgery. When dad was finally released, they had a family member drive them back to Great Falls because they were not allowed to fly. The entire process was very stressful but we were very thankful my dad was alive.

Having accessible, patient-friendly lodging during treatment is so vital. Having this available locally would have a great impact on patients traveling just like our family, for treatment in Great Falls. The new proposed Harold & Carmen Poulsen Legacy Housing will be conveniently located just yards away from Clinic Cancer Care as well as the Great Falls Clinic Hospital and less than half a mile drive to a grocery store. The facility will also be patient-friendly with a working elevator and ADA approved rooms for patients and their families. Our travels to Seattle were life-saving but the stress caused by our accommodations and travel requirements made my dad’s recovery that much harder.

Please consider giving to this important project today.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone that has had an experience they would like to share? Please submit your testimonial to Samantha at samantha.shinaberger@gfclinic.com. We would love to share your story and hear from you!

My Husband was Diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Cancer by Naomi Fleury

My husband was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Cancer in October 2014. We had three teenage boys at the time who took on the role of caregiver along with me. I wish that I could say that our journey ended when he went into remission in May of 2015. But cancer reared its ugly head again in 2016. This started our journey of trying different treatments in order to reach remission again. Unfortunately, we ran out of treatments that were available to our local doctors in Great Falls, Montana, forcing us to travel for his care. We were sent for consultations in both Billings, Montana and Seattle, Washington for a chance at a successful, different treatment option. When you are dealing with cancer your budget is extremely tight and you have to pick and choose what bills to pay and what bills you need to wait on until the next paycheck just so you can afford to travel.

When we traveled to Billings for treatment, we had limited cash with us. There was no medical housing available in Billings and we had to go through the American Cancer Society for assistance covering our hotel. The hotel chosen by the American Cancer Society had a $50 hold requirement on our credit card for the room deposit. Unfortunately, we were checking in on the weekend and could not go to the bank to add money to our account. This meant that we had to go to Wal-Mart just to purchase a Green Dot card and put the $50 on the card for the deposit just so we could check in to our hotel room. This took a large chunk out of our very strict food budget for the trip.

We found out that Medicaid travel only covered $40 per night for a hotel, $0.40 per mile for gas and $16.50 per day for food. This ended up only covering a small percentage of the expenses for every trip that we had to take due to the medical procedures.

Thankfully, our experience in Seattle was better because they had housing through the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCAA). The SCAA also provided a shuttle that took our family back and forth from housing to the clinic for appointments. The amount we paid for the housing at SCAA was affordable which meant for the first time in a long time, our family was able to take some much-needed budget money to do some sightseeing in Seattle and spend time together as a family. It reduced the stress we had experienced throughout our other travels.

Having housing available for the families of patients is such a blessing and it would allow them to have peace of mind when it comes to the financial burden due to medical travel. The new proposed housing for the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation is a much needed asset at the Clinic. It would provide much-needed assistance for families that have to travel for medical services and make it easier for families to cope with the expenses that accompany travel. I am excited to see the project come to life. I feel this is a wonderful addition and I support the Foundation’s goal and vision for this project.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone that has had an experience they would like to share? Please submit your testimonial to Samantha at samantha.shinaberger@gfclinic.com. We would love to share your story and hear from you!

My Sister’s Experience with Cancer by Lori Henderson

Everyone has an event in his or her lifetime, where they remember where they were and what they were doing when bad news was delivered. One such memorable event for most us was the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. Another event for me was the day my 21 year-old sister, Diana, called to tell us her doctor had just informed her that she had cancer. It was a cold December morning and I was sitting on the couch feeding my one month-old son. I remember feeling a cold and sinking feeling wash over me. What? How could it be? No young newlywed with her own flourishing business in a small community should hear that kind of news—it was earth-shaking and devastating. 

Diana Beats Cancer
Diana is pictured with her husband, their two daughters with their husbands and their grandchild. They also recently just welcomed their second grandchild in May 2019.

Diana had to drive to Great Falls the next day to see her doctor and then she would meet with an oncologist to discuss chemotherapy. She started chemotherapy right after Christmas—she would have chemo every day for a week and then have three weeks off. Initially the treatments weren’t too bad but it didn’t take long for the chemo side effects to make her unbelievably sick. To add insult to injury, she had to endure the 75-mile round-trips to Great Falls during the long cold Montana winter. There were days of blizzards, icy roads, and frigid temperatures. Family members each took turns taking time away from jobs to take her to Great Falls. She was simply too sick to drive herself—most of the time on the way home, she was so sick she could barely hold her head up. 

It was a very long year for my sister and my family. It would have been so much easier if she had not had to endure those trips during treacherous weather, especially when she was feeling so ill. Fortunately, for all of us, her cancer treatments were a success and to this day she is so grateful for the wonderful care that she received at the Great Falls Clinic. 

Please support the Legacy Foundation’s fundraiser to build free housing for patients who have to travel to Great Falls for healthcare. The Foundation is committed to serving our communities along the Hi-Line and surrounding areas. The Foundation cares for the safety and well-being of patients and families who must travel to our community for care.  

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone that has had an experience they would like to share? Please submit your testimonial to Samantha at samantha.shinaberger@gfclinic.com. We would love to share your story and hear from you!

Free Housing Makes a Difference by Karen Venetz

Our granddaughter, Adriana Rose, was diagnosed with Infantile Fibra Sarcoma shortly after birth at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado. We were on the road to Denver immediately and stayed in Denver for the next three months until she was well enough to be released from the hospital. During the last six months, we have made regular trips to Denver to support our children, as Adriana still required weekly visits to the hospital for check-ups.

We were lucky; we could afford a motel and have use of our son’s home. While at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado, we visited with families that shared how grateful they were to receive housing while their child was receiving care. The families were in Denver from all parts of the U. S. They were without a home, family, or support. Many of these children were hospitalized for months receiving cancer treatment or Bone Marrow Transplants. We thought we had it tough. These families were experiencing heartbreak and tough challenges. We were fortunate that we could be there for an extended time without hardship, along with the other set of grandparents to offer our encouragement. It was heartwarming to hear how appreciative families were for comfort, softening the time away from home and family.

We saw firsthand and believe free housing is a lifeline to families stressed with a “cancer” diagnosis and the burden of dealing with a long term stay or long-term treatment.

We are happy to report our granddaughter rang the Cancer Free Bell on October 11th, 2019, just one week shy of her ten-month birthday.   

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone that has had an experience they would like to share? Please submit your testimonial to Samantha at samantha.shinaberger@gfclinic.com. We would love to share your story and hear from you!

The Day I was Diagnosed by Beth Duke

January 24, 2000, is a day that changed not only my life, but that of my family, friends, and co-workers. This was the day I was told I had stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma. I decided that day that Cancer was not going to beat me.

My children were 14 and 16 years old at the time. Having to tell them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. When they asked if I was going to die, my response was, “I’m not planning on it.”

After many appointments to get baselines done and a treatment schedule organized for the next six months, life as I knew it was changed.

Fortunately, we live only one mile from the Clinic. Had we not, I am not sure what we would have done, with our kids, home and jobs.

With the cost of travel and overnight stays, plus having to pay a caregiver for the kids, or being alone while doing treatment while my husband stayed at home would have been devastating. My family was my rock. My husband sat through every treatment with me. Treatments ranged from three to five hours. As we are not from Great Falls originally, we had no immediate family in the area. Fortunately, we were blessed to have a great network of friends who helped with the kids, and provided meals for our family three times a week.

While going through treatment, I was thankful that the trip home was quick and I could get settled. Having a place that is comfortable and quiet is needed for not only healing, but also provides a feeling of safety and security.

I just had my 19 year check-up with Dr. Guter on July 29th. I am thankful every day that he came into my life. Without the Great Falls Clinic and Dr. Guter and his team, I truly believe I wouldn’t be enjoying life today.

Beth is the the broker/owner of Coldwell Banker, The Falls Real Estate located in Great Falls. She has been married to her husband Steve for 36 years and they have two grown children and three beautiful grandchildren. They have lived in Great Falls for over 31 years. Beth dedicates her time volunteering with the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation Leadership Cabinet and has been a member since early 2019.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone that has had an experience they would like to share? Please submit your testimonial to Samantha at samantha.shinaberger@gfclinic.com. We would love to share your story and hear from you!

Jake & Friends by Lori Henderson

Pictured here is Jake, a one-year-old purebred German Shepherd.
Jake’s owners are Dr. Bob and Mrs. Lori Henderson.

Dr. Henderson retired as the Northeast Regional Chief of the VA Ambulatory Clinics several years ago. He also practiced medicine in Havre, Montana for many years and understands the burden it puts on patients that require treatment at a great distance. Mrs. Henderson recently retired from her position as the Director of Nursing at the Great Falls Clinic for many years. They are both committed to promoting and increasing health care access across Montana.

As a person with many pets, two dogs and three cats to be exact, I know the value of pets as companions and supporters during tough times. There are many health benefits to owning a pet, especially when it comes to activity and overall happiness. We adopted a puppy 14 months ago through a fundraiser benefiting the Great Falls Legacy Foundation and named him Jake. He has been a delight, especially around our older pets. He reminds us daily to smile as well as to plant a firm stance just in case he decides to lick your face and knock you over. He has grown very fast over the years.

As a retired nurse, I know how much having a pet companion can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can also help manage loneliness and depression by offering their friendship. Studies have shown many health benefits to having a pet.

That is why my husband, Bob and I decided to sponsor the Pet Park. We understand the importance of having your pet with you during your stressful journey. The facility will house many different patients and their families with a variety of illnesses and they want to promote every avenue for healing possible. This includes being able to travel with your pets. Being a pet owner, I understand and value the importance of having my animals by my side.

In honor of our loving puppy, Jake, we have decided to name the pet park Jake and Friends . We want all pets to feel welcome so they can support you through your journey – whether its cancer, or a visit to your cardiologist.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone that has had an experience they would like to share? Please submit your testimonial to Samantha at samantha.shinaberger@gfclinic.com. We would love to share your story and hear from you!

My Inspiration from Leukemia at 23 by Matt Cable

My name is Matt Cable and I am going to share my journey with cancer with you. I was diagnosed with AML Leukemia in August of 2014 and relapsed in April of 2019.In my first go-round with cancer, I endured complete organ failure and was on life support. After beating it the first time, I was taught how significant life truly was. I focused my entire life on health and fitness and decided to chase all my goals in and out of the gym. Once I focused all my energy on what I loved to do, it changed my life immensely. My story motivated and inspired others from all around the world and that is what made me happy.

After cancer, I trained at the gym like I had never trained before. I trained so hard, I wound up competing on a television series that features people from across America competing in endurance-based mental and physical challenges called The Titan Games. I got to showcase what hard work and dedication can lead to, and after something as tragic as cancer, you can still bounce back and continue doing what you love. I was personally recruited by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, one of my idols.

Once The Titan Games were over, I was deployed for some time in Qatar. Unfortunately, during deployment, my Leukemia had relapsed and I was medically evacuated back to the States and started my treatments again, praying for remission. Not everything went smoothly this time around. I ended up back in the ICU with an infection that was targeting my brain. I am thankful the doctors caught it before it killed me. I had five surgeries in seven days to get it under control. I had a bone marrow transplant scheduled during the time my infection occurred, which then pushed the transplant back a few months. It was a little scary because it would have been deadly if I relapsed during that time. Fortunately, I didn’t.

I am now 120 days out of my transplant, living life and doing a little of what I love. My body isn’t producing red blood cells at this time and the doctors are trying to figure out why that’s happening but it isn’t stopping me from training hard in the gym while they figure it out. I’ll be competing again soon and am looking forward to it.

If cancer has taught me anything, it is to never give up and to never back down. I am stronger today than I ever was before, both physically and mentally because of my journey with Leukemia. The support of friends and family during the journey has helped me immensely and I am so thankful.

My roots are from Great Falls, Montana and I can’t imagine those families that have to travel long-distances for treatment without a support system close like I have had. I truly think the cancer patient housing facility will be a blessing to those undergoing treatment. Supporting our own through tough times is so important for any form of recovery, especially when it is cancer.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone that has had an experience they would like to share? Please submit your testimonial to Samantha at samantha.shinaberger@gfclinic.com. We would love to share your story and hear from you!