News

Welcome Audrey Phillips!

We are pleased to welcome Audrey Phillips as our new Foundation Assistant at the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation. Audrey is new to Great Falls and looks forward to learning and growing in her new role with the Foundation.

Audrey is originally from Kansas, but moved to Montana in June 2020 with her husband, Jackson. Audrey attended Kansas State University in Manhattan KS where she earned her Bachelor of Science in History and a minor in Geography in 2020. Audrey and Jackson then moved to Great Falls for his work at General Mills. Audrey is excited to have a position which will connect her more to the community of Great Falls and surrounding areas and for the ability to help vulnerable patients across Montana.

In her free time, Audrey enjoys spending time with her husband and making new friends. Her hobbies include reading, knitting, and studying history. Audrey and Jackson both enjoy the beautiful scenery around Great Falls and look forward to getting to know the area more. 

If you need to contact Audrey, her phone number is 406-216-8057 and her email is Audrey.Phillips@gfclinic.com. 

My Grandpa’s Fight with Brain Cancer by Samantha Shinaberger

Grandpa Dan was taken to the Emergency Room in 2011, shortly after I started my first year of college. He was struggling to button his worn out, but nicely pressed western button-down, plaid shirt. After detesting the trip to Great Falls, my Grandpa Dan agreed to get in the truck while my mom and my Grandma Mary made the 52 mile drive one-way to the hospital from Loma, Montana. My Grandpa was never ill.. He was the healthiest, quick-witted, full-head-of-hair, milk-shake-lover, racer-to-the-dinner table, I knew. Family came from far and wide to wait it out in the Emergency Room that day. After hours of waiting, the doctor reported there was a large mass growing rapidly in my Grandpa’s head that was building significant pressure against his brain. They would have to remove it immediately and he would have to begin treatment. He had brain cancer. They informed us he would have approximately 9 months or longer to live depending on how treatment took.

The morning of surgery, we all took our turns taking photos, crying, and hugging. There was a chance we would never see our Grandpa Dan again. He insisted surgery would be fine and we could all enjoy a milk shake once it was over.

We returned hours later to a groggy, smiling Grandpa Dan. The surgery was a success. They had removed a significant amount of the mass and the remainder would have to be targeted with radiation. After his surgery, he battled his cancer with appointments and treatments daily for weeks in a row. Grandma Mary drove him to and from Great Falls each day so that he could make it to his important treatments. He was very ill and exhausted but his land and farming took precedence over his need to rest. On November 28, 2011, we received positive news that 95% of his brain tumor has receded. We cried happy tears and celebrated with milk shakes.

We were blessed with more time with our Grandpa Dan than we ever expected from his initial diagnosis. Unfortunately, on September 5, 2013, we received news that his brain tumor was back and growing rapidly. He started treatment immediately. Within weeks, he lost his ability to walk and perform daily tasks. He made the tough decision to withdraw from treatments and checked himself into Benton Medical Center with around-the-clock nursing care and hospice capabilities.

During his last days on this earth, we showered him with so much love, milk shakes and foot massages. Friends and family traveled from near and far. We snuck him out of the Benton Medical Center (milk shake in hand) for a day to enjoy a camp fire by the Marias river on his land, roasting marshmallows and sipping on a “cold one.”After a long battle with cancer, Grandpa Dan passed away peacefully on April 29, 2014. He was laid to rest on May 5, 2014 on his farm land.

Witnessing my Grandpa’s cancer diagnosis and journey first-hand and how it affected the rest of the family was life-changing. I understand how financially and physically draining it was, especially for patients in rural areas. My Grandpa was a proud man and would never ask for help. We were blessed to have so many friends, family, and neighbors that would help when he was unwell.

My family traveled from far and wide, almost all of us driving more than 100 miles per day at one point to ensure he was able to make his appointments and receive proper treatment as well as support. There are so many families in rural areas that are traveling too long of distances to reach their healthcare needs. Some opting out entirely because of the stress it puts on themselves and their families. The Great Falls Clinic’s vision for the patient housing facility was and always has been near and dear to my heart. By providing this housing facility for patients and families in need, we are helping so many rural Montana families – just as my Grandpa Dan would have wanted. 

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!

Sweetgrass, MT Patient’s Experience with Cancer

For Marvin, being diagnosed with cancer was stressful enough. Marvin lives close to the Canadian border, in Sweetgrass, Montana which means he needs to travel over two hours to Great Falls for treatment, or over four hours round trip. When asked how traveling has affected his treatment, Marvin shared that it really added to his stress level.

Just when he should be focused on getting treatment and getting better, he and his family had to scramble to arrange for a place to stay and figure out how to pay for it.

Marvin shared, “Luckily for me, the Great Falls Clinic Cancer Care team contacted the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation for help. The Foundation was able to secure a place for me to stay and covered the cost as well.”

“Rural Montana patients and their families will benefit from Legacy Housing. In the future, not having to worry about housing and having a place to stay with family during treatment would be ideal. Any assistance that could be provided towards establishing a housing facility at the Great Falls Clinic would be greatly appreciated.”

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!

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!