I was born and raised in Chestertown, Maryland, on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. I moved to Great Falls 19 years ago when I was offered a position at as the Pastor of Discipleship Ministries at First Alliance Church in Great Falls. When I was 49 years old, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin follicular lymphoma (stage 4, grade 1) in August of 2020. I had a bulky posterior mediastinal mass (i.e. a tumor) causing a large pleural effusion on my right lung. My lymphoma was discovered by accident when I had a CT scan to diagnose a kidney stone. My only symptom of having cancer was a persistent cough and shortness of breath that presumed to be the result of chronic sinusitis. I underwent six months of combined chemotherapy and immunotherapy. I completed the final round of treatment at the end of January 2021.
I live in Great Falls, fairly close to the Clinic, in fact! I was, and still am, blessed by a tremendous amount of support from my family and my church community. My wife was able to drive me to my appointments when I was not able to drive myself, and people from our church provided meals, prayed for us, and supported us financially and emotionally. I have found that a support network is vital to the treatment and healing process, which is why the work of the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation is significant for those who may not have the same level of support I have had. I just recently learned about the important work of the Legacy Foundation. While I was not helped by the Foundation personally, I believe it is extremely valuable resources, especially for those who live outside of our community and who need housing and support through the treatment journey.
Receiving care during COVID-19 was hard, and the most difficult aspect of COVID-19 for me was that my wife could not be with me for most of my treatments due to the protocols designed to keep the other patients safe. Also, I had to delay my last treatment a couple of weeks when my son contracted COVID-19. Thankfully, I did not get sick myself and my son’s case was mild and treatable at home. Nonetheless, the delay when I was so close to the finish line was disappointing. I am deeply thankful for the caring and competent staff at the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Cancer Care. My oncologist, Dr. Guter, and all the nurses and staff in the office and infusion center were sensitive and responsive to my many needs and questions, and showed me such compassion through a frightening and uncertain time in my life. I felt seen, heard, and genuinely loved throughout my treatment journey with the Great Falls Clinic.
Meet our March Business Donor of the Month, My Viola Floral Studio and owner Kari Johnson!
We are honored to recognize a small business in Great Falls for the month of March! Kari Johnson owns My Viola-Floral Studio located in downtown Great Falls. My Viola-Floral Studio has previously sponsored the GFC Legacy Foundation before and they host our flower cooler in the Great Falls Clinic Hospital. My Viola donates 25% of all flower sales from the cooler to the Foundation. My Viola was also a major sponsor of our #GivingTuesday event last year. My Viola has also supported other nonprofits in Great Falls, including the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art’s annual Art Auction for the past ten years; the MacLean Animal Foundation; The Children’s Museum; The Police Gala; and more!
My Viola-Floral Studio History
My Viola-Floral Studio was opened on December 1st, 2010. Originally located at 319 Central Avenue – where Electric City Coffee is today. My Viola rented for four years before outgrowing the space and purchasing their new building at 716 Central Avenue. They moved into their 716 location in November of 2014 allowing them their retail shop, class space, design room, and consultation area.
Kari’s first job as a florist was at Riverview Floral in Fort Benton, Montana. While working there, the owner Don Hazen, liked the planter combinations that Kari assembled and asked Kari if she was interested in floral design. Don took Kari under his wing, which then inspired her to later take a course through the Floral Design Institute in Portland, Oregon. Kari completed training and received a Certificate in Basic Floral Design. A few years later, she went back in-person to the Design Institute and completed training to become a Certified Wedding Florist.
Kari loved working at Riverview Floral, but the commute from Great Falls and back proved to be too much, especially in the wintertime. A year later, Kari started working at Sally’s Flowers when they were located in downtown Great Falls and worked there for five years delivering and designing flowers. She then went to Electric City Conservatory when it was purchased by the Flower Farm in 2003 and worked there for seven years. Kari was promoted to Assistant Manager and three years later she was promoted to manager. After her promotion to manager, she felt it was time to open her own business.
Kari first opened My Viola-Floral Studio in 2010. In the beginning, she only had one full-time employee and her mom to help her. Today My Viola has four full-time employees and one part-time employee. Kari shared one aspect of her job that she loved, “I love the social aspect of my job and getting to meet people from the community who come in to buy my flowers.” Kari also said that since opening her own business, she can set her own hours and has the freedom to decide what she would like to sell and create.
Kari is very passionate about designing flowers for people. Her favorite event to design for are weddings. Although she shares, the spark that keeps her love of floral design really going is how every day there is something new. “One week may start by filling business orders,” Kari shared, “Then there will be a shipment of flowers and then we will need to fill the cooler, or unpack new merchandise and set up displays. A family may come in for sympathy pieces that need to be created. And then, by the end of the week, there could be another wedding!”
My Viola-Flower Studio on Mom and Pop Business Owners Day!
Mom and Pop Business Owners Day is on Monday, March 29, 2021. We want to encourage you to support small businesses like My Viola-Floral Studio! You can find them at 716 Central Avenue in Great Falls, MT. Check out My Viola-Floral Studio on their website their Facebook or Instagram!
Do you wonder what the Legacy Foundation staff has been up to lately? Here are a few of our recent activities:
Picking up trash: (Pictured) Samantha Shinaberger (Executive Director) and Audrey Phillips (Foundation Assistant) joined the Great Falls Clinic staff in picking up trash from around the campus.
We want to give a big thank you to Wayne Gillis (Great Falls Clinic CEO), Haley Denzer (GFC CAO), and Kari Smith (GFC Environment of Care) for picking up, too!
Planning for the building: The Foundation has been working on finalizing the furniture that will go inside of the Foundation. Thank you Dave Cantley, our architect, for helping us pick out color schemes for the new facility!
Grant Applications: Samantha has been working hard to secure more funding for the Harold and Carmen Poulsen Legacy Housing Facility!
Over the week of January 25th, the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation held a beam signing event in honor of the new facility. Several of the staff and donors joined to sign the beam, which will be in the elevator shaft of the new Legacy Housing facility.
A beam signing ceremony represents the successful completion of a major project by having participants sign a major structural support beam within the facility. This beam will live within the facility with the inscriptions and personal notes of all that made it possible. It will not be visible to the public eye. It is very similar to a time capsule.
Here are some photos of the signatures and people signing:
My name is Rachelle Murphy and this is my story about how I beat breast cancer more than once. My story with cancer goes back to 1993. About a month prior to my diagnosis, my dad had a biopsy of one of his breasts. It was benign. I was not as lucky.
One day I was applying lotion and I discovered a lump, which prompted me to make an appointment to see my primary, Dr. Jerry Speer. He performed an exam and sent me for a mammogram. Unfortunately, the mammogram did not show the lump due to it being located too high up on my chest. My primary referred me to see Dr. Jake Allen, a surgeon. He gave me the option of having a biopsy performed. He removed the lump and within a few hours, they knew I had breast cancer. I was 39 years old when I received the diagnosis.
Thankfully, I had a strong support system between my loving husband and my two children. I was also armed with a positive attitude and a large support system of friends, family, and church. I was going to get through this.
On December 6, I had a lumpectomy and they removed several lymph nodes. Then I had an appointment with Dr. Grant Harrier to review my plan of care. On January 2, 1994, I began my chemo treatments consisting of an infusion followed by pills for two weeks. They had me in a study program aimed at helping to aid future cases. I lost my hair about two treatments into the chemo. I had always had thick hair, even as a baby, so this was an especially difficult part of the journey for me.
I was fortunate enough to maintain my full-time work schedule at Poulsen’s Lumberyard (owned by Harold and Carmen Poulsen) and they were incredibly accommodating to my treatment schedule and recovery days. Thursdays I had infusion and Friday and Saturday were my recovery days, sometimes Sunday as well. My immune system was exhausted and I had to stop treatments the entire month of April due to my dangerously low white blood cell count, a result of the chemo. I was determined, though. I missed very few days of work and kept my positive attitude going. I know the power of prayer and felt the love that came my way. The prognosis was good, also.
June 10, 1994 was a day to celebrate! I had my last chemo treatment in the office. I still had two weeks of pills, but the infusion treatments were complete. On July 5, 1994 I started radiation oncology treatments three days a week through August 23rd. I had to stop treatments as I was getting too burned from the radiation. I teased my Mom and Dad about having treatment for nine months, but there was no baby. Following treatments, I was on Tamoxifen for five years. I also I took Zoladex as a monthly injection in my stomach wall.
5 years later, in 1999, I had finally entered into remission. I felt fine and I was still in remission for another 15 years to follow. I routinely checked myself, had regular mammograms and encouraged everyone to self-check and get their mammograms. I actively participated in a support group and later participated in Relay For Life.
Fast forward to 2010, about 17 years after the initial diagnosis. I was diagnosed with breast cancer again in the same breast. Different spot. Different type of cancer. My doctors were very thorough and I opted for a double mastectomy followed by a reconstruction to eliminate any further risk. I completed the mastectomy in December of 2010, though the reconstruction needed to be done out of town in Seattle. That procedure was completed in September of 2011 with Dr. Santin following my post-op care locally.
The year is late 2011 and I was back in remission. Life was good again.
Then in November of 2017, I was having pain in my right hip. Through a CT scan and subsequent biopsy, it was found that breast cancer had metastasized to my bones. Then a few months later, it expanded to my liver. Thankfully, my liver function has all been normal since. I’ve had no side effects except the occasional pain and hot flashes, but I’ve had hot flashes since 1994. I was put back on Letrazole or Femara that I had been off of for 14 months, along with a new drug called Ibrance. I’ve been given frequent doses of Zomeda via half-hour infusions to help with bone strength.
In 2018, the numbers revealed that the Letrozole I was on was not making a difference. So, I was put on Fasladex injection along with the Ibrance. I finished my last dose of Ibrance around July 2020 and I am now on Tamoxifen every day.
Recently I have been having shoulder pain and saw PA Dave Crossley in Orthopedics. He ordered an x-ray and from that an MRI. There were some abnormalities in the humerus, so I did 10 treatments of radiation. During those treatments, I had a PET scan done, which showed there are scattered areas through and are nothing to be alarmed about. The most painful area right now besides my shoulders is my sternum. I started another round of radiation on September 8, 2020, consisting of five treatments, one every other day.
It is hard to believe I’ve been on this journey for 27 years now. I know I have survived because of the love I have surrounding me as well as the prayers, and I would not be here without the doctors, staff, treatments, and care.
I know that if I were living anywhere in Montana besides Great Falls, it would be a hardship to travel for appointments and treatments. That is why I love the idea of the Poulsen Legacy Foundation housing and the hope it gives people to get through their treatments.
Background and context: What drives me
I come from a very large family. I have 38 cousins (42 total counting my siblings and myself) on my mom’s side alone. Before I was diagnosed, one of my cousins, Sandy, passed from breast cancer. She had gone through diagnosis, chemo and radiation. Then it came back and it was too late for treatment the second time around. This hit our family very hard, so naturally they were all very concerned about me. I wanted them to see in-person that I was better. In October of 1994, I took my first ever plane ride and surprised my grandmother and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins in Lincoln, NE. My grandmother was 95 at the time. She passed about a year later, on October 9, 1995 at the age of 96, so I was extremely grateful for the time we had and the memories we made that day.
A year after my initial breast cancer diagnosis treatment was completed; my Aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995. We joked with each other, asking if I gave it to her or if she gave it to me. A good sense of humor is everything when dealing with a difficult time. She ended up having a double mastectomy and never had any reoccurrence. She passed peacefully in 2005 in her 80s of natural causes.
Flash forward a few more years to 2002, my younger cousin Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought long and hard for about ten years, leaving behind her young son. He just graduated high school this year and is thriving under the care of his aunt, uncle, and extended family. Then again, in 2009, a third cousin Tari was diagnosed with breast cancer and is doing well.
The Great Falls Clinic Cancer Care department has done a fantastic job of taking care of me, and all of their patients. It takes a village. I remember when I was in my support group – one of the other members wanted to do a breast reconstruction and insurance would not pay for her surgery. They would cover the reductions, but not the reconstruction. Dr. Guter, our oncologist, went to Helena and fought for her to have her surgery paid for. When a doctor goes to those lengths, it just goes to show how he is 100% invested in his patients. The trust I have in Dr. Guter has truly been my saving grace. Dr. Underhill in radiation oncology is top of the line, as are the nurses and staff. From Maggie to Leisa in reception, to Sheila, Dr. Guter’s nurse, and all the people behind the scenes from the pharmacy to the nurses who administer chemo and infusions.
Knowing that you do not have to fight this battle alone is powerful. It does not matter if you have faith or religion, but knowing someone is praying for you shows that there is someone who is in your corner and cares.
I have worked at the Great Falls Clinic for 15 years now and I feel the doctors and staff really care about every patient and it shows. I have a great job and love what I do because it feels like we are a family.
My name is Tina Rabbitt and I am fortunate to be a Social Worker at the Great Falls Clinic Oncology Center. I am inspired to give to the Legacy Foundation because of our patients and their need for housing and support.
One of the most moving patient situations I have been involved with is George*, a veteran who lives nearly 90 miles away from Great Falls. George served his time in the military during the Vietnam War and spent the rest of his career doing “whatever work he could find”. He is the sweetest most unassuming gentleman you can imagine meeting. When he was diagnosed, he lived in a very modest home and drove a vehicle at least 20 years old. George also appeared quite frail to me with his long beard, faded jeans and worn coat. George was sure there was no way to get treatment due to the cost of treatment, gas for the trips to Great Falls and eating out. He had thought about staying in his car but it was too cold (the idea of him staying in his car broke my heart). I was able to find a place for George to stay that got him through treatment and he was thankful. It was such a joy to help George get the treatment he needed!
I get excited when I think about the new Legacy Foundation facility providing a place for patients like George to stay near his doctors and nurses in a warm, comfortable place where he has others who are going through the same thing to talk to. It is so exciting, I get goosebumps!
*Name changed to protect confidentiality
At the beginning of every year, Great Falls Clinic Employees pledge money to be donated from their paychecks to the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation. It is one of our quickest-growing sources of income as a Foundation, and their dedication to our cause is part of the reason why we are able to consistently support patients who need a place to stay after a challenging diagnosis.
We wanted to honor those who had already signed up for payroll deductions in 2021 in the list below:
- Brian Allison
- Rhetta Brandt
- Bonnie Bryant
- Kensie Butts
- Amanda Cunningham
- Margaret Dailey
- Krista Fuhringer
- Leisa Hotaling
- Zoe Irvin
- Patti Jasinski
- Kathy Jenkins
- Vicki Keith
- Melissa Kingsland
- Patsy Kirkhart
- Gayle Mauler
- Mary McGivern
- Rachelle Murphy
- Sara Murphy
- Sydney Norby
- Audrey Phillips
- Kendra Puckett
- Tina Rabbitt
- Megan Ratliff
- Markie Rohrback
- Kimberly Schwartz
- Samantha Shinaberger
- Jill Tanner
- Paula Walter
- Sheila Yuhas
Dianna Wichman currently lives in Great Falls, Montana. She works at the Great Falls Clinic as the Supply Chain Supervisor. Dianna first heard about the Legacy Foundation at her place of work, and she started donating in 2020. When asked what inspired her to donate, she responded, “[I wanted] to make a contribution to honor my son’s memory.”
Dianna also shared what she enjoys helping families in need during difficult times. She is passionate about making sure that families have one less thing to worry about. “I think [the Harold & Carmen Poulsen Legacy Housing Facility] will be a wonderful addition to our community.” Dianna shared, “[I] give kudos to all of those that have made this a possibility for our community.”
At the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation, employee giving is one of our fastest-growing avenues for donations. In 2020, the Foundation quadrupled its payroll deductions, which are automatically withdrawn by Human Resources and directed to the Legacy Foundation. The amount can be set for however much or however long the donor would like it to give. In 2020, the majority of donations via payroll deductions were within a $5-$10 price range. Payroll deductions can also be used to pay for fundraising projects, and several employees choose to donate for special events throughout the year this way. To learn more about employee giving, contact Audrey Phillips at (406) 216-8057 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation is pleased to welcome Jon Boutilier with Stockman Bank to our Board of Directors. Jon is a well-known member of the Great Falls community and plans to help contribute to both the Foundation’s and the Great Falls Clinic’s success.
Jon is originally from Helena, MT and attended Montana State University in Bozeman after graduating from Capital High School in Helena. Jon made the move to Great Falls in January 2006, but had spent many summers in Great Falls growing up as his grandparents lived in town. Jon made the move when the opportunity arose and his family journeyed to Great Falls through Jon’s work, setting a priority for themselves to find the perfect family-oriented community. Jon secured a position with Stockman Bank in 2010 and is now their VP – Branch Manager/Commercial Loan Officer. He enjoys meeting being part of a growing community, providing the foundation for business opportunities, and knowing your business had a “piece” of your community growing. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors at the Great Falls PreRelease Center and on the audit committee for Easter Seals Goodwill. Jon married his wife, Mandi, 17 years ago and they have two children together. Jon enjoys spending time with his family and friends in Montana’s great outdoors. He likes to golf, go boating, snow skiing, and attend his kid’s sporting events, too. Jon uses the Great Falls Clinic for his medical needs and has been a patient of Dr. Kluge for several years. Jon first heard about the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation in 2019 at the Leaving a Legacy Gala, the Foundation’s annual event.
In 2020, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I completed my yearly mammogram and that is when it was discovered. I was informed that I would need 17 treatments and I would have to stay in Great Falls for the duration of my treatment. Because of this, I was referred to Tina Rabbitt, the Cancer Care social worker. Tina told me about the housing grants the Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation had to offer, and said they would most likely pay for my stay while in treatment. I was very grateful and impressed that there was a group of people thinking about women like me and ready to offer financial support.
It didn’t really hit me that I had cancer until I started treatment and realized the immense scope of what I was going through. I was away from my home, I wasn’t able to work, and I was living with a disease that could kill me. I knew very little about the intense treatments, and they looked ominous – like out of Star Wars.
The donation from the Legacy Foundation allowed me to focus on taking care of myself. It was a gift that gave me the space to deal with the emotional, and physical demands of the treatments without the worry of wondering how I would pay for my housing. As the days have gone by and my life is back to my regular schedule and activities, every so often I think back about those days in Great Falls. The picture in my mind is a large diverse group of women, lovingly and quietly carrying me. They carried me through the radiation treatments. What a great gift, I was not alone. Because of my journey and newfound knowledge of patients traveling for treatment, I fully support the future Harold & Carmen Poulsen Legacy Housing facility. Please consider giving to this important project.