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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!