GREAT FALLS — When you think of an underground tunnel that connects the Sletten Cancer Institute to the main Benefis Health System facility, bright colors and hope may be the last thing on your mind. In this case, those words can only be used to describe the place that not only brings hope, but uplifts patients in their cancer journey.
Nearly 1600 handprints and baby footprints color coordinated to the cancer ribbons adorn the walls of the tunnel.
Sletten Oncologic Patient Navigator Jodi Dake says the handprints honor survivors and encourages other cancer patients who may be going through similar situations.
“When they’re done with their chemotherapy or if they just want to celebrate where they're at in their journey, we bring them down with their family or friends, or sometimes it's just ourselves and the patient and we just acknowledge all of the hard work and dedication that they put into this journey and that they realize that they're loved and they're never alone.” she explained.
Jodi was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2009. She has since beat it, and has participated in the "Hands of Hope" since 2014. “So, I put it on here in June of 2014 with my little family here. And so, I'm in the middle here with the little heart, and then my husband and my children.” she explained as her hands followed the pink colors painted on the wall.
Not only has Jodi had a battle with cancer, but so did her sister and her mother who have their own handprints on the wall. With a fond smile, Jodi pointed out each of the sections where her family's hands have touched. “So, I was diagnosed in 2009, she (her mother) was diagnosed in 2016 with Metastatic Breast Cancer. So, she passed in 2017 as well so, right towards the end of my sister's treatment. It makes a beautiful story.”
Among the handprints are stories of bravery, hardship, and hope. In one section, two yellow paw prints look small beside the yellow handprints of the owner who battled Bladder Cancer. In another section, red handprints are painted like ladybugs in symbolism with Multiple Myeloma.
“Each cancer is its own physically, mentally draining process and, I think it is really helpful for the patients to see how many other patients have the same cancers them and made the journey through.” said Melissa Weigel, a Sletten administrative assistant.
If you would like to support patients on their journeys through contributing to a renovation of key SCI spaces, the link can be found https://www.benefis.org/benefis-foundation/benefis-foundation