For Cancer Warriors, Treatment Space Is Vital Element in Success

You can honor the courage of cancer patients in your life and in our community with a contribution toward expanding the chemotherapy space at Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute. Just click here.

On a quiet stretch of river, Jason Holden and his sons cast for trout and awaited word of his cancer diagnosis. 

“I thought, this could be the last time I’m with them,” Jason said. “Sometimes the silence is overwhelming on the river – the most powerful time or the most frightening.”

As his arm followed the rhythm of fly fishing, Jason, 45, thought of all he had left to teach his children and the decades he thought he’d have left to share with his wife. He thought of all the work left to accomplish for the people he loves and what it would have been like to lose his own dad when he was a teenager.


Earlier, Jason had reached out to his provider thinking he had a hernia. Testing found lung cancer, and Jason walked into Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute for the first time. 

For folks like Jason, Benefis has teamed up with donors and patients for a “revisioning” project at SCI. Two central goals of the project are expanding the capacity of the infusion suite and clinical space to meet the growing need and investing in additional pharmacy space to adapt to the increasing customization of chemotherapy infusions.

Cancer care has evolved in two important ways since Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute opened in 2005: More types of cancer are treatable now, and chemotherapy often can be less harsh and longer lasting. Both factors mean longer lives, ongoing treatment, and more need for patient care spaces.

Jason had a rare form of lung cancer not linked to smoking. Jason’s tumor was found in stage IIB, before it had spread beyond the lung and nearby lymph nodes.

“It was really the chance to save my life. I knew I was strong. I knew the people around me would help me through,” he said. “Lung cancer is a silent killer. It doesn’t give you symptoms until it’s too late.” 

Doctors removed a lobe of Jason’s lung, and then he had four rounds of chemotherapy.

“Having the infusion suite and being able to get chemotherapy in your hometown is critical to your success,” Jason said. “Going through chemotherapy is like going to battle. You have to be in the right 
emotional and physical space to enter that battle. It matters what the space is like when you walk in.”

Jason praised the SCI nurses as “angels.”


“You have no idea the amount of compassion, care, and knowledge they have,” he said. “They cared for my physical body as much as they did my soul. When they gave me chemotherapy, I would call it good medicine. They knew the risks and rewards, and so did I. I can’t say enough about the staff at SCI in terms of not just for the cancer but for me.”

His time in the infusion suite was intimate and difficult, as he shared the hard journey of cancer with those around him, many of whom had worse diagnoses than he did and many who had traveled from across the region. He found grace there.

“I can’t tell you how many people are there and how full it is. You see rows of people with IVs in their arms, their families around them. Everyone looks you in the eye with empathy because you’re all going through the same thing,” Jason said. “The space for the infusion suite is critical, and there’s such a demand for more space and more opportunities for people to be healed.” 

The chemotherapy combination Jason received had to be carefully calibrated to kill any rogue cells but not damage his kidneys or other organs. 


“It’s one thing to receive treatment, but it’s another to know the people behind the scenes have the equipment, the space, and the ability to mix medicine that could kill you. I never once doubted their skill,” he said. “It’s great to have confidence in the treatment you’re getting and what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Jason and his family dubbed his cancer The Defeated, “because that’s what it had to be” and, ultimately, what it was. His scans are clear now, and he tells himself that whatever comes next, he can make it because of what he’s been through already.

“Each day holds its own value. It’s an opportunity to be thankful we have the medical facilities and professionals to help us get healed,” he said. “I think about every breath I take, and I’m thankful that I’m here.”