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Teaching Kitchen Would Help Nourish Cancer Patients for Fight of Their Lives

June 16, 2022


For cancer patients who struggled to stay nourished during treatment, Benefis aims to work with donors to add a teaching kitchen during a “re-visioning” remodel of the Benefis Sletten institute. The project also will involve increasing the size of the infusion suite and pharmacy and expanding the genetic counseling program.

With advanced cancer particularly, appetite loss and fatigue are major factors, said Amanda Lucas, an SCI nurse practitioner specializing in palliative care. Taste buds change, too, and patients often are frustrated because nothing tastes good.

Too much weight loss during cancer treatment can seriously impact quality of life, particularly by causing worse levels of fatigue.

“I’m constantly having to call our dietitian,” Amanda said.

The plan for the teaching kitchen includes using the space for classes with trained dieticians and chefs to provide patients with tips so patients can better tolerate treatments and reduce complications.

They’ll have strategies on how to incorporate different flavors, textures, and nutrients into patients’ diets to mitigate the changes the patients will likely experience as a result of particular types of treatment, while also giving input into how to wash and prepare food differently to adapt to being immunocompromised as a result of aggressive treatments.

Nearly 80% of cancer patients experience malnutrition at some point during their course of treatment so a teaching kitchen would help create a more holistic and comprehensive treatment of patients’ needs.

The teaching kitchen also would offer a place where people walking the same challenging paths have camaraderie as they work on staying nourished, plus expert advice, patient Janet Hansen said.

“If you get together in that environment and everyone collaborates, you’ll find out what works. It’s a social thing. It’s good to put your heads together and get new ideas,” she said. “Having a teaching kitchen at SCI would have been helpful. I spent a lot of time by myself, experimenting, and not knowing what to do.”

Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute is ‘Where Hope of Survival is’

June 13, 2022


On her first day of chemotherapy at Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute, Janet Hansen plucked a piece of a jade plant from the infusion suite atrium. She dubbed it her “cancer plant” and hoped they would survive together.

Janet was 55 when she developed a sore throat that turned into a lump that proved to be cancer, the beginning of seven years of treatment that included three surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.

janetsletten cancer institute


“When you go into the cancer institute, it’s a wonderful place to be. It’s your world when you have cancer and everyone is there to help you,” she said. “They are there to help you, but I thought about what I could do to help myself, and that was work on my attitude, my sense of humor, and my diet. My body had to be strong enough to survive the radiation and the chemotherapy.”

If you have a place right there to get your information from, it could save your life.”

–Janet Hansen, cancer survivor

Janet rapidly dropped weight as she struggled to swallow and battled fatigue, radiation burns, lost teeth, and food texture issues during her treatment. Her throat still swells until she has an opening only the width of a pencil opening. She must twist her head to swallow, and choking is a constant risk. Every bite counts when you can take so few, and she has had to comb through magazines and Internet guides for nutrition advice.

“When you’re sick with cancer, people think it’s like being sick with a cold, but there’s not a word in the human language that can explain how sick you really are,” Janet said.

“That last chemotherapy was a real hard one on me, and your body’s got to survive that stuff,” she added. “If you nourish it well and feed it what it needs to be fed, you can change your outcome. And if you have a place right there to get your information from, it could save your life.”

My body had to be strong enough to survive the radiation and the chemotherapy.”

–Janet Hansen, cancer survivor

Cancer taught Janet about nutrition, and it also taught her about life. She learned who would stick with her in hard times and about the strength within herself. It brought her family closer together.


As for her “cancer plant,” Janet overwatered the succulent and watched it wilt. She, too, had her “oh no” moments when her future was in doubt. Now the plant is doing well and has a stem as wide as her wrist, and she’s been cleared of cancer.

“Sitting here cancer-free is something I never thought would happen,” she said. “SCI has become to me a safe haven. It’s where hope of survival is. It’s like a family. No one understands what you’re going through unless you have cancer or work with cancer patients. At Sletten, everybody gets it. It’s a great feeling to know that when you go there, you’re in a safe place, and they’ll have what you need to help you get better.”

Help Light the Way for Cancer Patients

May 16, 2022

Many of us will walk the dark, winding path that follows a cancer diagnosis, whether for ourselves or with someone we love.

The path is hard, but, as one Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute patient shared, it’s not in the peaks of life, not the mountaintops you summit, that you find your strength. It is in the shadowed valleys where you discover how strong you really are.

In those hard moments, you learn the most about your circle of support. You also learn about your community. Within Benefis Sletten Cancer Institute, patients find that strangers, friends, and neighbors cared enough to ensure they have a beautiful place to heal and that they have access to cutting-edge technology, excellent oncologists, caring nurses, and dedicated pharmacists and staff right here at Benefis to walk with them along their path.

In the following video, you’ll hear from patients the difference the Sletten Cancer Institute makes in caring for our family and friends and how we can make it even better for the generations to come.


To ensure the best possible care for patients like Jason, Amanda, and Janet, Benefis Foundation is asking for your help to raise $3 million for an upcoming renovation to the Sletten Cancer Institute. These funds will make sure that this project goes beyond just expanding access to services but also that we continue to offer cutting-edge treatments and services, providing the best possible outcomes with the most positive experience possible for each patient.

Patients and donors together have shaped what Sletten Cancer Institute is, and through this campaign, donors like you will shape what the institute will be in the years ahead.

Each cancer patient must walk their own journey, but we have the opportunity to light the way for them. Will you join us? Please give today.