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Peterson calls Sletten Cancer center a godsend


October 23, 2017

From Gina Ann Bennett

When her father’s job on the Railroad brought the Phillipp family from Moorhead, Minnesota, to Montana in 1967, Connie Phillipp Peterson liked her new home in Havre, but Havre was the lucky one.

A graduate of Montana State University-Northern, an athlete a Blue Pony physical education teacher and high school counselor, now retired after 34 years, Peterson’s active lifework touched a lot of souls. But when breast cancer tried to slow her down, it wasn’t for long. She’s back on the golf course again, and grateful she could stay in town for treatment.

“What a godsend,” Peterson said, and that’s how she describes the care and the treatment she received at Northern Montana Sletten Cancer Center.

Peterson had a routine mammogram in October of 2015 at Northern Montana Hospital, and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her doctors, Kevin Harada, M.D., internal medicine specialist, and Dr. Mohammed Kanaan, who specializes in hematology and oncology at the center, “are fabulous,” Peterson said. “We are so lucky to have such good doctors here.

She started chemotherapy on a 28-day cycle that took six months to complete.

“I went for chemotherapy two Mondays and then had two Mondays off for six months. I got to stay in Havre all that time. It was a godsend for my husband and my family, too, because they would have had to drive me to Great Falls for all of those treatments, if the Sletten Cancer Center wasn’t here,” Peterson said

Her last chemotherapy was May 3, 2016, and then she started 22 radiation therapy treatments in June 2016.

“What a great place,” Peterson said.

She only had to travel to Great Falls once, to get the tiny medical tattoos necessary for the radiation treatments, and then she was able to see radiation oncologist, Kelly Underhill, M.D., via telemedicine from Havre, too.

“Everyone was kind, helpful, and caring,” Peterson said about her her care-team of chemo-certified registered nurses, Mary McKenzie and Markie Rohrback and Radiation Therapist, Kristi Burr, who all work at Northern Montana Sletten Cancer Center.

“The people are fabulous there.” Peterson said. “What a tough job. But they make you feel comfortable.”

She was sick for a while, but that didn’t stop her for long.

“Fortunately for me, I heal pretty quickly. Even when I was having bad days, I tried to get out for a walk. I have exercised all my life. I finished my treatments and then I started playing golf in August,” she said.

“It didn’t take me too long to feel better,” Peterson said. “In all honesty, from when it started, it took about a good year to get back to normal again. But, I feel great now, and my golf game will get better.”

Peterson plays on the Havre Women’s Golf Association League, and has played in a tournament they have every year called, Golfing for a Cure. She said she is currently cancer free and her prognosis is good. She sees Kanaan once every three months, and will continue to have a mammogram once every year.

“Definitely. Get your yearly exam. They can find it early with the mammogram, the best thing ever. I didn’t feel a lump,” Peterson said. “I had a biopsy to confirm it was cancer, and then a lumpectomy.”

“It’s so good we have the Northern Montana Sletten Cancer Center here, and they keep busy,” She added. “It’s sad there are so many people who have cancer, but it’s good that people all along the Hi-Line can get their chemotherapy and radiation treatments here.”

According to American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures statement for 2017 it’s estimated that among U.S. women there will be more than 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and more than 40,000 breast cancer related deaths.

Peterson remains active, and said she is looking forward to thanking her friends in person at the upcoming Northern Montana Cancer Center Open House, Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Kanaan will be doing a presentation starting at 6:30 p.m., and tours of the facility will be given. Peterson and a fellow cancer survivor will also be sharing their testimonials. Northern Montana Sletten Cancer Center is located at 40 Thirteenth St. W. Contact the center at 262-6000.

For more information, visit https://nmhcare.org.


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