Karen Halfpop is a storyteller. She’s spent her life helping tell the story of others – other individuals, nonprofits, coalitions and even businesses. Through her career in media, she’s helped tell thousands of stories. Today though, one of those stories is her own.
Halfpop was diagnosed in October 2020 with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. Her treatment plan includes four-hour chemotherapy sessions every three weeks at CoxHealth Cancer Center Branson – an area at Cox Medical Center Branson she knows well. Halfpop worked in the medical center’s community relations and communications department when the cancer center opened.
“All of the years I worked there, I really had no opportunity to use the services,” she said. “I felt confident in all my coworkers then, but now I am just amazed at all of them. They are the best at what they do, and they do it as if they are caring for a loved one. They really are amazing.”
In addition to the excellent cancer care Halfpop is receiving, she’s also benefitting from another patient program – Skaggs Foundation’s cancer center meal program.
Any patient receiving infusion therapy through lunchtime at CoxHealth Cancer Center Branson is provided a free meal.
“It’s really nice… one less thing I need to worry about and it keeps me from eating things that might not be that good for me or spending money we really don’t have on fast food,” she said, adding her favorite is the chicken salad sandwich.
And, during a long day at the cancer center, lunch is a bright spot.
“I’ve not heard one patient turn it down,” she said. “In fact, everyone brightens up a bit when the lunch cart comes around. Sometimes, especially as a first-timer, you’re a bit nervous and don’t feel like eating in the morning. By lunchtime, your tummy is growling. The lunchboxes are a welcome site.”
In 2020, thanks to the support of generous donors, Skaggs Foundation was able to fund 2,604 meals for cancer patients – that was 673 more meals than in 2019.
While the need for meals has increased, the reason the meals are needed continues to be just as important.
“Many of the side effects of cancer treatment disrupt a patient’s diet and appetite,” said Jamille Twedt, BSN, RN, ONC, ambulatory infusion services assistant nurse manager. “Some patients battling cancer can experience a loss of appetite, sore mouth, changes in taste, and even nausea, vomiting and depression. When good nutrition is at its utmost importance, many times patients don’t want to eat.”
Combine those issues with treatment that lasts through lunchtime and the financial burden a diagnosis like cancer can have on a patient, Twedt said patients would often skip lunch. Echoing what Halfpop said, when the lunch cart comes around though, patients tend to perk up, get excited and even more social.
“We see it as good nutrition, but it’s also good for their spirits,” Twedt said.
If you would like to help support Skaggs Foundation’s cancer center meal program, visit SkaggsFoundation.org or call 417-348-8998.