Brainerd Lakes Area, Essentia Health

The Donation of Cancer Comfort Bags Help Patients at Essentia Health

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Guest post from Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center, one of Up North Parent’s sponsors.

Staff members of Northern Orthopedics, Ltd., wanted to do something special to honor their friend and co-worker who recently lost her battle with breast cancer. A few years ago the doctors at Northern Orthopedics decided that they would like the staff collectively to choose a cause to donate to instead of giving them individual Christmas gifts, so this year they used the money they would have spent on the doctor’s gifts to make and assemble Comfort Bags for patients going through chemotherapy and infusion therapy to help them relax.

Several staff members presented the Comfort Bags to the Cancer Center staff at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

Cancer Comfort Bag

“Staff at Essentia Health Cancer Center are humbled to receive patient gift bags from the Northern Orthopedic staff,” said Marian Foehrenbacher, Cancer Center Manager. “When patients receive information about cancer treatment, they are stunned and wonder how they will survive the journey? We try hard to reassure patients we will be there for them each step of the way, so it is nice when we can share a gift bag for their comfort, it cheers them up. When co-workers become friends, they become family. It is wonderful to honor those we love!”

Each item in the patient gift bag was well thought out; a soft fleece blanket and memory foam neck pillow, two corn bags designed to warm them up on a cold winters day, puzzle books, lotion and more gifts to help make the experience a little more comfortable.

Comfort Bag includes blanket, hot/cold packs, neck pillow, candy, puzzle books, and lotion

“The gift bag donations are truly a gift of love to each person who receives one,” said Joe Wendt, Operations Manager at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. “It is clear by the items so thoughtfully included in each bag that the needs of people receiving chemotherapy and infusion therapy are understood. From the entire team at Essentia Health to the entire team at Northern Orthopedics, thank you very much! Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.”

Northern Orthopedics Staff front row L to R: LeAnn Mellenthin, Radiology Technician; Amy Semmler, Receptionist; Jenny Besse, Business Office; Lynn Egan, Medical Scribe; Kristi Lofquist, Medical Secretary; Sheila Mills, Receptionist. Essentia Health Cancer Center Staff second row L to R: Joe Wendt, Operations Administrator; Patricia Erlandson, RN; Ann Maresch-Solseth, SPC; Amy Renner, RN; Jennifer Diederich, RN; Essentia Health Cancer Center Staff third row L to R: Barbara Anderson, RN; Steven Millner, Pharmacist; Caitlin Altrichter, RN; Becky Sands, SPC; Erin Kennedy, RN; Marian Foehrenbacher, Cancer Center Manager.

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Side Note from Becky

My beloved bestie, Carol Ann Petersen, was diagnosed with cancer in the Spring of 2017. She fought a valiant fight but did not win. But I do know that, during the chemo treatments when we’d sit and chat for hours, she loved the Cancer Comfort Bag that was given to her by the amazing treatment team at Essentia Health. The contents of that bag (source unknown) came in very handy and were used often. I know the recipients of these special Comfort Bags from Northern Orthopedics will enjoy something bright and cheery during a sometimes dark and scary time. THANK YOU to everyone at Essentia Health and Northern Orthopedics. Up North Parent appreciates all that you do.

Essentia Health is guided by the values of quality, hospitality, respect, justice, stewardship and teamwork. From emergency care to convenient care, family care to speciality practice, Essentia Health delivers on its promise to be “Here With You” in the Brainerd Lakes Area.  Learn more at

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