Sharing the experience of loss: Family pays it forward

By: Sanford Health News .

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FARGO, N.D. — Triple-negative metastatic breast cancer. That was the diagnosis given to Carol Prien. It was her second bout with cancer in five years, but this one was different.

“Finding out there really was no cure was when our mindset changed and the care team at Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center really became more important,” Prien’s daughter, Jenna Meyers, said. “They’re filled with hope, but they are honest. And even within the honesty, I never felt defeated.”

After 14 months of high and lows, Prien died in June. But for her significant other, Roger Larson, and Meyers, not a day goes by where they’re not doing something to honor her.

“I feel like I need to do something bigger because I lost her. She was too great of a person and too important in my life to just lose her and move on from that,” Meyers said. “There’s more that needs to come from it because she deserves it.”

Sharing Carol’s story

Early on, Meyers wanted to share about her mother’s cancer journey and her journey alongside her as a caregiver, so she started the Grape Tootsie Pop Blog.

“I felt this longing to write about it because from a caregiver standpoint I felt so alone and like no one got it,” Meyers said.

The blog also focuses on educating readers about metastatic breast cancer and speaking out about the difficulties of knowing and loving someone who is fighting cancer.

“Maybe you love somebody who is going through cancer treatment and you’re scared and you’re thinking about it constantly,” Meyers said. “But you don’t have to feel ashamed for feeling that way because I felt it too.”

Valet service with heart

Throughout Prien’s treatment, Larson guesses they visited Roger Maris close to 100 times. As a result, they had a lot of interaction with the valets.

“At one of those visits, when we were sitting in the waiting room, she said to me, ‘You know, that’s what you should do. That’s something that would be perfect for you.’”

The next day there was an opening for a part-time valet position and with Prien’s encouragement, Larson applied and was hired shortly thereafter. And as fate would have it, his first day was exactly a month after Prien’s passing.

“A lot of people asked how I was going to be able to do it, if it was going to bring up too many memories,” he said. “But I think my experience makes me a better valet. I absolutely love it. It’s therapy for me.”

And while he’s helping others, he remembers Prien.

“I can tell you that I see a little bit of Carol in everyone that walks through the door,” Larson said. “Whether it’s their courage or their strength or their hope or their smile, I’m getting to experience little bits of her every day.”

Hope blooms

On the day of Prien’s funeral, you could see the love of her family and friends in a multitude of flowers.

After the service, Meyers and Larson reached out to a Fargo nonprofit that repurposes donated flowers into beautiful bedside bouquets that are then delivered throughout the community.

With the help of Hope Blooms, the many flowers for Prien were disassembled and gathered into 81 new arrangements, and the following Monday the small bouquets were delivered to Roger Maris. Cancer patients, nurses and other staff members received small bouquets in honor of Prien.

“It was amazing because it had to come together so fast,” Larson said. “I remember that morning, we got ahold of somebody at Roger Maris and we were able to bring the bouquets in. I think within two hours all of them were handed out.”

In remembrance

Meyers often finds comfort in something her mother said during her cancer battle.

“She told me that we need to roll with the lows, celebrate the highs and keep everything in perspective,” she said.

And that’s what both Meyers and Larson are bringing forward.

Posted In Cancer, Health, Women's