While hospitals provide life-saving treatments, most patients don’t particularly enjoy their time there. For many patients, they can’t help but dream of the day they can finally go home and relax.
After being diagnosed with cancer, one North Dakota mother vowed to spend as much time with her family as possible. Recently, that meant leaving her family for over a week in order to get treatment. The entire time, however, she couldn’t wait to be back home. Yet once she got there, she found her home wasn’t how she left it.
A Big Move
About 16 years ago, Kerri-Lynn Larimer convinced her husband Dean to move from their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Thompson, North Dakota. When Kerri-Lynn first suggested the move, however, Dean wasn’t entirely on board. At first, he thought his wife must be joking.
Trusting The Process
Dean couldn’t understand why she would want to move to a tiny city with a population of just over 1,000 people. “I grew up in Minneapolis and when my wife wanted to move to Thompson, I was very hesitant to be here,” Dean told WDAZ-TV. However, he trusted Kerri-Lynn and they made the move to North Dakota.
Finding Their Place
After settling into their new home with their two young sons, the couple worked to find their place in the tight-knit community. Dean started teaching for Thompson Public Schools and got involved with the athletic programs. Kerri-Lynn found work as a social worker.
Dedicated to The Community
Kerri-Lynn also got involved with the public school’s sports program and helped launch a softball team at the high school. The couple was new to the small town, however, it wasn’t long before they were accepted by the rest of the community. Now, Dean and Kerri-Lynn are integral members of the community.
A Good Influence
According to their new neighbors, the couple has always been incredibly dedicated to the youth and youth programs. “Dean and Kerri-Lynn have such an influence on the younger generation,” a family friend, Nathan Berberich, told WDAZ-TV. Now, after almost two decades in Thompson, Dean couldn’t imagine living anywhere else with his wife and their two sons, Trey and Malek.
Fighting For Her Life
“I’m very grateful [and] proud to be a member of this community,” Dean said. Recently, however, the couple hasn’t had as much time to give back to the community. Sadly, Kerri-Lynn has been busy fighting for her life.
After experiencing pain and difficulty walking, Kerri-Lynn’s friends begged her to go to a doctor to see what was causing the pain. When the pain continued to get worse, the 44-year-old finally decided it was time to go to the doctor, who performed some tests. Unfortunately, those tests revealed she had cancer.
On November 23, 2017, Kerri-Lynn was diagnosed with Metastatic Melanoma or Stage IIIC Melanoma. “The PET scan revealed that Kerri-Lynn had a large tumor situated in a lymph node on her inner right groin and a number of small masses grouped together across her upper right thigh,” Tara Altomare Keyser, a close friend of the family, wrote in the GoFundMe page she started to raise money for Kerri-Lynn’s treatment. So far, they have raised more than $23,000 to help pay for her treatment.
An Uphill Battle
“And so began the roller coaster ride for Kerri-Lynn, her husband Dean, and their boys, Malek and Trey. Kerri-Lynn has experienced many setbacks on her cancer journey, enduring countless trips to the hospital for treatment and surgery, infections, reduced kidney function, water retention and draining pounds of fluid as a result of immunotherapy side effects, skin grafting, and most recently, radiation,” Keyser explained.
A Difficult Fight
“Kerri-Lynn experiences pain continuously despite taking medications to manage the pain. Day to day living and routine tasks has become a real struggle for her, resulting in 24-hour care,” Keyser said. “The oncologists have informed Kerri-Lynn that her cancer is stubborn and aggressive.”
The Battle Isn’t Over
For now, doctors have recommended that Kerri-Lynn do chemotherapy. Yet, they doubt that will be enough to kill the aggressive form of cancer. “Future treatment considerations at this time would involve multiple surgeries to remove the large mass around Kerri-Lynn’s femoral artery, and then plastic and reconstructive surgery thereafter,” Keyser explained.
Refusing to Give Up
Doctors aren’t sure what Kerri-Lynn’s long-term prognosis is. However, she is determined to fight as long and as hard as she can so that she can be with her family and get back to the life and work she loves so much. Recently, that fight brought Kerri-Lynn to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Out of Town Treatment
For over a week, the 44-year-old would be at Mayo Clinic getting treatment. Meanwhile, Dean was back home where he had planned to try and get some projects done around the house to make his wife happy. One of those projects was installing hardwood floors.
Reaching Out For Help
Not only had Kerri-Lynn always wanted to put hardwood floors in the house, but it would make it easier for her to get around the home. So when Kerri-Lynn’s best friend, Gina Roller, heard about Dean’s plan, she decided to reach out to the community to see if people would volunteer to help.
In the text message, which she sent out to about 20 people, Roller explained they needed help putting the floor in and painting the home. “Let’s make it a great place to come home to, bright and peaceful,” Roller wrote in the text message. However, the response to the message left Roller and Dean overwhelmed.
“People just kept coming, and coming and coming,” Roller told WDAZ-TV. “People who weren’t involved in the group text heard from other people and they would come.” In total, about 75 to 100 people from the community came out to help. They wanted to give back to a family that had done so much for Thompson.
Working Around The Clock
“They are always out for the community,” Berberich said via the Grand Forks Herald. “They love everybody. That’s why when the text went out, I knew I wanted to be a part of this.” The volunteers worked around the clock over that week installing the floor, gutting and redoing the bathroom, painting the walls, adding trim, replacing light fixtures, adding electrical outlets, and cleaning the yard. Some nights, they worked until 4 a.m. to get it all done.
‘A Well-Oiled Machine’
On top of the volunteers from the community, many others brought over donations. The University of Minnesota Crookston baseball team, which Trey is a player for, also came out for a day to help. “There was no bickering. Everybody got along. It’s almost like a crew that had been working together – a well-oiled machine, for years,” Berberich said.
A Dream Home
“If this was a project I was doing it would take a couple of years, and I would have to hire someone to do it because I just can’t fix anything,” Dean said. In total, the renovation cost $9,000 but thanks to the community, the materials and labor were all free. “I would call it our dream home for my wife and I. It’s what she wanted,” Dean added.
On September 30, Kerri-Lynn returned home from treatment and discovered what her husband, best friend, and the community had done. As expected, she was overcome with emotion. “I think it’s helped a lot knowing this is a place she will spend the rest of her life and that she will be here and be in peace and she got to see and have the house she always wanted,” Dean said. “It’s what she wanted. If it makes her happy, it makes me happy.”