Hope for Merideth

Dear Friends, Family, and Strangers,

This is a desperate cry for help from a friend, for a friend. This might be a bit of a read for you all, with quite a bit of detail, but I am asking that you take a few minutes from your hectic lives and read the story about my beautiful friend Merideth Sorensen.

Merideth is a warrior of many kinds. She is a mother, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a church volunteer, and a daughter to a mother who, if she could, would be right by Merideth’s side. Unfortunately, early-onset Alzheimer’s at 55 removed the possibility of her mother doing what mothers do best, tending to the heartaches of their children. And because of his selfless dedication to his wife, living out compassionately “til death do us part,” Merideth’s father is also unable to be there for his daughter as much as he would like.  

The longing for a mother’s love and the weight of a tough road ahead, brings me to ask all of you to come alongside Merideth and her family to provide prayers and financial support as she adds a new warrior title to her name. It is one no one accepts easily, or willingly, and which has been harder to face with a depleted support system. By sharing her story, my hope is that you can be part of her journey as she faces the toughest battle of her life.

Here is her story…

February 2018: Merideth and her husband Troy were excited to find out they were expecting their third child together.

March 2018: Merideth began feeling pain in her lower right abdomen. At her next OB appointment, she asked her provider who assured her they were normal pains that come with pregnancy: ligaments and scar tissue stretching from prior pregnancies. She took her provider’s word and continued with her daily activities until one day, the pain became so unbearable that she could no longer get out of bed. At this point Merideth’s intuition was telling her that these were not “normal pregnancy pains.”

 April 2018: Merideth went to the ER where her best friend waited with her. An ultrasound was performed and something suspicious was detected in her small bowel, but the radiologists could not determine what that “something” was, so they scheduled Merideth for a colonoscopy. Unfortunately, the GI doctors were unable to get high enough during the colonoscopy due to some blockage, so she was sent for an MRI. During the MRI, it was determined that she would need to have a biopsy of her small bowel using a laparoscopic procedure in order to rule out cancer. This is a word that no one is ever ready to hear, especially when 19 weeks pregnant.

 Needing to process her emotions and the wave of information, Merideth asked if she could think about her options before scheduling the procedure, as she was concerned for her growing baby. Her OB agreed, but not ten minutes later, Merideth received a call that there was no time to wait; the surgeon wanted to perform the procedure the following day.

Merideth complied with the doctor’s orders and on April 19th, went in for a biopsy of her small bowel. She was told this procedure would take 45 minutes. Four hours later, Merideth woke up in a hospital room to her seventeen-year-old son sitting next to her with tears rolling down his face. Upon waking up, she learned that during the procedure, doctors removed a softball-sized tumor that had ripped open her intestine, requiring the removal of 18 inches of her intestine, her right ovary, her right fallopian tube, and her appendix. The culprit of her pain: cancer.  The tumor was so tangled up in her intestine that had she waited, she could have lost her baby and her own life. Unfortunately, her husband Troy was out of town for work, so she had to share the news with him over the phone. Merideth was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her new (unwanted) title: cancer Warrior.

May 2018: After she recovered from her surgery, a care team was established, and a plan was in place. On May 17, 2018, Merideth underwent her first round of chemo at 23 weeks pregnant. Every three weeks, she headed to the hospital for another round of chemo. With two young kids at home and one on the way, you can imagine the heartache that Merideth faced each day she was away from her family. She completed three rounds of chemo while pregnant. Warrior.

July 2018: While celebrating at her baby shower, Merideth’s water broke at 32 weeks pregnant. She headed to the birth center where they tried to stop labor. The little baby could not wait to meet her warrior mommy and at 6:47 p.m. on July 17th, a baby girl was born weighing 4 pounds, 8 ounces, and measuring 18 inches long. Her name, Hope, given to her by her warrior mommy who is filled with hope and strength that she will win this battle. Hope was admitted to the NICU where she stayed for two weeks.

Instead of snuggling her baby in the NICU, Merideth was lying in a machine, filled with hope that she would receive good news. A few days later, the PET scan results showed that the tumor had shrunk, but she would need a few more rounds of more intense chemo. A few more rounds of chemo meant several more days away from her newborn baby and the rest of her family. Gut wrenching. Merideth expressed how difficult it would be to leave her family and be away from Hope, but because she has remained positive throughout her journey, she simply said, “I need to do what I need to do to get rid of this, so I can be the mom and wife I love to be.” Five more days of intense inpatient chemo and Merideth was discharged right in time to bust baby Hope out of the NICU. Think about that. A mom has a baby, spends one week with her in the NICU, then has to leave her to go to a different hospital for five days while she fights for her life, then on the fifth day, goes back to the hospital to pick up her newborn baby from the NICU to bring her home for the first time. Warrior.

August 2018
: In the middle of August, Merideth underwent her fifth round of chemo. She remained positive despite missing her older children’s first day of school and the precious bonding time with baby Hope that passes too quickly. While Merideth was in the hospital, her husband Troy used his PTO to hold down the fort and care for their children. His PTO was quickly disappearing and the stress of needing to work but wanting to take care of his family became a burden. Like many people feel, it is difficult to reach out and ask for help. Thank God for His divine timing aligning with a flexible season in friends’ lives, Troy was able to go back to work with shortened hours. 

I wish I could say this is the end of the story. Please stay with me a little while longer.

November 2018: Merideth was scheduled for her first PET scan since completing five rounds of chemo. She excitedly talked about ringing the bell at the Roger Maris Cancer Center. Her doctor was hopeful, she was hopeful, we were all hopeful. The results she got were not crystal clear, saying there was a little spot remaining, but there was a chance it could just be calcium build up, so another biopsy was required.

A couple of days later the biopsy came back reflecting residual cancer cells remained in her small bowel. The new plan was a couple more rounds of a different chemo as an outpatient and then schedule another PET scan. If the new rounds of chemo were working, Merideth would head to Mayo to consult with specialists about undergoing a stem cell transplant. Merideth spoke with Mayo, scheduled appointments, and did her research. Unfortunately, the second PET scan showed the tumor grew and a new plan would need to be made.

The new plan is called CAR-T Cell therapy. In short, the process of CAR-T Cell therapy begins with the removal of Merideth’s T-cells, which are a type of immune system cell. These cells are taken to the lab and modified to attack cancer cells. The newly modified cells are given back to Merideth through infusion where their job is to bind to the cancer cells and kill them.

December 2018: This new plan brings us to the week of December 3, 2018. Merideth and her husband Troy traveled to Mayo in Rochester, MN where several baseline tests were run. These tests included a brain MRI, EKG, PET scan, and bone marrow biopsy. Merideth received her PET scan results a day early and the news is tough to swallow. Her original tumor in the small bowel has increased in size and a new spot has appeared on her chest. This cancer is fighting back, but nothing can take away the strength of this amazing cancer fighting warrior.

Merideth and Troy made a quick trip home over the weekend to reunite with their kids. The reason they decided to make the long drive back to Fargo was to spend time as a family, but when it rains, it pours. Merideth spiked a high fever and was admitted to the hospital for tests on 12/8. 

She is hoping to be discharged on Sunday with a plan to head back to Mayo on Tuesday (12/11). On Tuesday evening, Merideth’s medical team will place a central line in her neck and begin taking her T-cells. Once this is complete, she will head back to Fargo and undergo three days of inpatient chemo to keep the cancer at bay, as it is growing rapidly. She will return to Mayo in a couple of weeks for the CAR-T Cell infusion. Once she returns to Mayo for the infusion, she will stay there for at least six weeks

Before I say more, THANK YOU for reading Merideth’s story. It is one to be heard and one to be spread. This mommy is a beautiful soul and what better way to spread holiday cheer than helping a family in need.

Merideth will need someone to be with her for the six plus weeks she is at Mayo, so the financial burden and logistical stress of arranging care for her children is taking its toll. Here is how we can help lessen this burden so the Sorensen’s can focus on being a family and winning this battle together:

·         Pray fervently and ask others to do so, too

·         Donate to Merideth’s GoFundMe page

·         Donate at Gate City Bank* (details below)

·         Provide homemade meals (email [email redacted] for drop-off information)

·         Send gift cards for

                o   Gas

                o   Costco

                o   Hornbacher’s

                o   Target

                o   Professional house-cleaning

I know some of you are incredibly creative people, so your ideas are welcome in suggesting ways to help the Sorensen’s. Please reach out if you would like to donate in a way other than this GoFundMe page at [email redacted].

All donations received will go directly to Merideth and her family to help offset medical expenses, travel, lodging, food, mortgage, and basic necessities. Each and every prayer and donation will make a difference in this family's journey. So, THANK YOU.

Where there is healing, there is Hope.

 With Love,

A grateful and HOPEful friend.

*An account has been set up at Gate City Bank in Fargo, ND. If you wish to donate, please stop by any of the Fargo-Moorhead locations or mail a check to:

 Gate City Bank

Attention: Hope for Merideth

3909 13th Ave S

Fargo, ND 58103

SPREAD THE WORD! Please share this post and tell your friends to also share! #hopeformerideth

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Organizer and beneficiary

Hannah Hannerson 
Fargo, ND
Merideth Sorensen