Janet’s Story

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Janet and Pete were in the midst of spreading their retirement wings when cancer struck and their lives together changed dramatically. Although chemotherapy and radiation initially reduced Pete’s tumors, the discovery of a new tumor led to the difficult choice to discontinue treatment and transition Pete to Solvay Hospice House.

When someone you love passes away it can be a complex emotional journey, marked by a mixture of grief, love and acceptance. And in the end, there can be a constant battle between wanting to remain strong and supportive while grappling with the intense pain of witnessing the challenges your loved one endures. 

Janet Peterson experienced all of those emotions and more as the love of her life, Loren (Pete) Peterson, was at Solvay Hospice House facing the effects of terminal central nervous system lymphoma.

Owned and stewarded by Miller-Dwan Foundation, Solvay Hospice House provides compassionate care for individuals in their final months, weeks, or days, fostering comfort, pain relief, and strengthened human connections—allowing families and individuals to find peace.

Janet and Pete (as she always called him) were in the midst of spreading their retirement wings when cancer struck and their lives together changed dramatically.

They were enjoying gardening—her taking care of the flowers, him doing the vegetables. Pete even rebuilt a picket fence from scratch for the yard, sawing over 200 pickets to create his masterpiece. They were active in their church and enjoyed traveling and visiting with their two grown daughters, Laurel (and Peter) in Germany; and Sara (and Dan) in South Dakota, as well as their five grandchildren. Some notable overseas trips included France, Switzerland and Austria.

“In the fall of 2020, I began to notice subtle changes in Pete,” says Janet. “His mind didn’t seem to be as sharp. A few months later, Pete admitted to me that he wasn’t thinking well.” 

By early 2021, those subtle changes turned into the discovery of two tumors in Pete’s brain and a trip to Mayo Clinic where he and Janet received the news that he had central nervous system lymphoma. Chemotherapy was started immediately to shrink the tumors. 

“The feeling of community that surrounded Pete and me at Solvay was incredible,” says Janet. “I felt like I belonged there. Pete loved the nurses and they loved him. The care was so kind. So loving.”

Amid the turmoil of traveling back and forth from their home in Duluth to Mayo Clinic for treatments, Janet needed spine surgery to repair the two titanium rods in her back that chose the most inopportune time to fracture.

Family, friends and her church community stepped in to care for her and Pete, providing meals and taking care of getting Pete to his appointments while she healed.

“This is when we experienced the strength of community,” says Janet. “After that we were blessed beyond belief by those who cared for Pete during the time he was in Solvay Hospice House.”

Although chemo and radiation helped shrink Pete’s tumors for a while, by February of 2022 a new tumor had grown, and the painful decision to stop treatment and move Pete to Solvay was made.

“From then on Pete never took another step,” says Janet. “He couldn’t move his left side well. And he couldn’t communicate well either. But a great story I love to share from early on in his care that reflects Pete’s sense of humor is when the nurses were using a Hoyer lift to move him from a chair back to his bed, he burst out singing, ‘Off we go into the wild blue yonder.’ He served in the Air National Guard for 14 years, and it was just such a fun and memorable thing for him to do.”  

During his time at Solvay Hospice House, Janet stopped keeping track after 100 people came to visit Pete. They spent time reminiscing and connecting even when it became totally impossible for Pete to communicate.

Janet felt like God’s love shone through those who cared for Pete during his time at Solvay Hospice House. It gave her a sense of peace.

When Pete passed away, Janet and her family asked that donations be made in his memory to Solvay Hospice House through the Miller-Dwan Foundation so that the care and love Pete received could continue to remain accessible to others.

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