Sean Prestie met his wife Marloes in 2008 when she was visiting Edmonton, Alberta. Originally from the Netherlands, Marloes lived life to the fullest, and a sense of adventure brought her to travel across Canada. Sean and Marloes dated for five years, married in 2013 and lived in Calgary. Life was good but took an unexpected turn two years later. Marloes was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She underwent a series of treatments at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, including chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiation. The treatments initially appeared to be successful and Marloes continued to build a life with Sean. But in 2017, cancer returned. Marloes underwent several rounds of treatments and surgeries, all while dealing with the emotional aspects of the reoccurrence of cancer and trying to come to terms with what it meant for her going forward.
“It was a difficult cycle. You push yourself through all the treatments and then try to rebuild your life – try to go back to normal – for it to come back again,” says Sean.
But throughout this period, Marloes’s kind and generous spirit were unwavering. She was a very bright, positive and determined person. Always an animal lover, Marloes spent countless hours volunteering at the Calgary Zoo, even while undergoing treatment. She ran a half-marathon when she was undergoing chemotherapy. “To her, cancer was more of a pitstop than a destination and treatment was a necessary inconvenience, she was always focused on doing what she needed to do to continue living her life,” says Sean. She was always focused on doing what she needed to do to continue living her life. And, she wanted to help others too. Marloes recognized a gap in the support system for young women facing breast cancer, so she and a couple of other women began the Southern Alberta Bresties group for young folks impacted by breast cancer, offering them a supportive network surrounded by other people who have walked the same path.
“A cancer diagnosis early in life is isolating, and the vast majority of my peers have never had to face their own mortality in such an abrupt way, nor deal with the aftermath of such a traumatic life event. The Breasties get it. They speak the language of cancer and know that part of my heart,” says Michelle Friesen, a member of the Bresties group. Marloes led and grew the community for years. In the last three years, it has grown from 12 to 200 members.
Thanks to the support of Alberta Cancer Foundation donors, Marloes was able to take part in programs and research studies such as the Reducing the Burden of Breast Cancer in Young Women (RUBY) study, which addresses the specific challenges younger breast cancer patients face. And the Alberta Cancer Exercise (ACE) Program, a community exercise program for both cancer survivors and people currently in treatment. These programs improved her quality of life and helped her create more moments with her loved ones.
On August 29, 2021, Marloes passed away peacefully with Sean by her side.
Sean is forever grateful for the exceptional care that Marloes received throughout her six-year cancer journey.
“All the programs and services she was able to partake in, the standard of treatment and care she received, exists because of donors’ support. And the treatment at the Tom Baker was second to none. From the doctors to the nurses, staff and volunteers, they made a challenging situation more manageable.”
Sean recalls when Marloe’s father from the Netherlands called a close relative in Montreal, a medical professional, to ask his opinion about the standard of cancer treatment and care in Calgary and Alberta. “He said that they were one of the best in the country and that she would receive first-class treatment there. Hearing that from someone in the medical industry made my father-in-law and wife feel a lot better.” Marloes was so content with her healthcare team that she was inspired to go back to school with the goal to enroll in the Nuclear Medicine Technology program at SAIT. “I think that’s a testament to the people that work at the Tom Baker and across Alberta in cancer care. They would have such a positive impact that she wanted to give back to other people in the same way.”
Until November 2, 2022, Sean and his parents, Ryan and Marilyn Prestie are honouring Marloes by personally matching all donations to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, up to $30,000. Donate Today.