A Couple’s Story
Svein Rognerud’s hands glide along his piano keys on a wintry afternoon in Breckenridge, Colorado. Beth, Svein’s wife, leans against the piano as she listens to his music. The large, west-facing windows of their home shed soft light on the couple during this sweet serenade, while the shimmering snowflakes outside seem to dance in the sun as they’re swept up by crescendos of mountain wind.
Svein is originally from Norway and built this Breckenridge home in 1972 after moving to Colorado for his work in electrical engineering. Beth is from Texas and made her way west with her work as a private pilot. While it seems like they’ve spent a lifetime together, they actually didn’t meet until they were in their forties, after first marriages and children. Going on four decades after their first dinner date in 1986, Svein and Beth are both retired now and have been living in Breckenridge full time for 23 years.
Care That Feels Like Home
Of all the commonalities Svein and Beth share, cancer wasn’t something they planned on experiencing together. First was Svein’s prostate cancer in 2002, treated by Dr. Patti Hardenbergh with 40 radiation treatments at Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards. Now it’s Beth, fighting stage four ovarian cancer and taking regular blood tests at Shaw’s Frisco location.
Svein says he was “treated like a king” throughout his experience at Shaw, and when Beth’s diagnosis came in 2017, the couple had no question of where they would go.
“I was diagnosed, and I had to make a choice,” she shares. “I knew, because of Svein and the good treatment he got at Shaw. It was like going home.”
The initial spot was found on her lung. When Beth did a full-body CT scan, she says the cancer “lit up like a Christmas tree.”
After surgery and 27 weeks of chemotherapy infusions, Beth had a remission of six months. She continued treatment, heading to Shaw’s cancer clinic in Frisco every two weeks for a blood test to indicate any tumor growth.
“I’m only ten minutes away from the Shaw in Frisco,” Beth shares. “So it’s the most convenient thing to get to. I can go in a snowstorm and I can go in the sunshine. I can be there in such a short time, and back home in an hour. And I can’t imagine having to go all the way to Edwards every time I have to have a blood test — it’s a Godsend to have the Frisco office.”
Enjoy Every Day
Beth can’t say enough about her nurses at Shaw — Leesa, Susie and Lynn.
Svein is also very complimentary. Beth says he flirts with them a bit.
“Yeah, they flirt with him too,” she adds. “Like I say, we’re just all one big happy family when we’re over there. After the last infusion, I kind of got teary-eyed because I said, ‘I don’t know when I’m going to see you guys again. You know?’ I knew I would, because they’ve given me a 40 percent chance of making it five years and I’ve made it two and a half. So, I’m going to beat that.”
Beth says she never experienced adverse reactions to the chemotherapy treatments, as many do. She feels lucky, she says, to still be able to enjoy every day.
After hearing a presentation about the benefits of acupuncture for cancer patients, Beth has taken full advantage of Shaw’s Spirit of Survival program, which offers complimentary treatments to address fatigue and general well-being.
‘Rhythm of Their Spirit’
The struggle though, is for Svein. He and Beth both admitted that it is not dying themselves that scares them — it’s the idea of losing one another that’s so tough.
“He got cured. But it took six months, I think, for him to understand that I could not be cured as he was,” says Beth, with Svein sitting by her side. “That is the hardest thing for him to accept.”
Beyond their trips to Shaw, Svein and Beth stay close to home. She hunts for mushrooms; he gets on his bike. Life has slowed down, as the couple sleeps in and often enjoys a late breakfast of cake and coffee. But the rhythm of their spirit hasn’t stuttered.
“I like living here because it is the woods,” Svein shares. “It is the mountains and every day of the year I have something to do, anywhere.”
As feet of snow continue to collect throughout the Breckenridge winter, Svein always shovels a path to their home. He and Beth are happy to stay close and move through it all, one chorus at a time.
“I was diagnosed, and I had to make a choice. I knew, because of Svein and the good treatment he got at Shaw. It was like going home.”Beth Rognerud