“Thinking you are healthy one day and finding out that you are not is the most shocking discovery that can happen to a person, so when it happened to me, you can only imagine my surprise when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”
This is how Carol Anne Clark began her story, a story of surgery, chemotherapy, hope and disappointment, and the amazing support of family and friends. Though Clark succumbed to breast cancer in October 2011, her story continues and her legacy honored by husband Ron Prudhomme and sister Cathy Libitsky with the creation of the Carol Anne Clark Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to provide “Carol Houses” to families that are struggling financially because of breast cancer treatment.
Carol Houses are rent-free for families and give them a clean, comfortable place to call home. The first one opened in Lancaster last year, and the foundation is currently planning to open on in the Santa Clarita Valley once funds are available.
Clark was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2004. What followed was a seven-year battle, but it was not her own health that worried Clark most. Numerous chemo sessions brought her into contact with other patients like herself. Many were losing their jobs and health benefits and told stories of foreclosure and car repossession.
When Clark lost her job and she and her husband were in danger of losing their own home, Clark wrote numerous letters to cancer foundations, hoping for assistance. She found what that while some offered grocery gift cards or gas money, none had the money available to help pay for something like a house or car.
Clark dreamed of starting a foundation to help breast cancer patients with rent-free housing.
Though there were people who said it was an unrealistic idea, Clark, a longtime fan of Disneyland, responded characteristically, “Disney was also informed that his goals were unrealistic of opening a theme park unlike any other.”
The realization of this dream came after Clark passed, but Prudhomme says that she laid most of the groundwork. In keeping with Clark’s wishes, Prudhomme donated their house in Lancaster and moved in with his sister-in-law Libitsky, who lives in Valencia.
This became the first Carol House, which opened in October 2012 to a single mother of two who was diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer and had been living in a trailer park.
Currently the foundation is waiting on its 501c3 nonprofit status and looks forward to support from the Los Angeles Dodgers, City of Hope and the Susan G. Komen foundation. They hope to establish a Carol House in Santa Clarita in the near future and expand from there.
Prudhomme said that spending time in the hospital with his wife and other patients was an eye-opening experience. “It serves you notice of what these people have gone through and what they’re going through. And unless you’re in that environment and you’re listening to these stories, sometimes you don’t see the forest for the trees. Well, Carol parted the forest for the trees. Initially Carol just wanted to shed some light on these people’s needs, and she did so.”