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A promise and a fight: How a Roanoke family is turning grief over their 4-year-old’s death into action

ROANOKE, Va. – The Price family is trying to navigate life as a family of three, after losing 4-year-old Rowan in September.

10 News has been following the family’s journey since Rowan was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer in October 2018.

Scott, Mandy and Emory Price are trying to process the big hole in their lives without Rowan.

"You just don't know when it's going to hit. Something can trigger, as simple as a song that she liked or walking into a part of your house," Scott said.

After four and a half years of life and 11 months of fighting a rare form of cancer, Rowan died in September.

"Every day's a struggle, but you try to find the silver lining in it if it's possible. There is not a moment that goes by where we don't think about her and every day, we think about the last day she was here," Mandy said.

Since Rowan died, the family has been trying to heal through a heartbreaking process that took them on the road.

"We promised Rowan an adventure when she got better," Mandy said.

In October, they started the adventure they called Roaming for Rowan, a cross-country trip in an RV.

In three months, they visited 22 states and many national parks.

"We didn't have extra noise and it was a peaceful healing in a place where we felt most connected to Rowan and you could literally feel her presence with us," Mandy said. "It was emotional, but it was also fulfilling. It brought peace to our hearts knowing that she was okay and that she was still with us."

The Price family is now home in Roanoke, trying to return to some sense of normalcy after a journey that's changed them forever.

"You kind of lose who you are and you're trying to find who you are again,” Scott said.

“It is an emptiness that can never be explained unless you've been through it and will likely never go away," Mandy said.

As they search for light in the wake of loss, they’re also making sure a legacy lives on.

"We want Rowan to be remembered as a fun-loving, head-banging, princess-dress-wearing, fierce, spunky warrior who, I mean, smiled with her whole heart,” Mandy said.

"We don't want Rowan's story to be forgotten because she was a powerful kid and I know I’m her dad and obviously I’m a teacher, but she was special," Scott said.

After months trying to save their child, now they're trying to save others.

"When you're thrust into the world of childhood cancer, you quickly realize the funding is not there," Mandy said.

Only 4% of the billions of dollars spent annually on cancer research and treatment goes to childhood cancer, according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

In Virginia, that percentage drops to zero.

For Rowan’s rare form of cancer, that translated into drugs that were hard to find and treatment that didn’t exist.

"It was like throwing darts because everything was experimental at that time. It was mind blowing," Scott said.

"It made my blood boil and I wanted to do something about it," Mandy said.

Mandy started pressuring lawmakers to fund childhood cancer research by reaching out directly and starting a petition that’s well on its way to 10,000 signatures.

"Our world is forever changed and our 7-year-old's world is forever changed and I strongly believe that it could've been different," Mandy said.

"We've just got to do better for our kids," Scott said.

Their new purpose is not just to remember Rowan, but to never forget how she lived.

“We want Rowan to continue to inspire more, to do more and to make a difference," Mandy said.

Mandy and Scott said they know the community can rally to make a difference for childhood cancer research because they saw the way the community supported them in their time of need.

About the Author:

Jessica anchors 10 News on Saturdays and Sundays at 6 and 11 p.m. You can also catch her reporting during the week.