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Woman who lost husband to cancer now helps families with similar experiences

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Cindy Bartlett of rural Pequot Lakes is realizing her dream of owning a bed and breakfast in the woods. But the dream took a definite twist she never envisioned.

After living a fast-paced life with a demanding job in the Twin Cities for more than 20 years, Cindy and her husband of 28 years, Steve, bought 25 acres of woodland between Nisswa and Pequot Lakes with a plan to build a bed and breakfast. They realized that goal in October 2008 when Mystic Views Bed & Breakfast opened.

Just three months later, on Dec. 31, Steve was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer at age 48. He died a year and a half later, in August 2010, at age 50.

“I had to figure out what to do. I was determined to grow the bed and breakfast and see if I could get a sustainable business,” Cindy said, noting she had never so much as mowed grass before. “Determination has taught me a lot.”

Now, the Bartletts’ two-suite bed and breakfast attracts people celebrating anniversaries and honeymoons, as well as couples, girlfriend retreats and even hunters. Cindy Bartlett is known for the elegant breakfasts she leaves outside each room on a cart in the mornings.

But there’s more to the peaceful, secluded home with warm wood floors and a scenic view of Omen Lake and various wildlife.

Bartlett thought of other families dealing with cancer treatments and wanted to give adults with cancer and their loved ones respite time at her bed and breakfast as a gift. She did research online, and two years later obtained non-profit status with Priceless 4 Purpose-The Steve Bartlett Cancer Non-Profit Organization. Her guests through the non-profit must meet certain criteria, and the first arrived last May. Since then Bartlett has had eight other guests with cancer.

“Every one of them has such a story,” she said.

One couple had been married for 38 years and never had a honeymoon. The wife was diagnosed with cancer. A 36-year-old mother was diagnosed with cancer when her only child was just 10 months old. A man with esophageal cancer has stayed at Mystic Views.

“I’ve pretty much kept in touch with all of them ever since,” Bartlett said.

It’s an example of how much of Cindy’s and Steve’s lives went full circle. After suffering a nearly fatal water-ski accident on Pelican Lake at age 13, Steve later became a physical therapy assistant at the same Twin Cities hospital where he was taken as a teenager. He worked with trauma patients. Eventually he became a massage therapist at the Hubert Humphrey Cancer Center. After moving to the lakes area, Steve worked in physical therapy at the Pine River Good Samaritan Home for a short time before his cancer diagnosis.

“It makes me feel good to use this place like Steve helping people going through trauma. I always told Steve I wanted a feel-good job. I kind of feel like that’s what this whole thing has turned into,” Cindy said.

“People need to take time in life to make memories,” she added. “Once a person is gone, that’s all you have are the memories.”

Cindy is more than happy to provide that moment where memories are made.

“It’s been a lot of good,” she said. “It fills my gap.”

Her goal is to grow the non-profit to be able to offer people who stay at Mystic Views various activities, like a pontoon boat ride, guided fishing trip or dog sled ride.

Steve’s life’s lesson was to positively impact people’s lives as they are going through difficult times. Cindy and the couple’s sons created Priceless 4 Purpose to honor Steve and to keep his legacy living by continuing his life’s work of positive influence on lives.