Friday, June 24, 2011

Shifting Time

A special guest blog by Lani, an LPHOH mom who attended the Kill Devil Hills Retreat with her family in June.  What beautiful words she uses to describe the ongoing life of being a person living with this disease and her family's experience at a retreat.  Thanks Lani. 

During treatment, we are thrust into an uninvited, relentless Present Tense. We put aside our plans and obligations and focus on our health. We take leaves from jobs, renegotiate our commitments, garner support from people who care about us.

The future becomes necessarily more tentative. You may not be there to meet it. Or maybe you will, but who knows in what condition. How will I feel next week? tomorrow? ... an hour from now?
When you are healthy, it is easy to plan your life with some confidence. When you are not well, there is hesitation, particularly if you are used to being dependable.

Time changes shape. Horizons shorten. The Present Tense of crisis is fueled by adrenaline, colored by anxiety. There is so much to worry about. Health. Money. Health. The inevitable dramas with family and friends.


As if cancer was not enough strain, imagine throwing young children into that mix. Their needs are perpetual. They are, by design, dependent. This is their childhood.

Despite the insistent, unwelcomed Present, a mother makes an effort to create a semblance of normalcy and joy.

But the strain is always there. A child, naturally, wonders about the future. "When I get bigger..."A mother pulls back, reluctant to imagine a time that she may be robbed of sharing.

My family has been in this state of crisis. Like a person huddles over an injury to protect it from the world, we have been doubled over in the wake of my cancer. We have been wounded. The primary injury has been tended to, but the peripheral problems have only been uncovered, including this unrelenting sense of crisis.

In addition to the physical devastation of treatment, patients and their families must also contend with a new financial reality. On average, American cancer survivors pay $5,000 more a  year in medical expenses than people who have not had cancer. That takes a lot of options off the table for the typical middle class family. Vacations go. Summer camp, music lessons ––  winnowed away. That certainly has been our experience.

Last week, we got a reprieve. We participated in a beach retreat with a new non-profit called Little Pink Houses of Hope (LPHOH). Founder Jeanine Patten-Coble, herself a breast cancer survivor, recognized that women are not the only ones impacted by breast cancer. An entire family is affected.
LPHOH gave my family use of a beach house, donated by a couple in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. LPHOH hosted several families last week. All of us arrived at these homes, stocked with groceries, armed with gift certificates to local merchants and restaurants. Jeanine told us that her goal was to keep our wallets closed for the whole week. Just hearing those words brought our stress down a few notches.

Jeanine and the other "volunstars" provided us with a schedule of optional activities, from kayaking to jewelery making, all designed to give families quality time together. They wanted us to feel comfortable and cared for. Our challenge was to open ourselves up to receive.

It took us a few days before we realized just how tightly wound we were. You don't realize you are hunched over until somebody lays a hand on you and reminds you how it feels to stand up straight. Midweek, the tight knot we were wound into started to loosen a bit. We breathed more deeply. We smiled more easily.

We shifted into the pleasant Present Tense of a lovely vacation. The no-watches-needed Present Tense of an afternoon by the ocean . The wake-up-and-see kind, as you lazily peek back at the sun through the curtains and anticipate another adventure.

I was able to go on a Ferris wheel at a fair with my children, teaching them how to be brave.

I played in the waves with my son, sharing the awesomeness of the ocean.

I collected seashells with my girls, seeing beauty around us.

My husband sang as he kayaked down a river, while his punctured boat slowly sank, requiring the occasional bail out. A perfect metaphor for life with cancer, to be sure.

As we left the cocoon of the retreat, we came back restored, finding more joy in each other and our lives, together. Our time together seemed lighter, even in the ordinariness of our daily lives. Along with seashells and sandy shoes, we had brought home a bit of the pleasant Present.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thanks for sharing your family

The last day of each retreat is joyful and humbling for the Little Pink Houses volunstar staff.  We are honored and priveleged to meet such wonderful families.  It is wonderful to see the relaxation that has occurred after a week away focusing on family.  The day started at the NC Aquarium and ended with our final goodbye  dinner. 

 And a special thanks to our group of volunstars this week!  They are the heart and sould of a Little Pink Retreat! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Paddling, Pier, and Pool Party

Another beautiful day here in Kill Devil Hills, NC!  Beauty and joy are all around if you just open your eyes and look for it.  It might be a little fish, or a chance to try something new, or being welcomed into a home with loving arms.  Life is what you make it by how you view it and today we got a chance to make it a great day!  So on the pier, Kristie and Thomas caught a fish and had some fun....

Paddling boarding in the sound proved to be a wonderful adventure- it is always great to see our families trying new things and celebrating their achievement...

John and Muffin Gillam hosted a wonderful pool and dinner party at their house to cap off the evening.  It was a wonderful night of sharing our mission through the voices of our families.  It has been great to be embraced by such a wonderful, loving community. 

It is easy to love what we do because God is at the center of our work.  Thanks for such a clear view today of the mission that you have set and the importance of the work that we will continue to do.

Teaser for tomorrow... Fish, turles, and sea lions oh my!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flying High and Looking Snazzy

Whew... even after cancelling fishing this morning because of a tournament on the pier, the day was still jam packed with Little Pink fun.  In the morning, many of our ladies got a chance to learn how to make seaglass jewelry...then it was off to make kites... the professional photographs for our families... then date night!  Did I say Whew?...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tons of Fun Tuesday!

It was a very busy day!  We started the day at Professor Hacker's Lost Treasure Miniature Golf.  One of the highlights of the trip was finding the missing red ball on the 13 hole that was launched by an excited 4 year old on the third hole.  But the greater highlight was just spending some quality family time together.  And that was really the wonderful thing to see today.  Although we plan lots for families to do during a retreat week, we are really just creating opportunities for families to play together, laugh, and just enjoy being a family.

After a wonderful lunch at the OuterBanks Brewing Station, a small group went kayaking.  We had a couple of first time kayakers- including me!   One of our dads sang us down the river, even while he pumped water out of a boat that had a hole in it.  Great to see wonderful attitudes, adventurous spirits, and relaxation at the forefront of our activities for the day.

The evening ended with the Nags Head Carnival.  The town is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week and a generous donor gave our families tickets to attend tonight.  Have you figured out yet (after only just 3 posts) just how generous the community here on the Outer Banks is?

Teaser for tomorrow... will they fish or "catch"? will they "see" glass?  and do you know what "date" it is?

Sun, Sand, Water, and a whole lotta Air!

It was a beautiful day here in Kill Devil Hills!  The wind was blowing from the Northeast (which is incredibly important since there are wildfires on the main land- this wind keeps all of the smoke away!)....the sun was shining brightly, the water was crisp yet wonderful, and the air was full of Little Pink families!  The day started off with fun games at the beach...

 And then it was off to go hang gliding. The 4 year olds thrilled me with their rendition of Buzz Lightyear by saying "to infinity and beyond" as they were flying down the dunes.

 And the funnest part was the "ride" back up the hill...
The day finished off with a quick dip in the pool by the kids....

And the teaser for tomorrow is a Lost Treasure, a boat, and cotton candy.....

Monday, June 13, 2011

A day of Hellos!

Greetings from Kill Devil Hills- site of the Little Pink Houses of Hope Family Retreat Week! I am going to try to give a little more insight to the week throughout the posts each night. On Sunday, our families arrive and we are so excited for all of the planning to connect with real live people! It is great to hear about their journey, meet their children and learn who they are. What a gift to meet such special people. Our Volunstars take their families to their homes and show them around. When I took my family to their home tonight, it gave me great joy to watch the excitement of one of our 4 year old boys as he discovered that he was going to get to sleep in the Pirate Room (three cheers to the owners who decorated it!). Then our families meet for dinner and get a chance to start connecting. Pictures from today were all taken at our family dinner...

We are looking forward to a wonderful week full of laughing harder, living stronger, and loving deeper.  Your teaser for tomorrow... it involves shaving cream, hang gliding, and the pool!