Little Pink Houses of Hope: Recharging Breast Cancer Families
By Corinne Saunders –
Shari, age 41, glides through the water. Rhythmically dipping her paddle in the sound, confidently balanced on her board, she smiles as her 10-year-old son shouts, “Yea, Mom! You can do it! Look at you go!”
This is the memory Shari wants her son to cherish when she is gone, and this is the message that Jeanine Patten-Coble has embraced: even when things are bad, keep on living and enjoy the good times.
“That’s the thing we worry about the most, leaving our kids behind, wanting to make sure they’re supported and remember us in a good way,” said Patten-Coble, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.
In 2011, after a year and a half of treatment and with cancer in remission, Patten-Coble founded Little Pink Houses of Hope (LPHOH), a nonprofit that provides women diagnosed with breast cancer a weeklong vacation with their families at a Carolina beach. Building the family’s strength is vital, because cancer isn’t just difficult for the patient; the whole family struggles to cope and feels isolated, Patten-Coble explained.
“We create an organic environment of support. If you give the husbands fishing poles and put them on a pier or the beach, they naturally start talking about how much they love their wives.” And the kids all get along because even if they don’t specifically talk about it, there is an understanding of their common ground.
Six retreats – including one in Kill Devil Hills and one moved from Hatteras Island to Nags Head because of Hurricane Irene – served 50 families last year. Seven retreats are scheduled in 2012.
The only cost to participating families is their travel expense getting to the beach retreat location. “Cancer is physically, emotionally and financially exhausting,” Patten-Coble said, noting that one in eight American women will get breast cancer. The only program like it in the country, people have applied from 46 states and Canada.
Patten-Coble especially enjoys the Outer Banks retreats, and not just because the LPHOH vision came to her while vacationing with her husband in Buxton. “It’s such a tight-knit community, the caring shows up on the surface. I don’t know if it’s because the place gets battered by the weather, (but) you understand that everyone always needs a helping hand…it’s a neat feeling when we’re out there.”
Beste Kelly helps organize the Outer Banks retreats. “LPHOH allows breast cancer families to take a deep breath and exhale slowly and then step into a time away from all the busy and the what-ifs and the fear that cancer brings,” Kelly said. “Being a part of this amazing group of people has been a privilege of the highest order.”
An Avon-Buxton-Frisco retreat will take place May 12 to 19, and rental homeowners, local groups and businesses are encouraged to donate houses, meals, gift certificates or activities.
For more information, to donate or to volunteer, click to www.littlepinkhousesofhope.org.