Ashlea Milligan’s parents Kristen and Deric founded Inheritance of Hope together after Kristen was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Ashlea has perspective that resonates with the broader IoH family, and through her writing, hopes to shed light on issues surrounding terminal illness and those who are left behind in its wake. She wrote her first installment in this series earlier, and continues to share her thoughts.
Meet families impacted by Inheritance of Hope!
Coming to college and discussing childhood with my friends has been a fascinating exploration. My roommates and I come from different backgrounds. While we all grew up under similar circumstances, all American, UNC Chapel Hill-bound children, there are variances that I find striking. Listening to them recount their childhoods is always slightly surprising, and brings out the nuances of my childhood that were contrary to those of my friends. I have begun to recognize how different growing up with a sick parent actually makes your life - the before, after, and during.
|Ashlea and her mom, Kristen|
Mikki Jeschke describes her ten years with breast cancer as an “up and down journey.” Some of her journey has been by boat. Dragon Boat, that is.
In 2009, Mikki underwent a mastectomy and fought through subsequent radiation and chemotherapy. Three years later, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in her bones. Soon after, the former student adviser now turned amateur paddler found Inheritance of Hope through a friend. The Jeschke family--Mikki, husband Doug, and sons Benjamin (then eight) and Daniel (then five) attended the May 2012 Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ to Orlando.
You’ve heard us say it before: IoH is a family. And what do families have? Reunions!
|Four IoH families: the Boisses, Earles, Carters, and Suttons reunite in Washington|
I didn’t know Holley Kitchen but I visualize her face when I hear her name. She has cute blonde hair and expressive eyes. When I first searched online for metastatic breast cancer in 2016, her powerful video was one of the first advocacy pieces that I saw. I cried at the computer when I watched and then I called my husband to sit beside me so we could watch it together. I handed him a Kleenex. Like Holley, I was a young mother that will be fighting cancer until my journey on earth is over.
|Holley Kitchen used her voice for good|
At Inheritance of Hope (IoH), we talk a lot about legacy. We know firsthand that when faced with a life-threatening illness, nothing can be controlled, except for how we want to be remembered. On the fourth annual Kendra Scott “Holley Day,” Holley Kitchen’s sisters share that today, she is still remembered as a spunky and fun-loving “momma bear” who loved her children with deep intent and purpose.
I have never met Kendra Scott or her friend, Holley Kitchen, but I think we have a lot in common. I’ve seen enough photos to know that we each appreciate statement jewelry, selfies and the strength of friends that are so close that they feel like family. (Sometimes, it’s even better than family.) But, the thread that links us together feels more like a noose – we are strong women who faced the demon of metastatic breast cancer.
Jake Anderson can’t describe his wife Becky without mentioning her smile, “You don't have to say anything else--you could just see her smile.” That smile was a window into how Becky lived with her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis amidst raising three young children.
According to Jake, Becky was always hopeful, and while he can't pinpoint exactly how she maintained her hope and faith, he does have a name for it, “I think if you knew her, well, there was a grace about her. She would put everyone else at ease,” he says. “It felt like everything was ok because she was ok. She made it easy for everybody and always looked on the bright side--right from the beginning. I think the word for her is grace,” he pauses, “and then, there was the smile.”
|Becky’s bright smile showed her love for life|
Luke Milligan, the middle child and only son of IoH Co-Founders Kristen and Deric Milligan, knows how much his mom loved him. Kristen made sure her presence and love would be felt through gifts, videos, and letters long after her premature death forced her to leave him at a formidable age.
The gifts that I have received from my Mom following her death have been of immeasurable value, but no more so than the ones I received from her while she was alive. The true value of her gifts have come from the knowledge that she was considering me and my future years before I was. The intentionality that she displayed as a mother is something I intend to replicate, whether or not I am diagnosed with a terminal cancer.