At first Paul and Alexis Johnson from Fresno, Calif., weren’t sure if the Inheritance of Hope (IoH) Legacy Retreat® was right for them. Paul was feeling better and their children were both less than three years old. But much in their past five years has been unexpected.
“When you’re living your life MRI to MRI, it’s hard to plan ahead,” Alexis said.
Paul was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after the Johnsons married. Their children, Lisette and Elliot, were both born after Paul’s brain surgery and chemotherapy. As Paul’s health began to improve, the Johnsons became friends with the Pock family, who attended a Legacy Retreat® in New York City in 2011. The Pocks also had two children, and their father was diagnosed with the same type of tumor as Paul. Alexis said the Pocks and IoH staff encouraged the Johnsons to attend a Legacy Retreat®, and the Johnsons went to Disney World last year when Paul’s health was stable and his son, Elliot, was 10 months old.
“Our fear is that Paul’s health will change, and to be able to meet other people who were going through what our fears are was amazing,” Alexis said. “I can’t say many other words besides amazing.”
The closing ceremony at the retreat was particularly memorable for the Johnsons, who were moved by the volunteers who made the retreat possible.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Alexis said. “We came out of there with a sense of how much God loves us and how blessed we are.”
Although Lisette and Elliot were too young to understand the group sessions and counseling at the retreat, Alexis said her family is holding onto the photos and videos from the retreat so their kids can see them when they’re older. The retreat gave her family an appreciation for creating memories, and they now take advantage of photo opportunities with Paul, pray with the wooden cross they received in Orlando, and revisit the photos of the entire experience.
“We’re trying to be more intentional about how to help them in the future if something were to happen again,” Alexis said. “Mostly we’re just being thankful.”
Paul recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of his diagnosis, and he and Alexis hope to stay involved as IoH volunteers. The Johnsons still keep in touch with the families and volunteers they met at the Legacy Retreat®. They encourage other families in situations like theirs to embrace every opportunity.
“There’s going to be something for you that you need to hear,” she said. “Go for it, experience it, and be thankful.”