Tricia Lillard calls her experience with cancer an emotional roller-coaster.
“One of the biggest challenges is the uncertainty with which I have to live my life,” she said. “You think things are great then you get a bad scan or diagnosis.”
Two of her children, Tekia and Jamal, were one and six years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. Within three years
the cancer spread to her liver, and she said she worried what would happen to her kids if she didn’t survive.
She persevered through those diagnoses, but the roller-coaster wasn’t over for Tricia, her husband Randy, Tekia, Jamal, and daughter Callie. Tricia underwent surgery for newfound pancreatic cancer in 2010.
“We say we’re living on borrowed time,” said the mother from Bartlett, Tenn. “I really shouldn’t be here.”
But Tricia’s illnesses stabilized such that when a friend told her about Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreats® for families with a terminal diagnosis, Tricia said she initially didn’t feel the urgency to go.
The Lillards did attend the Legacy Retreat® at Disney World in summer 2011, and Tricia said the experience was ultimately something the family needed. She said volunteers made sure needs were met, and she had recovered from her surgery to be in shape to enjoy the trip.
Tricia said she recalls sessions with other retreat attendees and counselors being helpful for Tekia and Jamal to share their feelings with other kids. She said her family still stays in touch with other families they met through Inheritance of Hope.
“We only spent a few days with them, but there’s a special bond you have when you know you’re all going through something very similar,” she said. “You understand each other on a level that no one else really understands.”
Tricia said Inheritance of Hope founders Deric and Kristen Milligan also gave her ideas for leaving a legacy for her kids. She recorded a Legacy Video for her children to watch in the event of her passing, and she said the trip inspired her to give pictures and jewelry as keepsakes.
“Kristen and Deric’s example of how not to give up on living just because you’ve had a pretty rotten diagnosis spoke to me,” she said.
Instead of giving up, Tricia said she has stepped up her commitment to serving orphans. She said her good health has allowed the Lillards to continue working with local foster kids. The Lillards have opened their home for more than 20 years, and they provided temporary housing for a baby within a few days of returning from the Inheritance of Hope retreat.
“Living to help others is what I’m trying to do,” she said.