Mike Coleman wears a patch to treat tumors in his brain that his 5-year-old daughter, Leah, calls his “snow cap.”
Leah has started kindergarten, joined the Girl Scouts, and loves dancing and Disney princesses. Although she may not know the technical term for her dad’s Novocure device, the Colemans from Lock Haven, Penn., started making efforts to include Leah in the treatment of Mike’s brain cancer.
“We don’t hide things from her now,” said Leah’s mom, Amanda. “She knew something was different with daddy.”
Doctors removed a tumor from Mike’s brain after he collapsed at home on Halloween two years ago. Mike stayed in the hospital for two weeks, and he underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments for several months. Meanwhile, Amanda and Mike avoided talking about cancer with their daughter.
“We wouldn’t say the word ‘cancer’ around her, and we thought it was for the best if we didn’t mention it,” Amanda said.
Amanda found a link to Inheritance of Hope on a brain cancer website and was immediately interested in Legacy Retreats® for young families facing the loss of a parent.
“I’d been searching for something about how to talk to your children, and this came at the perfect time,” she said.
The Colemans submitted an application and were relaxing and making memories at the May 2013 Orlando Legacy Retreat® in a matter of weeks. Leah remembers meeting new friends and playing games with the kids and retreat staff. Amanda and Mike went on a date night and shared experiences with other families.
“It was just nice to meet people who are in the same circumstance trying to explain to their kids what’s going on with their parent,” Mike said.
Amanda said the Legacy Retreat® revealed how much Leah understood about Mike’s illness and provided support for discussing cancer with her daughter. Leah now goes to the doctor with her parents for Mike’s checkups as a result of what they learned from Inheritance of Hope.
“I don’t know if I would have done that without the retreat,” Amanda said.
Once the Colemans returned from Orlando, Mike started filling a box with keepsakes to give Leah for milestones like starting kindergarten or graduating high school. The Colemans are expecting a baby boy in April, and Mike said he will continue the tradition of making memories.
“The main thing I got out of the retreat was to build memories, and the retreat was just a starting point,” he said.