TAHOE, Calif. — This is a story of hope. Of community and God and faith and listening to your inner heart.
This is a story about Little Pink Houses of Hope.
On June 15, 2009, LPHOH founder Jeanine Patten-Coble was diagnosed with cancer, the day before she and her husband and son were scheduled to depart for a beach vacation.
The family arrived at their destination, where Patten-Coble donned her running shoes for a head-clearing jaunt. She ran down Old Lighthouse Road, coming upon a group of 23 houses, abandoned, but still U.S. Coast Guard property.
While the burden of telling her 12-year-old son about the cancer weighed heavily on her mind, another, incredible thought began to creep in.
Twenty-four hours after her devastating diagnosis, Patten-Coble was planning to change the world of many breast cancer patients.
Previously, she considered herself a “checkbox Christian” — attending church on Sunday, volunteering, but not truly following Jesus.
“The calling that He gave me for Little Pink was the most amazing revelation and place of humbleness that I have ever experienced,” said Patten-Coble. “I had struggled to be obedient and listen — the angst of giving in and letting God take control, and the joy of what happens when you do, was so clearly revealed to me through my journey with Little Pink.”
She finds Him in the eyes of a 3-year-old on the playground in need of a joyful embrace, in the hug of a husband who has just lost his wife to a horrible disease, in the quiet sunrise as the day unfolds, in the tears of a volunteer knowing the grief a cancer-sticken family may have to bear.
Patten-Coble is thankful to do His work through LPHOH.
According to the website, Little Pink Houses of Hope’s goal is to promote breast cancer recovery by offering opportunities for survivors to reconnect and celebrate life, to help foster family bonds through relaxed play and time away.
The organization’s model is completely dependent on donated property and a desire for the destination community to have LPHOH become part of the local family.
“As the stories of God unfold throughout this entire experience, it just so happens that we had a resident of San Francisco who was also a homeowner in Tahoe named Christine Rocca gain acceptance to a Little Pink retreat on the East Coast,” said Patten-Coble.
Rocca was unable to attend the retreat, however, she called Patten-Coble and said her heart was moving and felt truly called to bring a retreat to Tahoe.
“One day I thought, hey, why not see about hosting a retreat in Lake Tahoe since I love it here,” said Rocca. “The first thing that needed to be done was to secure properties for the families and I immediately thought about Tahoe Luxury Properties. I was blown away by the kindness and giving heart of Kelly Dietz and her team, as well as the amazing families who stepped up to donate their homes to us!”
Kelly Dietz, who is founder and president of Tahoe Luxury Properties, wanted the retreat families, arriving from California, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas and Kansas, to take in the beauty of the lake and soak up the glory of Tahoe, to put aside the stress of treatment and enjoy a week with their families.
“When you are in treatment your life revolves around doctor appointments, surgery, and more treatments. There is a constant fear that hangs over you. It is constant and grueling,” said Dietz. “It is so difficult to try and function and keep things normal for your kids and spouse. Well it is not normal, but we try.”
Dietz’s greatest hope for the retreat attendees was to enjoy a break from the fluorescent lights and stethoscopes and take in the beauty if their surroundings. She hoped the kids will laugh, giggle and enjoy a fun time with their mothers, and realize their mother is still their mother — even though she may look and act a little differently.
Tahoe was a place Rocca could get the rest she needed, as well as be in nature, while she was going through cancer treatments. She thought it would be a fabulous place to share with other cancer survivors.
Rocca and her husband, prior to purchasing a home in Tahoma, always had a dream of living in Lake Tahoe. They began renting from Tahoe Luxury Properties, with each rental beyond expectations.
“Imperative to the success of the planning of our retreat was the partnership with Tahoe Luxury Properties and the hands-on attention of owner, Kelly Deitz,” Patten-Coble concurred. “From the very beginning, she helped spread our message to homeowners and secured properties for all of our families to attend. She is an amazing woman!”
LADIES OF THE LAKE
The first Lake Tahoe retreat for LPHOH, the first West Coast retreat, in fact, found attendees at Sand Harbor for a beach game day, stand-up paddleboarding at Commons Beach in Tahoe City, fishing, practicing yoga, flying over Big Blue on the Sierra Cloud catamaran, courtesy of Action Water Sports, a date night and a Northstar California day with roller skating and a gondola ride — to name a few activities.
Rocca said of the time in Tahoe, “Because this is a retreat for the whole family unit, it becomes healing in so many ways. Not only can the women who are actively being treated for breast cancer (being in ‘active’ treatment this is a requirement for retreat members) connect with one another, but the husbands and children can as well.
“Being able to speak first hand, cancer is exhausting! I remember being so overwhelmed with not only the diagnoses but being completely emerged in a whole medical community that I had no experience with at all … My husband and son, although I know they put on a brave faces, were scared.”
LPHOH offers a space where breast cancer patients, husbands and children may connect and share their similar situations without worrying about being “poked with an IV or meeting with yet another doctor or getting some kind of medical scan,” according to Rocca.
The Lake Tahoe community did not disappoint: “Local businesses, individuals, churches, and community groups supported us in a way that clearly showed our Little Pink breast cancer families the unconditional embrace that God’s love can have during a trying time,” said Patten-Coble.
“Just about anything in your life can be a blessing or a curse. How you react, the attitude that you have, your ability to focus on living, and the love that you still have to give determines how you will feel in the end. It may not determine your prognosis or ultimate medical outcome, but it will determine who you are. A surgeon friend told me, ‘Dying with cancer isn’t hard, it is finding a way to truly live with it that is hard. Focus on the living part.’ I carry this great advice with me each day.”