On June 15th, 2009 I was officially diagnosed with cancer. We were supposed to be leaving the next day for a family vacation to the beach and I asked my doctor, “can I still go?”. He answered with an emphatic YES! Then proceeded with the killer caveat- “you better go and enjoy yourself because when you get back you are ours for the the next year.”
With that statement, I packed my bags and headed to the beach with my husband and son. We have been vacationing in Buxton, North Carolina for the past 15 years, but this trip was going to take on new meaning for our family in more ways than we could ever imagine.
We arrived at the house and I put on my running shoes to try to clear my head. That night, we were going to tell my son I had cancer and I was dreading even thinking about the experience. So what better way to handle it than to put on my shoes and run away. Little did I know that I was running towards something.
I ran down the Old Lighthouse Road and when I got to the end of it I was incredibly perplexed. Here was a big compound of houses with a chain link fence around it and no one in sight. I ran around the fence trying to find some marking to help me better understand what it was. I finally came across a sign that indicated that it was owned by the US Coast Guard. It looked like a ghost town. Completely abandoned with no one in sight. Tons of houses, a playground in the middle- it looked so lonely. And keep in mind this is all oceanfront property access.
I turned around and started my run back to our beach house. The thought that these houses were supposed to be mine kept running through my head…. I could paint them pink…Little Pink Houses…I could create a cancer retreat center… families could come to get away from the daily life of cancer…I am supposed to do something amazing with this…you just found out you have cancer…what are you thinking?
As I ran back, I stopped at the realtor office to get the 411 on the property. The properties were owned by the Coast Guard, but they had abandoned them 5 years earlier. Dare County was trying to get the properties to use for affordable housing for firemen, teachers, etc. There are 23 houses in the compound that are in pretty decent shape.
What a great distraction for me. Here I am staring down the barrel of telling my 12 year old I have cancer a mere 24 hours after I have found out, and I have already starting making plans to change the world with this compound of houses. I laughed at myself (repeatedly). Talk about getting cancer and thinking that you are going to change things right from the very beginning. I was laughing even thinking about it and realized I better focus the rest of my run on how to tell my son that our world is about to change.
All week long, these houses kept calling to me, in a way that I cannot explain. Sometimes you do not know what you are supposed to do until you trip across your destiny. In my case, I feel like I ran right into it on a warm summer day in my running shoes.
For the past year, Dare County has been in negotiations with the government for the properties. As of 2 months ago, they officially dropped out, leaving the properties in limbo again. I have contacted the Coast Guard and they have scheduled a tour for us of the properties on June 15th of this year- exactly one year from the date of my diagnosis. I have been dreaming about this compound for the past year- thinking about the difference that it could make for breast cancer families.
Whether it is the purchase of this compound or some other property, I am certain that Little Pink Houses of Hope will become a reality.
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