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Our week in Breckenridge was absolutely perfect. Summit County is far more beautiful than we could have imagined.
When Gracie was diagnosed with leukemia over 2 years ago, David and I never believed that we could be peaceful again. Watching our baby (Grace was 3 at the time) go through such pain and sickness was often more than we could handle. Twenty-seven months of daily chemo has taken a toll on our entire family, including her brother, Jacob, who was 7 months old at the time of diagnosis.
We have had unbelievable struggles getting Gracie to take her medicine. At three years old, she simply could not understand why she must take horribly tasting medicine that made her feel awful. Isn’t medicine supposed to make you feel better? Hair loss, fatigue, incredible weight fluctuations, steroid rages, pain and relentless nausea have burdened this little child for what seems to her a lifetime. She doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t sick.
Gracie (now 5 years old) will finish her treatment in two weeks and we couldn’t be more ecstatic. These last few months have been very exciting and yet have seemed to drag on for years. Our trip to Breckenridge a month ago was exactly the boost that we all needed to push through these last few weeks of treatment. The cool mountain air was completely exhilarating and the break from the daily routine was rejuvenating. Gracie and Jacob had SO much fun checking out hiking trails and the incredible toy shop in town. The horseback riding was thrilling for them and the children’s museum offered hours of pure enjoyment. Our condo was beautiful with breathtaking views and everyone we met greeted us with warmth and smiles.
Time has truly gone a bit faster for us since returning home and we actually “forgot” just how close we were to beginning the next chapter in our lives. Thank you again and again for the entertainment, hospitality, generosity, and compassion shown to our family and especially to Grace. We saw joy in her eyes that we haven’t seen for a long time.
With love and gratitude, Heather
We want to thank Domus Pacis Family Respite for allowing us to have such a wonderful week together. Since our week happened immediately following Danielle’s tests it gave us much needed time to unwind and relax after a very stressful time. The folks from the Summit County community gave us even more hope that there is a purpose for all the things we have been through.
The photographer gave freely of her time and energy to make some incredible memories for us. To the couple who let us use their townhouse, we have never stayed in such a beautiful home and felt so pampered. There is no way we could ever afford such amazing accommodations and probably never will again.
I cannot say thank you enough for a great family week together…all the kids have such great memories of the beauty of the mountains and the kindness of your organization. We will not give up. We will continue to think about our dream to help others who have had similar heartaches to heal from…that is another gift from our Domus Pacis Family Respite experience…renewing our dream as well as our spirits.
Since Ezra was diagnosed with fourth-stage cancer nine months ago, our family has undergone tremendous stress as we have watched Ezra battle various life-threatening infections and undergo aggressive chemotherapy. Watching our sweet two-year-old endure so much has broken our hearts and left us feeling completely drained. When hearing about Domus Pacis Family Respite and talking with Duck I was so grateful that she invited us to come. With medical bills and strict restrictions regarding where we can take Ezra, it seemed that a vacation this year would be out of the question.
Ezra and Mom
As we made our way to Breckenridge after an unexpected four day stay in the hospital, we were unsure of how our time would be considering how exhausted we were feeling. On our first day, we went to Lake Dillon and were amazed at how the stress seemed to melt as we breathed in the fresh air and the beauty of God’s creation. Just getting away from our home, the oncology clinic and the hospital and staying in a “home of peace” seemed to transform our family and refresh us. The week was filled with many firsts: a boat ride, family hike around the serene and lush Cataract lake, a family photo, a ride to historic Boreas Pass, more hiking at McCullough Gulch and Mount Royal…and…meeting a special dog named Gresham.
A few days later, sadly, we had to go back home, but knowing that…
Pure joy…that’s what we saw on Ezra’s face most of the week. While he was riding in the backpack, he kept joyously commenting on the birds, flowers, trees water, and mountains. He seemed to be soaking up the beauty of God’s creation. In just one week, our precious little Ezra will be strapped down to a radiation table instead of onto his Daddy’s back. He will also face continued chemotherapy treatments for another 15 months. But during those rough times ahead, we will be able to remember the incredible time we spent together this week in Breckenridge as a family. These memories are the greatest gift you could give us. Thank you Duck and Vince and everyone else involved with Domus Pacis Family Respite. We are very grateful for your generosity and kindness.
Love… John, Melodee, Ethan and Ezra
There is no “thank you” that can adequately describe how much spending the week in Breckenridge meant to our family. From watching the kids just “be”, build Lego’s and relaxing by watching episode after episode of Leave It to Beaver together, we truly left the worries of Colorado Springs and the past six years behind us.
Six years of hospital stays, living off of drive-through fast food, and sleeping on the “parents cot” can wear a family down. Most of our out-of-town revolved around making 14 hour drives to St. Louis, flying in and out of Pittsburgh for surgery, living away from our kids for several months, and being emergency air-lifted to another hospital. Needless to say, resting together as a family is hard to do when fighting brain cancer. We didn’t realize how worn we were until arriving at Duck and Vince’s home in Breckenridge.
When we drove up the driveway and looked at our home for the next week, we immediately felt it calling to us: “come to me and rest”- and that is what we did for the next week. Our kids played in the woods, we stayed up late and watched movies, we read, we stared, we went bike riding over to Frisco, we laughed, we went boating, and we made countless trips down the alpine slide. Six years of our daughter fighting the ramifications of brain cancer were a world away- and it felt freeing.
As nice as it was to go hang out in Breckenridge, though, our home-away-from-home was a refuge for us, and we couldn’t wait to return even after being gone for just half a day. It is hard to put a value on just “being”- but that is what we did and it was priceless.
Domus Pacis give of themselves in such a deep way to those of us who hurt and need rest. Spending the mornings with Duck and Vince was truly like being around friends we had known for years. Their home “hugged” us…
Rob and Kathi
I loved the rest and relaxation. Most of all, I enjoyed just being together. Our time away in Breckenridge didn’t make up for all the time we’d lost due to Maggie’s hospital stays, but we grew closer and rested together. I loved that.
Dax, 15 years-old
The hardest thing about having brain cancer and being in the hospital all the time is being away from my brother and sisters. I love them so much and miss them terribly when I’m away. It just felt good to be together as a family and play. We didn’t have to go anywhere if we didn’t want to- and that felt good. Being outside, walking around town, and doing stuff together was a lot of fun. The rooms in our home didn’t look like a hotel- they were real rooms with comfortable beds and blankets- like our home. That really helped me to relax.
Maggie, 13 years-old. Brain cancer survivor
When I think of Breckenridge, the first thing that comes to mind is our room. It was really pretty, had a view outside, and the blankets and fluffy chair were really comfortable. Zoe and I slept together. We laughed and giggled and played dolls together. Dax built Legos with us. I really enjoyed the alpine slide- I loved driving really fast and going by myself.
Anna Kathryn, 9 years-old
I really liked the horseback riding and boating. The house wasn’t like a hotel room. It felt like we were in a real home and it made me feel comfortable. When we slept in the room, it was relaxing. The couches were really fluffy. I liked playing outside in the woods and playing with Gresham, Ms. Duck’s and Mr. Vince’s dog. I liked walking outside with her, riding in the elevators with her, and giving her hugs.
Zoe, 8 years-old
Our family was invited to make the trek to Breckenridge several months after I completed chemo and radiation. I was, and still am, in the “wait and see” stage. Truthfully, I have found this stage of the cancer journey to be one of the most difficult. After you’re done using the medical tools at your disposal to fight the disease, it’s easy to feel like a sitting duck waiting for it to come back and rear its ugly head. When given a 50% five year survival rate, you simply live and think differently. You want to invest in your family- the husband who means the world to you, the teenagers who are doing their best to believe that they’ll be ok if you’re gone, and the little ones who’ve serenaded you, served you more happy face fruit plates than you can count and hugged you endlessly.
Amy in the Snow
Our week in Colorado was better than I could have imagined. We stayed in a beautiful home with breathtaking views. We sipped tea together…watched a movie…played board games …listened to a Sean Covey book on tape…planned and instituted our new plan for family chores and monetary compensation. All of this took place next to a roaring fire while huge snowflakes laid blankets upon blankets of beautiful snow. Most amazing of all though was taking my family skiing. As a child, my parents would take us skiing every year. I have such fond memories of the great times we would have together. Because of the cost associated with taking such a large family to Colorado to ski, we just never got around to it.
Thanks to Domus Pacis, I was able to usher my children (and hesitant hubby) into enjoying the amazing gift from God called the Rocky Mountains!!!! I’ve never felt more alive than swishing down that blue-black Centennial run knowing that less than a year ago I had to sit in the electric powered cart at Sam’s Club just to get some groceries.
While my circumstances are still the same, I no longer feel like a sitting duck. I am 100% alive today, and I will live this day to the fullest.
My biggest concern during cancer has been that my children would be loved and cared for if I weren’t around. When people like the White-Petteruti’s show unbelievable kindness to strangers, it gives me hope that, if I must unwillingly leave them in this world without me, that they will be okay. Words can not express my gratitude to Domus Pacis!
I couldn’t believe it when I was told about Domus Pacis Family Respite. In fact, I emailed them to see if they were indeed legitimate. AND THEY ARE!!! On May 31, 2008 my 36 year-old husband, Sam, was diagnosed with AML (Acute Mylogenic Leukemia). Needless to say our world was turned upside down. He was hospitalized that day and began treatment. The first hospital stay was 29 days, which included 7 days of intense chemotherapy. After being home for about two weeks he went back in the hospital for 5 days for another round of intense chemo. This went on for two more months.
In the midst of this we learned of Domus Pacis Family Respite and began making preparations with them to spend a week in beautiful Summit County, Colorado. The timing could not have been more perfect. My husband had just finished his last round of chemo, his and both of our daughters were celebrating birthdays around that time, and the changing leaves were at their peak.
Thanks to the generosity of wonderful people and businesses in Summit County, we had way more complimentary activities to do than we were able to take advantage of. We were truly blessed to have a week away from cancer. It gave us the time we needed to reconnect as a family and regroup as individuals.
Thanks, Duck and Domus Pacis supporters for giving us such a wonderful week in such a spectacular mountain setting.
Sam, Jackie, Autumn, and Emerald
"Mom, I am Livin' the dream" …WOW! I thought to myself, those are the words that my 5 year old son said after our fabulous ski/family retreat weekend sponsored by Domus Pacis. This is the same 5 year that has been battling cancer for the last three years. The same 5 year old that thinks chemo is part of daily life.
The Entire Family
This is the same 5 year old that followed his sister’s love for sports and the desire to learn how to ski, despite treatment, despite low counts, despite relapsing from cancer and despite losing part of his vision. Most of us would want to be counted out, if that was what was involved with “livin’ the dream”, but not Justin. He LOVED the trip. Our entire family LOVED our weekend away from treatment, blood transfusions, scans, isolation and hospitals.
We stayed at the most beautiful house, with the most beautiful view of Breckenridge mountain tops. Snow surrounded us- more snow than you can ever imagine. We spent time sledding, making a snow man, throwing snow, making snow angels and most importantly together without the worry of our next appointment and about what will happen next week, next month, next year. We made new friends, life long friends. We made new memories, life long memories!
Thank you Domus Pacis and the Breckenridge community!
It’s hard to believe it’s almost been a year since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I have finished treatment and regained my strength. I am getting ready for my second phase of my treatment and that is reconstruction. You don’t realize your strength until you are put in a position with no alternatives. My life has changed from start to finish. But not without anger, jealousy and embarrassment! This disease forces you to examine yourself. It takes a mature, healthy self esteem to secure a person. If you don’t have control over your own life, heart and thoughts, it’s hard to look forward to life.
Neremiah and Family
That is where Domus Pacis came to my rescue! I lost a good eight months of my life and I am excited to have my life back. Somewhere during treatment it was bought to my attention that I would have an opportunity to get away with my family. Domus Pacis was willing to give myself and family a vacation. Being sick and feeling like you’re not moving forward; it was nice to know that I had something waiting for me when I finished treatment.
It takes a lot of maturity to stay focused and stand against yourself. I fought myself every step of the way thinking I could not complete treatment. I guess you’re never ready for change or unfortunate events. Life is hard enough without having to be sick. I am only 29 years old and have completed 8 rounds of chemo and 6 weeks of radiation while having a family of have of 5. I am blessed with 3 little faces that I love very much. My heart is filled with their love and their unique gifts they give me everyday. I was able to share my cancer experience and reward with my family. They saw the ugliness of my illness and when I completed my treatment they saw the reward. And that was our amazing trip to Breckenridge.
Domus Pacis gave us opportunities that I would not have been able to give my kids. We went horse back riding, to the movies, out to dinner, nature walks, swimming, and other memories that we will never forget! We were able to free our minds, I was able to spend quality time with my kids and give then the attention they have been longing for. My kids walked away with a a sense of accomplishments and so did I. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and wish you nothing but the best.
Neremiah, Carlos Nicholas, Isabel and Cinjin