Breast cancer drains women financially, physically, and emotionally. Fortunately, the non-profit Send Me On Vacation provides survivors with much-needed vacations, which help them and their families adjust to the “new normal” of life after cancer. Grand Pacific Resorts has partnered with Send Me On Vacation and recently sponsored a week-long Carlsbad vacation for survivor Renee Figueroa and her seven children. This is Renee’s story.

It was just another busy day, two jobs and five kids kept me constantly on the move. I was at my second job at a restaurant when someone accidentally elbowed me in the right breast. It was so painful! As I rubbed it to ease the pain, I noticed quite a large lump. My mind began to race. After fighting thyroid cancer in 2004, I knew all too well what lumps could mean. Needless to say, in mid-January I was told I had breast cancer. I was somewhat in shock. I had just had my first mammogram nine months prior and there was nothing there at all!

This started an incredible journey that I am just now completing and recovering from.

In February, I saw several specialists: a breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, oncologists, radiologist, etc…My mind was reeling. I knew I would be facing 18 rounds of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation once my mastectomy was completed.

I met with my foster agency to establish a game plan. I have three biological children, one adopted child (my sister’s son) who I have had since he was 10 months old, and three foster children. My adopted son has ADHD, RAD, and ODD, and my foster children are special needs with prenatal drug exposure. We have all been in therapy for the last 10 years. This brought me to a grand total of seven children in my care!

In October 2012, after 33 rounds of radiation and with just a few more chemotherapy sessions to go, my husband and I separated after 19 years of marriage. I hadn’t worked since my mastectomy. I had to quit both jobs to stay home and care for the children and myself. He moved out immediately and I was now faced with trying to make the household run with half the income and no partner. Somehow God has always carried me through. I have made it through so many challenges—transmissions breaking, $450 electric bills, school clothes shopping for seven kids, and Christmas! I have become very resourceful. Angels have been sent my way to help me through the times I couldn’t have done it alone.

Our family vacations are usually camping or staying with family. It’s all we can afford to do. Everyone says I am so brave to take all of the kids out on camping adventures, but I want them to have a vacation experience.

My friend Allison, who blessed me with a magical Christmas, told me about the opportunity to have a “real” vacation by telling my story. Of course, I could write a book on all the other things that have happened, but this is a snapshot of my last two years. My daughter will be going off to college this year and I will be left with my six boys. At any rate, I think it would be amazing if I could have the chance to have an amazing vacation. My kids sacrificed a lot while I was sick and they were truly helpful. This would be an incredible way to thank them.

After Renee returned home, she sent us this sweet note thanking our staff for their generosity and hospitality during her stay. The team at Grand Pacific Vacation Services rallied together to stock Renee’s condo with meals and snacks, and the resort provided a beautiful setting for a professional family portrait session courtesy of Grand Pacific Resorts.

I just wanted to take a minute to express my deepest gratitude to the whole staff at your resort. My family and I were blessed to have received an all-expenses paid vacation to your gorgeous resort with Send Me On Vacation. They worked hand in hand with the resort, which graciously donated a three-bedroom condo for my seven children, me, and my partner. I was so extremely excited to have been blessed with such an amazing gift.

I was not expecting anything more than the seven day stay we had been offered. The kids and I were so excited! When we got to the hotel the staff welcomed us like we were famous celebrities! We got the key to our room and went to check it out. The condo was beautiful, but what happened next was beyond anything I expected.

As we started looking around, we found a toy box full of beach toys and fun stuff for all the kids! We looked over at the kitchen counter to find a beautiful gift basket with fresh fruit, cheese, and other delicious snacks along with a wonderful welcome card that contained restaurant gift certificates and LEGOLAND tickets or all nine of us! The kids were squealing with joy, running around smiling and laughing.

Then I noticed a massive mound of snacks of every kind on the counter, in the pantry, and in the fridge! We had so much food! We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner courtesy of your amazing, giving staff.

Never before have I ever been so overwhelming blessed by strangers’ unselfish giving. Even now the memory brings back so much emotion. We also received SeaWorld tickets for all nine of us, and your resort had professional pictures taken of our whole family.

I just wanted to say, THANK YOU from the whole Figueroa Crew. We had the most amazing vacation we have ever had! We truly felt like royalty! Please let your staff and everyone who helped coordinate that we are all so grateful for this experience of a life time!