Wyoming’s Worthy: Ali Shae Coleman Pink Rose Foundation
For Tiffany Coleman, her tears are a sign of strength not weakness. “When our family first began our battle against childhood cancer, I kept looking around to try and find survivors. I didn’t understand at the time that it was those of us that are left behind that are the true survivors.”
Tiffany Coleman was born and raised in Wyoming, and though her professional life forced her away for years at a time, she always found herself coming back. “Wyoming is beautiful not just because of the land, but because of its people. It gets into your heart, and you can never stay away for long.”
Shortly after Tiffany and her two children moved back to Wyoming in 2014 her daughter Ali (age 5 at the time) was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer. Like most things with cancer, nothing about it was straightforward. What was at first thought to be a potential ear infection that could be fixed with tubes, resulted in the discovery of a tumor. After dozens of doctors’ appointments with specialists throughout the state of Wyoming and Colorado, the Coleman family ended up at Denver Children’s Hospital where they received the news that every parent fears.
“My world ended the day we finally heard the official diagnosis of cancer. I told myself that we were going to fight this and win, but every time we turned around the news was worse. First it was in her brain, then her bones and then her lungs. Because of the location of the tumor we were unable to operate, so we decided to aggressively go after it. Our focus was one hundred percent on winning.”
Months of traveling back and forth to Denver and chemo treatments took a toll on the Coleman family. Explaining to a young child that she couldn’t go home yet, and trying to keep her occupied and entertained day after day was exhausting. Gifts and donations arrived regularly to their hospital room from anonymous families and benefactors, and the toys and coloring books offered welcome relief for both Ali and Tiffany. Tiffany credits her beloved Wyoming community with keeping their spirits up. Because of them they felt constantly surrounded by strength, love and encouragement, and this was a light for the Coleman family as they fought for Ali’s life.
“We were winning, the scans were coming back clear, and I finally felt like we could beat this. But, it turned out that the Cancer had attacked the nerves in her brain. We were told she had mere weeks to live, and it turned out to be days.” Tiffany paused here and took a moment to simply sit in silence and remember. “We took her home, where she had longed to be so often through the last eight months. But we simply didn’t have the support we needed to allow her to pass away there. Ali was such a light, such a fighter. In the end she still didn’t want to let go. I had to actively give her permission to leave us. No parent should have to experience this.”
Tiffany went on to try and describe what the next months of life were like for her and her son, as well as the hundreds of others that were left grieving this sweet young girl. Tiffany knew that she had to make something good come from this and admits that she was probably a little crazy for some of this time.
What parent wouldn’t be, after the loss of their child?
After much thought and some more time to learn how to survive, Tiffany decided to form the Ali Shae Pink Rose Foundation. She wanted to take what her family had experienced in thier journey and use it to help other Wyoming families that were going through the same thing. She looked at the things that helped them, the items they didn’t know they would need. A wagon to carry items from the car to the hospital as well as carrying children to and from treatments across the vast hospital campus. Coloring books and new toys for the children, and coffee and travel mugs for the parents.
The first fundraiser was held at Ali’s school. Even though she passed away a week after her 6th birthday and had spent much of her Kindergarten year in treatment, Tiffany credits her daughter’s school (Verda James) with being a beacon of light.
“We held the first ever Hot Cocoa Social and the money we raised went right into immediately helping Wyoming families battling childhood Cancer. I still remember the thank you email I received from the first family we helped. It meant so much to me and offered the encouragement we needed to keep our foundation going.”
The Ali Shae Pink Rose Foundation learns about Wyoming families in need through connections with Rocky Mountain Oncology and Denver Children’s Hospital. It is Tiffany’s hope that eventually they can move beyond simply supplying items. She expressed how painful it was to not have a choice to allow Ali to spend her last moments in her own home. The ability to offer this kind of comfort care for children at the end of their life simply does not exist in Wyoming. Tiffany hopes that one day the foundation can offer that choice to other families.
Last Fall, the foundation held their first annual Ali Shae Spa day. It was a promise fulfilled by family friend and Rootz salon owner David Lee Anderson Jr. While Ali was going through her rigorous chemo treatments he promised her a spa day at the salon for her and her friends when she reached her halfway treatment mark. Sadly, Ali never made it to this benchmark, but David knew that he needed to honor his promise.
The annual fundraiser is open to the public, and the first year well exceeded everyone’s expectations! As a result, this year’s event will be held at The Lyric rather than Rootz Salon. It’s a day full of all the things that Ali loved…fun, glitter, princesses, crafts, sweet treats, family time, and face painting.
“We believed through all of this, that Cancer would not dim Ali’s light. Through the Ali Shae Pink Rose Foundation we have seen her light continue to shine. To not only shine, but to be a beacon of warmth and comfort for families that are in their darkest hour.”
Learn more about the Ali Shae Pink Rose Foundation here.
This year’s Ali Shae Spa Day will be held October 13th 1-3pm at the Lyric. It is open to the public and the cost per family is $30. Follow this link for more information.
'Wyoming's Worthy' are Wyomingites that make us proud to call this wild and wonderful state our home.