"I don't really know what caused my grandmother's death, but I do remember that it was another relative, another loved one, whose life was destroyed by cancer and I wished I could have done something to help her."
Back home in Kentucky, Coleman developed a relationship with another relative, this one on her father's side, who gave her an idea about how she could make something positive out of the negative events she had experienced.
"My uncle - my dad's brother - was a physician in Pineville and I really loved staying with him," she said. "He would talk to me about how medicine and the people who practiced - the doctors and the nurses - could help people fight illnesses, including cancer.
"He did more than talk to me. He showed me," she said. "He would occasionally allow me to go to the hospital and watch him. From listening to my uncle and observing him practice medicine, I decided how I could do something. I decided to become a nurse."
Coleman decided she was going to become a registered nurse with a specialty: Caring for cancer patients.
After high school, Coleman enrolled in a two-year program at Eastern Kentucky University and became a registered nurse.
"Right out of the chute, I became an oncology nurse," Coleman said. "I didn't want to waste any time pursuing my goal."
She worked for five years in the oncology unit at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington and six years as head oncology nurse at St. Luke Lutheran Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.
"At St. Joseph, I learned oncology as a new nurse being trained in a new field," Coleman said. "At St. Luke's, I practiced oncology as an experienced nurse trained in the field. It was particularly exciting because at St. Luke's we were involved in an investigative drug therapy program, which was cutting edge for private hospitals since most investigative programs are conducted at research or university hospitals."
She left St. Luke and joined a small team, including another nurse and a chaplain, in starting a hospice unit in San Antonio.
In 1998, a turn in Coleman's personal life led to a change in her professional life. She got a divorce, and she and her three children headed to Kentucky, settling in the Harrodsburg area.
On the personal side, she met Jack Coleman in the late 1990s and married him in 2002 and blended her three children, ages 10, 16 and 21, and his two children, ages 20 and 23.
On the professional side, she got a job as oncology clinical coordinator at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center and worked there from 1998 to 2002 when, following her marriage, she became vice president and co-owner at Coleman Home Center.
Leading a support group for cancer patients
Though her day job is now that of a businesswoman, Coleman has not totally left nursing - at least the caring part. She leads a support group for cancer patients that she started in 1998 under the auspices of McDowell's Central Kentucky Cancer Program.
"The group was modeled after the American Cancer Society's 'I Can Cope Program,' which is based, like a lot of programs, on education about cancer and the various therapies and surgeries used to treat it," Coleman said. "That's the physical component of the program, but we also deal with the spiritual, emotional and, yes, sexual effects of cancer and the chemotherapy and radiation used in treating it."
The program is conducted in an informal and casual setting once a month on the Colemans' Buster Pike farm, what she calls a "homey atmosphere." Each meeting begins with a big meal cooked by Coleman or her husband or both. Group members - they often number more than 30 men and women - then listen to Coleman and to each other.
In addition, Coleman occasionally takes the group on retreats where they hear from special guest speakers. Also, she sends out periodic mailings to group members; the current mailing list contains nearly 70 names.