Giving those with limited time a gift of memories

The Curtis family at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson.
CBS News

(CBS News) The most precious gift is something that won't fit under a Christmas tree: It's the gift of caring, comfort, compassion and above all, the gift of time. Seth Doane reports our Cover Story:

Any vacation is a fleeting break from routine, a chance to relax and make memories.

But for the Curtis family, visiting this 3,000-acre dude ranch in southern Arizona, their time together seemed more precious than ever.

When asked what it was like for her to get out of the routine she was in at home, Teresa replied, "Very nice. Undescribable."

For four days earlier this month, the Curtises left reality behind back in Woodburn, Ky. - where Teresa Curtis said, "You always think you have a lot of time. You always think you will do something later."

At least until 18 months ago. That's when Teresa, mother to Sally and Levi, and wife to high school sweetheart Jeff, received a terminal diagnosis.

"I have stage-four breast cancer that has metastasized to the bones. The biggest thing is my spine . . . there is at least one lesion in every vertebrae," she said.

Chemo was devastating. She has her hair back now, which at least makes her look healthy. But cancer is always a part of their lives.

"It's always there. And I know it's always on the kids' minds. It's always on Jeff's mind," she said. "But it never goes away. It's like the big elephant in the room. But at least we talk about it."

Teresa's doctor, Vanderbilt Medical Center oncologist Vandana Abramson understands that families like the Curtises face more than just medical problems.

"The hardest part of all of it is that they have to be preparing for life without one parent in the future," she said. "So there's a lot going on with these families. A lot that's outside the realm of what most normal families have to deal with. There's a lot of anxiety for the entire family."

So along with the morphine and hydrocodone, Dr. Abramson called for something you can't find in any pharmacy.

"I prescribed this trip for Teresa because I thought she and her family needed a chance to get away. Needed a chance to be together - not think about her cancer diagnosis, not think about anything else. I think they needed something special."

Which is where the Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation comes in.

"We call it a time out from cancer, because that's exactly what it is," said Jon Albert, the foundation's founder.

"A time away, a distraction?" said Doane.

"And an opportunity to take live. To live life."

Albert's non-profit raises money to send families like the Curtises on an all-expense-paid vacation.