I was nervous the first time I stepped through the door of an American Cancer Society Hope Lodge®. It’s a free place for adult patients to stay when their best treatment options are far from home. Despite the hopeful name, I thought it might be depressing. I had no idea I’d entered a place that would significantly impact me.
Arriving early for a meeting scheduled in the conference room, I was greeted by an endearing lady named Ruth. Her hospitality melted my nerves away. Ruth said she was a volunteer and cancer survivor. She treated me to a tour before my meeting.
The Hope Lodge had a large kitchen and dining room, laundry area, front porch with a swing and private guest rooms. There was even a library stocked with resources on fighting cancer for patients and their caregivers.
My favorite room was tucked inside the center of the building. A guest was stretched out in an overstuffed chair by the television, while two others sat at a table scattered with puzzle pieces. This felt like the cozy den of any home. I thought about what a relief it must be for them to be able to focus on getting well instead of worrying about where to stay or how to pay for lodging.
Since my first Hope Lodge visit, I’ve been involved with the program as an American Cancer Society staff person and volunteer. One of my favorite activities has been gathering a group of friends to make dinner for the guests. After a day of outpatient treatment, evenings are a time for them to share a meal, celebrate birthdays and encourage one another.
I’ve been privileged to visit many of the 31 nationwide Hope Lodges. I go with the intent of helping people during a difficult time and leave as the one inspired by their strength and courage. The facilities provide financial relief to those undergoing cancer treatment far from home, yet a Hope Lodge’s healing essence is immeasurable. It’s a community of support and the people are its heart.
Hope Lodge is a blessing. It’s an atmosphere of true bonding with those going through the same experience. You know you’re not in this fight alone. –Michael Shuler, Hope Lodge Guest
When I tell people I manage a program for cancer patients and their caregivers, they typically reply, “That must be depressing.” I smile to myself and say, “Actually, it’s just the opposite.” And then I share the Hope Lodge story.
Have you received treatment away from home? What support did you receive? Share your response in the comments below.