Facing cancer is hard. Having to travel out of town for treatment can make it even harder. Yet the American Cancer Society has a place where cancer patients and their caregivers can find help and hope when home is far away - an American Cancer Society Hope Lodge.
Each year, thousands of Iowans with advanced and often difficult-to-treat forms of cancer travel from communities across the state to the hospitals in Iowa City and Rochester, Minn., to receive the specialized treatments that are necessary for recovery and survival. This is a time when these cancer patients and their caregivers need strong social and emotional support to maintain hope and a positive outlook for a successful recovery. Yet, this is often a time when their hope is severely challenged.
Already facing high levels of emotional, physical, and financial stress, these cancer patients must currently pay for their own lodging while receiving lengthy treatments away from home. This added stress is often overwhelming to personal and financial resources. Some patients are discouraged from seeking or completing potentially life-saving treatments.
The commitment of the American Cancer Society to building Hope Lodges grew directly out of its service mission and strong involvement working to prevent cancer and support the recovery of people with cancer in communities nationwide. The American Cancer Society mission focuses on the elimination of cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering through research, education, advocacy and service.
Each Hope Lodge offers cancer patients and their caregivers a free, temporary place to stay when their best hope for effective treatment may be in another city. Not having to worry about where to stay or how to pay for lodging allows guests to focus on getting well. Hope Lodge provides a nurturing, home-like environment where guests can retreat to private rooms or connect with others. Every Hope Lodge also offers a variety of resources and information about cancer and how best to fight the disease.
Each Hope Lodge is designed to look more like a home than an institution. The lodge has a number of common rooms; it has rooms for the individual patients, who are actually referred to as guests; and, in fact, the goal is to encourage people to mingle and get together. The individual rooms don't have televisions, but there are many common areas, including the kitchen, for people to gather and to share their experiences.
Over the past year, the Russell and Ann Gerdin American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Iowa City provided 550 cancer patients and their caregivers a no-cost, home-away-from-home during treatment - a savings of nearly $1 million in lodging costs. The Hope Lodge continues to earn high satisfaction ratings from the guests who stay each year.Sometimes more than hope grows at the Hope Lodge.
Here are some personal testimonies from past patients and families who attended the June 11 Hope Lodge reunion in Iowa City:
Karen: "It was the first time since the cancer diagnosis that we felt we could get through this."
Magaret: "We were very grateful for the time spent at the Hope Lodge last year. It was a haven for us while my husband underwent chemo and radiation. The best part was meeting the spouses of those undergoing treatment and hearing their stories. That gave us many more people to pray for and a greater understanding of how each person's path is so different, and many times so much more difficult than our own."
Larry: "If we hadn't been introduced to Hope Lodge, we would have found ourselves camped out in a hotel room or rental accommodations by ourselves. Instead, we found friendly faces from staff, volunteers and other patients going through the same medical processes as I. It allowed us to share laughs from others and to show our support for one another."
Donna: "I appreciated the ride to the hospital each day for my treatments. Music therapy also helped me get through my treatments."
Fran: "It is the happiest bunch of sick people you will ever meet."
Current and past guests at Hope Lodges across the country consistently indicate that the accommodations and support provided by Hope Lodge has a very positive impact on their health and well-being. The physicians of the patients staying at Hope Lodge in Rochester and the one in Iowa City observe that patients respond better to treatment when they stay at Hope Lodge as opposed to an ordinary form of lodging such as a hotel.
Whenever possible, the Hope Lodge program will refer and link people with cancer to American Cancer Society Navigators, who serve every county in Iowa and are the heart of the Survivorship Program. Navigators are professional staff who serves as a guide and personal support for individuals with cancer throughout their cancer experience. They are skilled in assessing the needs of people with cancer, listening to their fears and concerns, matching their needs for education and other services to existing community resources, and coordinating transportation for cancer patients to and from their treatment facility.
Currently, there are 31 Hope Lodge locations throughout the United States. Accommodations and eligibility requirements may vary by location.
To find out more about a Hope Lodge, please call the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345 or log onto www.cancer.org for more information.
Samantha Henning is a clinical dietitian at Trinity Regional Medical Center. She is a volunteer for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Webster County. For more information on how you can volunteer and help in the fight against cancer, contact her at (515) 574-6752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.