When Lesa Francis got a mammogram screening at Bellevue Hospital, she never expected a diagnosis of breast cancer. The 42-year-old was in New York visiting family from her native Trinidad when she decided to get the test. She was grateful for the excellent care she received from the Bellevue Cancer Center team, but couldn't imagine how she would be able to stay in New York for the time needed to undergo surgery and chemotherapy. That's when the doctors at Bellevue saw that she would be a perfect guest to stay at the Hope Lodge.
“If it wasn't for them and for Hope Lodge, I wouldn't be the person I am today," said Francis. "It's really a haven."
The American Cancer Society's (ACS) Hope Lodge offers cancer patients and their families 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 Hope Lodge guests to focus on the most important thing: getting well.
When Amy, a 39-year-old patient at Bellevue who asked that her real name not be used, needed an experimental radiation therapy only available in Boston and could not afford to travel or stay there, her social worker was able to make arrangements for her to stay in a comfortable room at the nearby Hope Lodge, one of 30 across the country.
“She's there now and will be staying for four or five weeks," said her social worker, Jessica Schindewolf. “She really likes staying at Hope Lodge."
Lesa and Amy are among the HHC patients who have been able to benefit from the free services of Hope Lodge. While the local Hope Lodge in Midtown Manhattan does not accommodate people who live within one hour of treatment, some 15 HHC patients have been successfully referred there. Schindewolf says that many of these patients are often out-of-town visitors who either received a diagnosis or are seeking care at an HHC hospital and end up needing a place to stay while getting treatment.
The folks at the ACS say their mission for Hope Lodge goes far beyond providing a comfortable room and private bath. The nurturing, home-like environment helps patients and their caregivers retreat to private rooms or connect with others who are going through many of the same experiences.
“We have many related services that our guests need while undergoing cancer treatment. We want our guests to be able to relax sometimes so we include activities that will get their mind off cancer," says Lindsay Edgar, Manager of Guest and Volunteer Programs at Hope Lodge New York. “We focus on wellness activities and complementary therapies, like massage, reiki, yoga - even cooking classes to emphasize the importance of good nutrition. We also have support groups for both cancer patients and their care-givers."
As a corporate sponsor for the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer for the eight year in a row, HHC staffers will enthusiastically walk and raise money on October 17 to support Hope Lodge and many services the ACS makes available to thousands of HHC patients. To learn more about Hope Lodge or join HHC to support the Making Strides walk, visit www.cancer.org.