Hope Lodge is home away from home during cancer battle

- Mary Wools has everything she needs in this new kitchen to take care of her ailing husband.

"I have to blend his food," she said, explaining that Dick is battling through his second round of cancer treatments.

"Twenty-five times of radiation," she continued.  "All of a sudden you find yourself tired, you find yourself out of sorts, you find yourself needing help."

Now, imagine having to commute three hours to get to and from that treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center.

"Up to five days a week, most of our residents are getting treatment," said Megan Williams, the assistant director of Tampa's Hope Lodge -- Mary and Dick's temporary home away from home.  "Hope Lodge is a residential facility that provides housing and support for cancer patients and their caregivers going through treatment who don't live in the area."

Megan says it's located next to Moffitt on the USF campus. "It's vital to their treatment. They'd have to be commuting up to three hours a day. One resident, eight hours a day total to get treatment. If they were able to find a place to stay, the financial impact of a hotel would be astronomical." 

Dick agreed, saying, "This way, you can come back to the lodge, lay down, relax, and get ready for whatever else is going to hit you, because what's going to hit you is a lot."

Newly renovated, the kitchen is now supplied with everything caretakers need to handle their loved one's unique needs.  There's a library, new suites with TVs, and an environment that offers not only information but stress-relievers like coloring with volunteers.

And if something goes wrong in the middle of the night, Moffitt Cancer Center is right next door.

"It takes a lot of the stress off me as a caretaker," Mary offered.  "When we were here before, he had a lot of bad reactions. I could call straight to the hospital. They would tell me to come over. All I had to do was call the night manager." 

"They build a comradery. They build each other up. And celebrate the victories and hold on to each other during the harder times," Megan continued.  "It's a really special place."

Talking about Hope Lodge brings Mary to tears. "Particularly for me, it was wonderful. Peace of mind. It was wonderful knowing -- I still get a little choked up -- knowing we were close and knowing all the care and all the help we had right here."

For more information on the Hope Lodge, call 813-490-4700 or visit www.cancer.org/treatment/supportprogramsservices/hopelodge/tampa/tampa-about-our-facility.

To donate to the American Cancer Society, call 800-227-2345 or go to www.cancer.org.

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