Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hope Lodge – “It’s Almost Worth It!”

Amazing. Incredible. Unbelievable. Generous. Indispensable. These are some of the words that come to mind when Mark and I think about the AstraZeneca Hope Lodge in Boston. The Lodge, an initiative of the American Cancer Society, offers 40 cancer patients and their caretaker a free place to stay during their treatment in Boston’s first rate hospitals. This way, the patients – who have enough going on in their lives – do not have to worry about (expensive) accommodation and can focus on what is most important: their health and recovery. One of the requirements for staying at Hope Lodge is that you have to live more than 40 miles away from Boston. Since our floating home is located 6000 miles away, we qualified!

Based on the staggering amount of people walking the hallways and occupying the waiting rooms in Dana Farber Hospital, cancer is very prominent and heaps of patients are being treated. With only 40 rooms, Hope Lodge is very popular and almost always full. Mark and I were on the waiting list until two weeks into his radiation therapy. We were able to drive into the city daily and start his treatments on June 25th, a very time consuming and arduous task, but it was an option for us, while most guests at Hope Lodge live too far away and can only start their treatments from the moment there is room availability. One day, we received a call that there was space, and we moved in for Mark’s last two weeks. What a relief, comfort and convenience it was to have our own living quarters and to be able to walk to Dana Farber for all the appointments!

Not only did we have our own suite (with bathroom, seating area and beds), but many common areas were at the guests’ disposal: from family, TV, and game rooms, to libraries, a small movie theatre and a couple of outdoor areas. The first floor contained four full size kitchens - where every couple had a designated locker and fridge and freezer shelf - and a massive communal seating area. Activities were organized daily and consisted of yoga sessions, grocery runs, game and movie nights, musical entertainment and free meals organized by volunteers. Free van transport to Boston’s major cancer institutes ran hourly. In the vicinity a big park with greenery and a pond lured us for strolls, and a Whole Foods supermarket was a 15-minute walk away.

Being at Hope Lodge meant that Mark’s treatments only took a 1.5 hour chunk out of every day, leaving more time to work, socialize and exercise. One afternoon, we said “hi” to the dogs at the Humane Society, a short walk away, one Sunday we explored Boston, and another afternoon our “old” cruising friends Cindy and Gray (who we sailed with in the Bahamas more than six years ago) came over for a visit. One evening I gave a presentation about our boat life and scenes from the Pacific. Everyone at the Lodge was courteous, friendly, helpful and caring and we met some great people. With everything going on the last months, our time at Hope Lodge was somewhat of a silver lining and we are very happy and appreciative we managed to stay there. As Mark and I joked with some people there: “It is almost worth getting cancer to be able to experience Hope Lodge!” Whenever we have money, we know where to donate…

Harvard University in Cambridge, Boston

Olmsted Park near Hope Lodge

Practicing with my new camera

Boston city center

Quincy Market in Boston

Feneuil Hall in Boston

Paule Revere house

Charles W. Morgan whaling ship in Charlestown, Boston

Hanging out with Mary at Hope Lodge

Communal living room (where I worked)

Schedule of activities, Hope Lodge

Garden at Hope Lodge

Mark and Liesbet with Shelley and Sharom; a great couple!

On the way from the hospital to Hope Lodge

Cindy and Gray coming for a visit at Hope Lodge and staying for a dinner made by volunteers


Lisa Dorenfest said...

Thank goodness for Hope House. And if you are going to be stranded in a city for cancer treatment, Boston is a great place. Its one of my top cities. Your pictures make me look forward to returning for a visit

sailinglunasea said...

This sounds like a fantastic place! Perfect for fighters and their caregivers. Thanks so much for following us on Twitter - and thus leading me to your blog. :)

Tricia said...

That sounds like such an amazing place. I've been following your story & know that I am sending positive thoughts your way & hope that you can return to Irie soon!

Liesbet said...

Thank you all, for thinking about us and for giving us some comfort and support through these challenging times! It is highly appreciated.