Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hope Lodge

While it is my sincere prayer that none of you or your loved ones ever get cancer, if that should happen and you can get treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, I highly recommend the Hope Lodge as a place to stay. 

I recently spent a week there with my dad during his last week of chemo/radiation for tonsil cancer.  I was nervous going because I didn't know what to expect, but I found it to be a great experience.  The Hope Lodge is run by the American Cancer Society and will lodge for FREE anyone who lives more than 50 miles from Cleveland and is undergoing cancer treatment.  The main requirement is that a caregiver stay in the room with the patient.  Towels and bedding are provided, but must be washed by the caregivers. (Therefore, I got to be the maid...but it was easy since all cleaning supplies are provided too.)  There are no TV's or food allowed in the rooms, which forces people to engage and form relationships with others.  There are several community rooms with couches, tv's, and computers.  And there is a large kitchen with multiple appliances and all the cooking tools you would ever need.  Each patient has their own private place to store food and there is also a "free" refridgerator and pantry to allow sharing.  Because of this set-up I got to know many people and hear their stories.  Sickness has a way of stripping away all the unimportant things in life such as social status and profession.  Everyone there had something in common and talked with a transparency that is uncommon among strangers.  It was almost sad to leave because I was starting to form relationships and enjoy the community (my dad, however, was quite happy to be going home after 6 weeks!)

My favorite place there was the back patio/garden area.  For being in the middle of Cleveland it was very quiet and peaceful.  Since my dad rested frequently, I came supplied with a stack of books and my iPod loaded with music and podcasts.  The first night I was missing home and uncomfortable in my new environment, so I retreated to the gazebo with a book.  After a while it started to rain, but I stayed put, enjoying the sound and allowing God to rain down his peace into my soul.  I decided to embrace where I was at the moment and allow God to use me there.  I don't know if my presence at the Lodge that week made an impact on anyone else, but it made an impact on me.  I "left behind" a few books in the library.  And I felt led to have one of the patio bricks inscribed with Psalm 34:18 to remind the brokenhearted that God is near.  I wanted to leave my mark on a place that is such a blessing to those who need it.

As for my dad, his treatment is over and he is hopefully on the mend (although it will take a few weeks until he can eat normally again).  He will have a scan in 3 months to make sure the cancer cells are gone, but the docs are very confident they will be.  It was nice to have that time with him even though he wasn't feeling very good.  I am thankful for our time together and the blessing that Hope Lodge was to our family.

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