Last night I joined a group of people from work to host a dinner at Hope Lodge. For those of you who aren't familiar with Hope Lodge, the first was established in Charleston in 1970 by a Holocaust survivor and cancer patient who saw a similar facility while traveling in Australia and New Zealand. I couldn't help but think how it came together that a woman survived the Holocaust, became a doctor, and just "happened" to visit in far away countries from which an idea was formed to bring help and hope.
The concept was to provide a "home away from home" for those individuals and their families who are undergoing treatment for cancer. Nationwide, there are now more than 20 Hope Lodges which are part of a national patient service program run by the American Cancer Society. Last night, as we brought and prepared food for the residents and their caregivers, it was obvious what a Godsend this place is. Not only is it free of charge, but there is a great sense of comraderie and support amongst the patients and staff.
I met so many people who are filled with hope that they will survive. They knew each others' stories, encouraged each other, and were interested in socializing. I talked at length with a man being treated for prostate cancer. He wore a lapel pin that said "Cancer Sucks". He was funny and feisty. No doubt the Christmas decorations throughout the place contributed to the festive atmosphere. After dinner, the Renaissance Ensemble sang traditional English and French Christmas carols and after they sang their repertoire, the rest of us joined them for familiar carols.
Last night was a good reminder to me about how grateful I am to have my health and that there are others struggling with major illnesses that seem as devastating to them as alcoholism does to me. Sometimes I seem to focus so much on alcoholism that I tend to forget that pain and suffering comes in other forms.