American Cancer Society Hope Lodge—Worcester
7 Oak Street
Worcester, MA 01604
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Hope Lodge offers spirit of healing, warm friendship
When Bruce Newell was a guest at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Worcester, he described the house as “warm, nurturing, and safe.”
He also highly recommends Hope Lodge as a great place to begin a long ride on a new Harley-Davidson Road Glide.
Newell, who stayed at Hope Lodge for six months in 2007 while undergoing treatment, was referred to the Lodge by his social worker, and quickly took a great liking to not only fellow guests, volunteers, and staff, but also to the building itself.
“The house, in a physical sense, is a special place,” said Newell, who was diagnosed a year after he moved to Florida after retiring from his work with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s something about it that’s warm and engaging.”
Before his diagnosis, Newell had interaction with cancer patients in his capacity as a chaplain. Because of that, he understood the importance of having a strong support system in place. He found it at Hope Lodge.
“From the beginning (Hope Lodge Manager Debra Aharonian) was gracious and engaging, as were the volunteers and staff,” Newell said. “I was able to easily establish trusting relationships within the house. I was open to what Hope Lodge had to offer for me in my time of need.”
Newell formed what he called “lifelong friendships” with other guests. “I never felt alone at Hope Lodge,” he said. “Because you share a cancer diagnosis with the other guests – a powerful common denominator – you really gain strength and determination from the support and love of others.”
Newell didn’t just gain a wealth of emotional gifts during his stay. He also picked up a motorcycle.
“While I was staying at Hope Lodge, I sold my old motorcycle and went up to Manchester, New Hampshire, and bought a Harley-Davidson - much to Debra’s anguish,” he said with a laugh. Being the selfless type, Newell shared his new possession with others at Hope Lodge, occasionally taking guests for long, scenic rides from Worcester to the Swift River in rural Petersham.
Newell, an avid fly fisherman, spent a lot of time visiting the Swift River during his stay at Hope Lodge. “I felt a real spiritual connection to that river when I was going through my treatment,” Newell said. “It’s a very peaceful place, and it allows you to feel humbled.”
Newell now lives in Sagamore and keeps busy with his hobbies, including antiques – he became a licensed auctioneer – and photography. Photography has been just one of the ways Newell has been able to give back to Hope Lodge. A former professional photographer, Newell has taken pictures of people connected to Hope Lodge at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events and provides the photos at no cost to Hope Lodge.
In October, he traveled up to Worcester to photograph the city’s inaugural Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.
“My stay at Hope Lodge reaffirmed my feeling of how important it is to give back in any way I can,” Newell said. “When I’m able to support someone else in a time of need, it allows me to really appreciate everything that I’ve been given.”
Twelve years ago, Cindy and Jeff Green of Kalamazoo, MI, left their home, their jobs and two school-age daughters behind for a three-month stay at Hope Lodge Worcester. Diagnosed with Chordoma, a cancer of the bone, Jeff needed Proton beam radiation. There were only two locations available for this specialized treatment – Loma Linda, CA and Boston, MA on the Harvard University campus.
The Greens chose to have Jeff’s treatment in Boston. Cindy explains that their stay in Massachusetts was transformed by Hope Lodge. "It was hard to leave our family," she said. "We were ever so grateful for the opportunity to stay there. It felt like home." Jeff and Cindy, along with three other guests who were receiving the same treatment in Boston, commuted by van five days a week. “We loved all our drivers, “Cindy said. "They don’ realize how valuable they are."
Cindy and Jeff formed close relationships with several of the other guests and their caregivers as well as the staff, volunteers and board members of the Lodge. "We still keep in contact with many of the people we met," Cindy noted.
For most of his treatment, Jeff felt well enough to partake in activities offered in the area. Cindy recalled that she had the opportunity to attend the fashion show fundraiser, while Paul had the chance to meet pro golfer and Board Member Paul Azinger, as well as attend the golf tournament. "Worcester is an awesome community," Cindy exclaimed. "We got to do a lot of things around the city."
In addition, the couple also had the chance to explore New England. "We got to visit a lot of sites," said Cindy, recalling trips to Newport and Maine. "One of the guys who worked on the Harvard campus lived on a boat and took us out on his boat one day."
During the last week of his treatment, the Greens were joined by their two young daughters, then ages 10 and 12. "We flew the kids in so they could see where Jeff was getting his treatments," Cindy explained.
In October 1997, Jeff and Cindy returned to their home and their family and resumed their lives. But they have made a return visit to Hope Lodge – not for treatment - but for the Lodge’s 20th anniversary celebration.
Sharing a positive attitude makes Lodge guest a favorite
- By Dave McGrath
As the night manager at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Worcester, I have had the pleasure of knowing Art Zins since he arrived in July 2009. He had just been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and his case manager told him about the Lodge. Soon after Art arrived, we bonded over a mutual love for the Red Sox and began watching the games together every night. I’d estimate we’ve watched over 100 Sox games together by now.
In addition to his great taste in sports teams, Art's sense of humor and positive attitude have contributed immensely to the healing atmosphere ofHope Lodge. He welcomes new guests like new members of the family and shares laughs with guests he has come to know over the months he has spent here.
In keeping with his positive mental attitude, Art refuses to let cancer interfere with the activities he enjoys the most. If Art isn’t next to me at the start of a Red Sox game, I know it is because he’s traveled back home to attend one of his son’s games or another school-related event. He exercises every day, even making new friends during his daily laps around Elm Park. One of Art's new friends, Alice, has become a friend of the Lodge as well, providing many delicious desserts that don’t last very long in the community fridge.
Art with his grandson
Tonight, as Art and I watched the Red Sox do well and the Celtics do poorly (thank you, split-screen TV in the basement), I asked him what advice he would give someone who had just been diagnosed with cancer. He told me the benefits of the supportive, caring community of Hope Lodge are impossible to measure when dealing with cancer.
"Staying at the Lodge relieves the stress that you would have if you were staying somewhere else,” said Art. “Surround yourself with people that are going through something similar to you is what I would tell someone to do."
Art has been an immeasurable contributor to the feeling of community and family at Hope Lodge since he first arrived last year. He is a great example of someone refusing to let cancer get the better of him.
Surrounded by warmth and friendship, guest finds home at the Lodge
When Judi Miller’s doctor recommended a screening colonoscopy, she had no idea of the road she was about to travel. It was St. Patrick’s Day 2010, and her routine test was about to make the routine of her life change forever. The colonoscopy revealed a 2.5-centimeter tumor, leading to a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. While the science teacher part of her was detached, observing the process and curious about her tumor, the human part of her was shocked and overwhelmed with questions. What do I do? Whom should I talk to? Where should I go?
After consulting with doctors at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and reviewing their recommended protocol with her doctor, Judi decided to get treatment at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. Still, she had no idea how she was going to be able to drive herself one hour to and from the hospital each day for chemotherapy and radiation. When a medical assistant at UMass told her about the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Worcester, Judi called Lodge manager Debra Aharonian to get more information. Judi was astounded to learn that not only would she be able to stay as a guest, totally free of charge, but that Lodge volunteers also offer free transportation to and from treatment.
The Hope Lodge had just reopened after completing renovations when Judi arrived. The day she arrived, Judy discovered that the Lodge is so much more than a place to stay; it really is a community of caring that offers guests strength and comfort. And because of the support that Hope Lodge provides, Judi was able to focus her energy on one goal: getting better. Judi points out that the supportive community has made her treatment experience much less stressful. Her favorite room at the Lodge is the kitchen, the heart of the home. Every night guests gather there, sharing stories and laughter.
When friends and neighbors ask Judi about Hope Lodge, she tells them of the wonderful guests, volunteers, and staff who welcomed her. She tells them about a beautiful, historic home in Worcester, and her free lodging and transportation. And and she tells them that the Lodge relies on the generous support of donors and volunteers. Judi knows her experience at Hope Lodge was a blessing and a gift, and she is dedicated to asking family, friends, friends of friends, and anyone she meets to consider supporting the Hope Lodge.
Judi has now finished her treatment, and is working full time again as a middle school science teacher.
- "When a person hears the word 'cancer,' the whole world seems to come to a complete stop . . . but when you stay at Hope Lodge, life begins all over again."
- "Hope Lodge is not just a support group, it's a support network, it's a support family . . . it's a lifeline!"
- "We really enjoyed our quiet and cozy room."
- "If you change one letter in the word hope you get 'home'; that's what Hope has been for us for two months. You have created a wonderful environment for folks facing a serious crisis in their lives."
- "This is one of the most pleasant things I have ever experienced."
- "I am so grateful to all those who keep Hope Lodge running."
- "I appreciated the comfortable common areas for guests."
- "Hope Lodge was a great way to help me get through this rough time in my life."
- "Hope Lodge made not only me, but my mother and son feel welcome and supported."
- "I have made some wonderful friends at Hope Lodge."
- "It feels like home here."
- "Hope Lodge helped save my life."
- "I have so many wonderful memories of my stay at Hope Lodge."
- "I was blessed to have Hope Lodge suggested to me."
- "Hope Lodge really is 'a home away from home'."
- "It was so nice to be connected to other people in similar circumstances."
- "The drivers are a real blessing."
- "Hope Lodge and our extended family have been a very important part of the healing process."