Lodge Offers Comfort, Support, and Hope During Recovery

Barbra Tugman

For Barbra Tugman of Miami, Florida, the AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center in Boston has been a home away from home for almost nine months, and she couldn’t be more grateful. When Barbra was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2009, she worried about where she would stay during her treatment in Boston. A social worker referred Barbra to the Lodge, and she was thrilled to learn there was an opening available.

Early detection most likely saved Barbra’s life. She had been rigorous about performing breast self-exams, having lost three aunts to breast cancer and her mother and grandmother to ovarian cancer. When she discovered a lump during one of her routine exams, she called her doctor immediately. The day of the biopsy, she says, she just had a feeling that something was wrong. “But I just decided that ‘it is what it is,’ and I tried to stay positive,” she said.

Barbra said everything about her Lodge stay has been amazing, from the drivers who transport her to and from her treatment to the comfortable suites and full kitchen. The sense of community gained from events like weekly movie nights and group dinners has also been invaluable. “It’s amazing to have people to talk to who can relate. Everyone is so positive,” she said. Barbra has formed long-lasting friendships with the other patients at the Lodge as well as the volunteers and staff. “The relationships you make here, you will have for the rest of your life,” Barbra said.

While she is proud to say that she has been her own caregiver since day one, Barbra said that there have been plenty of limitations that have been eased by staying at the Lodge. After two single mastectomies, reconstructive surgery at Brigham and Women’s, and more than five months of chemotherapy at Dana-Farber, she is often unable to stand up on her own, let alone cook or do laundry. The Lodge volunteers have been essential. “When I was too sick from chemo even to walk to the stove, one volunteer made me poached eggs on toast, which my mom used to make for me,” Barbra said. “When I came back from the hospital after my surgery, I felt like I was coming home.”

In addition to the Lodge,Barbra also benefited from other American Cancer Society programs, such as Look Good… Feel Better, where she learned makeup tips during chemotherapy, and Reach to Recovery, which connected her to a breast cancer survivor with whom she continues to keep in touch. Having gone through a similar experience, the survivor was able to help Barbra cope with treatment, and she even suggested foods to eat during chemo to minimize her nausea.

 “None of it would have been possible without the American Cancer Society,” she explained. “I owe my life to the Lodge.”