Lois McClure-Bee Tabakin Building—
Stories & Comments
Family turns to American Cancer Society in time of need
Within months, two members of the Remillard family found themselves in a fight for their lives. Dina, 70, of Swanton, and her daughter-in-law Natalie, 47, of Fairfax, were diagnosed with cancer in 2010. As the women faced medical treatment far from home, the Remillards turned to the American Cancer Society for support. The Hope Lodge network provided the care and accommodations the family needed to make it through a very difficult year.
On January 8, Dina was hospitalized at Fletcher Allen Health Care for surgery to treat pancreatic cancer. Although she anticipated discharge within a week, complications landed her in the intensive care unit for 14 days. During that time, her husband, Charlie, 79, accompanied by other family members, made a temporary home at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Lois McClure – Bee Tabakin Building in Burlington to be close by her side.
“Hope Lodge was a wonderful experience,” said Dina and Charlie’s son, Kevin Remillard, who stayed at the Lodge. “Everyone was amazed that the services were at no cost to the family. It took some stress off my mother to know that my father wasn’t driving back and forth in the winter weather. It made a tough situation better.”
Dina’s condition was improving daily, but a family celebration would be premature. While Natalie was visiting her hospitalized mother-in-law, she discovered a large lump in her own throat which triggered immediate concern. By March, Dina was at home recovering, but Natalie was awaiting a diagnosis. Reviewing the biopsy results, the doctors diagnosed the mass as a benign tumor in the salivary gland. In May, surgery was performed to remove the tumor. Although the initial pathology reports came back negative, further testing revealed a rare form of cancer called myoepithelial carcinoma.
“I’ve always been very healthy,” said Natalie, mother of four, who was told that her type of cancer could not be treated at Fletcher Allen Health Care. “It was kind of a shock.”
Natalie explored her treatment options in Boston. The specialists there proposed additional surgery to clear the margins where the cancer was discovered. Feeling apprehensive about the invasive approach, and with concern about facial disfiguration, Natalie sought a third opinion.
By August 2010, Natalie was under the care of the medical team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She qualified for a seven-week clinical trial, an aggressive treatment program combining oral medication, radiation, and chemotherapy. There was much for patient and caregiver, Kevin, Natalie’s husband, to manage.
“Lots of things burden you,” said Kevin, who was surprised to be seeking help from the Society again so soon, “not even the cancer itself - but insurance, leaving home, what to do with the kids. We were scrambling trying to find housing. For a couple days we were overwhelmed.” A social worker helped the couple find temporary shelter for three weeks until a free room became available at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Jerome L. Greene Family Center in Manhattan, one of the 31 American Cancer Society Hope Lodges across the nation. “It felt like all we had to do was deal with the treatment once everything else was squared away,” he added.
The private room and the services the Remillards received at the Lodge elimi¬nated much of the daily stress associated with cancer. They met and socialized with other guests who shared their experiences and offered comfort and hope. Caring volunteers provided nourishing dinners, delightful afternoon tea, and engaging entertainment, including Broadway singing performances and therapy dog visits.
Although the journey led Natalie hundreds of miles away, the New York City Lodge provided her all the comforts of home to make her feel secure.
“I can’t say enough good things about Hope Lodge,” Natalie said, remembering all the people who made her stay at Hope Lodge comfortable. “You’re taken care of. Our floor was like a family. Going out of state for medical care was no easy task, but it was good to be in that community.”
Natalie was discharged in the fall of 2010, and though her condition continues to be monitored, she’s leading an active, healthy life. “Cancer is something you hope you never have to go through,” she said, grateful for the Hope Lodge network which helped ease her family’s burden. “Hope Lodge gave me reassurance. They were there for us. I will never forget.”
Lodge guest finds giving is receiving
Lilly with her mom
Forty-seven-year-old Lilly Lopez Inverso exudes happiness. Her smile is a prominent feature on her face, her laughter infectious. She’s friendly and thoughtful, offering an encouraging word to people in need. You’d bet she hasn’t a care in the world. But Lilly is a cancer patient and six-week resident of the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Burlington, Lois McClure-Bee Tabakin Building. Despite battling cancer for the second time, she’s optimistic and cheerful. Lilly is known around the Lodge as the cheerleader, or housemother, for her uplifting and generous spirit. To Lilly, opening her heart and giving to others empowers her with the strength to fight cancer. On a cloudy, damp morning, Lilly enters the Hope Lodge kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and a quick bite for breakfast, lighting up the room with her own energy, pausing to greet a fellow guest on what will be the woman’s day of departure. Lilly calls out a cheer of encouragement for her new friend, “Go Cindy, Go Cindy,” adding a little "Woo, woo” for fun. She offers her an embrace, and adds, “Make sure to walk a little, so you don’t catch pneumonia.”
Sitting down for an interview, Lilly can’t resist opening the discussion with praise for the Hope Lodge staff and volunteers who have made her stay so welcoming and safe. “I don’t know what I would have done without this place,” says Lilly, a resident of Duane, New York. “Hope Lodge is a structure, but everything inside is a home. They know how to treat you.” Toting her chemo pump over her shoulder like a fashion accessory, Lilly, a three year cervical cancer survivor, confesses cancer was no less scary the second time around. “The news was a shock,” explains Lilly. “I went into panic.” Following a summer surgery, Lilly moved into Hope Lodge in September to complete her six-week radiation and chemotherapy treatment for rectal cancer at Fletcher Allen Health Care. “Not having to worry about going back and forth gave me piece of mind,” Lilly says. “I never would have been able to afford the hotel for these six weeks, let alone the cost of meals.
Lilly is joined at the table by her mother, Carmen, a resident of Puerto Rico, who arrived one week earlier, and her Hope Lodge friend, Ann. The women discuss Hope Lodge, mounting expenses, hair loss, and the American Cancer Society’s Look Good … Feel Better class, which Lilly attended to learn skin care techniques and the art of head coverings. Before Ann departs, Lilly shares a resource for free ferry tickets, and in typical fashion, bestows a “Woo, woo” on her friend. “I get a lift from lifting people,” Lilly admits. “There’s camaraderie here. We’re not lonely or alone.” “Hope Lodge makes people forget they’re sick,” says Carmen. “They make life comfortable.” “I wish I could stay and take care of people,” Lilly offers, just days away from completing her cancer treatment. “From a terrible situation, something wonderful has evolved. You wouldn't believe the kindness from people you’ve never met before. It’s incredible.” Lilly will leave behind the people she considers to be her family, her "Hope Lodge angels," but they will not be forgotten.
Throughout her cancer journey, she’s been both the giver and receiver of encouragement and inspiration, maintaining grace under extreme circumstances. “I’m strong,” boasts Lilly with a smile. “I’m gonna beat this thing. That’s my attitude.”
"Hope Lodge was a godsend . . . It's a family"
Within hours of being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), Jody Maneely packed a bag and left home in Malone, New York, for an extended hospital stay at Fletcher Allen Heath Care. Family members, eager to be by her side, made hotel arrangements in Burlington, which were quickly cancelled upon discovering Hope Lodge. With Jody in and out of the hospital for treatment since April, the Lodge has become a home away from home for Jody and her caregiver network.
Jody and Michael
The first step in treating Jody’s AML was remission induction, intensive in-patient chemotherapy aimed at getting rid of all visible leukemia. This treatment destroys the normal bone marrow cells as well as the leukemia cells, so Jody remained hospitalized for weeks to raise her white blood cell counts and help protect against complications such as infection.
“It was scary,” said Jody. “I went straight to the hospital after the diagnosis. I had no time to let it [cancer] sink in. When I left, I never thought I’d be gone for a month.”
During that time, Jody’s husband Michael, son Nick and daughter-in-law Sarah alternated visits to Burlington from Ballston Spa, New York, to be with Jody. They were grateful to be able to stay at the Lodge, relieved of the burden of hotel expenses. For all the family members who made trips in the months following to see Jody through her aggressive outpatient treatment, the Lodge was a safe haven with all the comforts of home.
“It gives me a feeling of security,” said Jody, referring to the Hope Lodge visits. “I’m grateful, especially for my family. It was helpful for my husband to have others to talk to. It’s nice to get to know other people who are going through cancer, who understand you better.”
During a Lodge stay in June, at which time Jody was receiving consolidation therapy to destroy any remaining leukemia cells and help prevent a relapse, she attended the American Cancer Society’s Look Good … Feel Better program. The tips for dealing with the appearance related effects of cancer treatment helped Jody feel more confident, despite her hair loss. “It was so much fun,” confessed Jody. “It does make you feel better. I hope I can do something for future patients.
”To give back to Hope Lodge for all the care they’ve received, Jody’s family recently orchestrated a Jamboree, initiated by her stepson, Joseph, which raised more than $1,200. “People we didn’t even know, some cancer survivors, came to support the cause,” said Jody. “It was overwhelming.”
Though Jody has endured months of high dose chemotherapy treatments, which will conclude in August, she nonetheless claims to have kept her sense of humor and positive attitude. Her reason to be optimistic is clear - her father, 89, mother, 88, and older sister are all long-time cancer survivors.
“I have cancer,” said Jody, “but it’s not defining who I am. It’s not me. It’s just something I’m going through right now. I really feel I’ll survive this thing and be around a long time.
Hope Lodge was a godsend according to Jody. “We’re so fortunate to have it here,” she said. “It’s my home away from home; it really is. It’s a family.”
The Lois and Bee Story
It would not be a stretch to say that Lois McClure and Bee Tabakin know each other so well they can finish each other's sentences, and that's just what they do when they are asked how and why they became involved with the American Cancer Society and Hope Lodge.
"Everybody has someone they know" Lois starts, and Bee finishes, "who has a friend or family touched by cancer."
Lois and Bee first came to know one another as next-door neighbors while summering at Cedar Beach on Lake Champlain in the 1940s. Between the two summer camp families, there were seven children: six girls and a boy.
"The cottages were very close together, so you wanted to be good friends with your next-door neighbor," Lois says, laughing as the two share tales of summer celebrations."
While their camps drew them close, cancer drew them even closer. Over the six decades since they first met, each woman has lost a daughter to cancer. Lois’ daughter, Judy, died in 1961 at the age of nine, one year after doctors discovered a kidney tumor. A room in the first Hope Lodge Burlington was dedicated in her memory. Bee's daughter, Ruth Ann Kaye, died in 1990 at the age of 42, following more than two years of treatment for lung cancer. She left three teenaged children.
Their experiences with cancer didn’t end there: Bee has survived two rounds of breast cancer, which was first diagnosed in 1980. Lois' husband, the late Warren 'Mac' McClure, was diagnosed with lymphoma and melanoma, and her younger sister, like Bee, twice battled breast cancer.
In the 1960s, Lois' husband was chairman of the annual American Cancer Society Crusade effort, while Bee was one of the troops of women who went door to door to raise money for the Society's programs of research, education, and patient services. "And I sent my kids out too," she says proudly.
So she didn't hesitate to help when the American Cancer Society set out to establish the first Hope Lodge Burlington in 1983, to provide temporary lodging for cancer patients traveling long distances to Fletcher Allen Health Care for treatment. She learned about Hope Lodge through a Reach to Recovery volunteer.
Two decades later, as plans began taking shape for the new building, Bee decided Lois was the person to call for help, and they met to discuss what needed to be done.
"I said, 'Do you think you'd be interested in donating?'" Bee recalled. "I asked thinking she would go home and think about it, but she just said right then and there: Yes."
In honor of the campaign's top donor, it seemed natural to name the new Hope Lodge after Lois. But when the time came, Lois wanted the building named for Bee. Bee would have no part of it, so the two settled on joint recognition.
For Lois, the decision to donate came easily, with the memory of her young daughter's death still with her each day.
"Looking at it now, 46 years later, you think people should take some satisfaction in how things have developed for cancer patients, but it doesn't mean we are through yet. Not by any means," she says.
Bee shares that sentiment as she talks about her dreams for the new Hope Lodge.
"My real dream is to have no more cancer," she says. But until that time comes, "My dream is to have a nice place for people to stay."
"I think the building is going to be pretty nice, don't you, dear?" Bee asks, turning towards Lois, who is nodding her mane of white hair in agreement and smiling with excitement.
There's no need for her to finish the sentence.
Guest & Visitor Comments
- "Dear Hope Lodge administration, managers, and volunteers: It is with heartfelt gratitude that we bid you farewell for now. The Hope Lodge has been our home for the past three months. During that time, the comfort and beauty of the Hope Lodge was revealed to us. The building with its warmth provided us a calm and safe environment. You can feel the love that was put into every detail of the house. We thank all who contributed to this part. To all the volunteers, your dedication is inspiring. You made us feel welcome when we were unsure. You steadfastly kept a look out for us and all the other guests. To our fellow guests, thank you, too. We shared stories that others do not understand. We were silent and you understood. You touched our hearts. The best for all of you. Thank you Hope Lodge!"
- "On this Thanksgiving Day we feel very blessed to have had an opportunity to stay here and thankful to those who have made it possible. In hard times such as these, it is comforting to know that there are people who still care about others. It sets example for others to follow. "
- "This has been a very comforting home away from home while my husband has been in the hospital with bladder cancer. Everyone has been so nice and has made it so much easier to come here after a long day's stay at the hospital. It is so homey. Thank you all for everything. You saved me a 3-hr drive everyday. "
- "Hope. I don't know who named it Hope, but it was truly Hope that brought us together and Hope that saw us through... Hope is a word that implies confidence and strength. Those are the qualities of the patients we met at HOPE Lodge. Beautiful people like Jane, Cindy, Bee, Christen, and a multitude of others who moved in and out over our five-week tenure. Their courage and good-natured camaraderie made a potentially dark time truly enlightening. Their personal stories and example were the embodiment of Hope. I could go on and on about the people who work at Hope Lodge, but I'm sure their attributes are no secret... It is difficult to understand how an experience involving cancer can be rewarding, but my stay at Hope Lodge was all of that. I will never forget their kindness to my father and me, nor will I forget the wonderful people to whom they offer Hope."
- "Thank goodness for Hope Lodge! Easing the financial burden for those that have to travel for treatment is good therapy. The people here are so friendly and ready to help. Everyone understands because they are going through the same thing. Keep smiling - never lose hope, live every day, and enjoy your family. Hope!"
- "As we sit here in this peaceful house, watching the Olympics – we are filled with hope and excitement somewhat like the athletes – maybe tomorrow, we hope for a cure, for a better treatment, for an easier way. But in the meantime while we hope – there is always Hope Lodge to welcome us back and give us support and caring. We feel very fortunate to have a place like this to stay."
- "We have been here, off and on, since July 2008 and have used the hotels and motels before then. This is much more comfortable and relaxing knowing that we are all the same here – no stares when they see you with a bald head and puffy face and walk funny. We will still be using Hope Lodge more as the days go to months but as of now we are lucky and very thankful for this place."
- "We have been coming to Hope Lodge since mid February 2008 - every 4 weeks and we stay for 5 days. This house is a godsend, decreasing enormously the financial burden for families that have to travel for treatment. The people who work here and those who volunteer are always there to listen and lend a helping hand. The smiling faces make the days easier to get through. There is always one common bond in this house - HOPE!"
- "I want to tell everyone associated with Hope Lodge what a blessing your presence has been. From the staff to the volunteers and the security who shuttled us for 6 weeks. Words cannot express our thanks!!! My Dad has the best chance in life to fight a terrible terminal disease thanks to the care and support of all we encountered here. Much love and eternal gratitude! Met a lot of wonderful people going through some very difficult journeys!"
- "Thank you everyone for the honor of staying here so that I could visit my friend. May her health be as good as the people for whom I will be forever grateful."
- "Although my boyfriend and I have only stayed for a night, the experience was truly wonderful. Hope Lodge offered us a beautiful home when ours was 3 hours away. The comfort and support they have offered shines a little light on us as my boyfriend, Jeremy, at age 26, battles his second round with leukemia! I hope you enjoy your stay at Hope Lodge as much as we have and never give up, miracles do happen!"
- "I want to thank the Hope Lodge for letting me who is a cancer survivor (colon cancer) and my family stay in a time of need. We are from Fair Haven. It's about 70 miles away one way so this is very convenient for us! My mother is flying in from Kansas and I just want to say thanks!"
- "I would like to say thank you to the Hope Lodge for letting me and my mother stay here. My grandfather is getting a kidney removed because of cancer. It was a great experience here and the staff and other guests are really kind and nice. Thank you and best wishes to all."
- "I'm here for my first of six chemo treatments. I'm learning to accept the fact that I have cancer (ovarian). I've also become aware of the wonderful love and support that surrounds me. Hope Lodge is an example of that. Thank you for helping me on my journey to health. May the roads rise with you and the wind be always at your back."
- "This has been a great place! The staff were great! All the volunteers were wonderful with their dinners, etc. Overall it was a great experience, even the radiation treatments. All will be well and everyone should have a positive attitude - we can win the fight!"
- "Hope Lodge is a gift that comforts us now and will continue to bring comfort to others for many years to come. I lived here for 6 weeks while taking radiation treatments for breast cancer. Now I look forward to my check ups and Doctor appointments so that I can see Greg, Amy and Angela again. Their roles are immeasurable in lifting our spirits – compassionate and humorous, they create an atmosphere of “normalacy” in an abnormal situation. Goodness abounds here. Embrace this gift and accept the good - it is meant for you."
- "Thank you for our stay here at the Hope Lodge. To be comfortable makes a very hard situation a little easier."
- "We appreciated the use of this room while our daughter underwent cancer surgery. Everyone is so helpful and nice here. So good to know there is help in time of need."
- "I have gone through this cancer 'thing' many times. Having this place here was extremely helpful, especially with people who are going through the same thing."
- "What a wonderful place Hope Lodge is, especially to be so close to the hospital when I have early appointments."
- "Thank you for the gift of this place! Because of her cancer, my sister can't work right now. The gas to get here can be a struggle among many others. Staying here is a blessing. To have people around you and the comforts of home are things we use to take for granted."
- "It is just as if it were your own house. Home away from home."
Below is a letter from a past guest:
Thank you very much for the hospitality your staff showed during my stay at the Hope Lodge in February 2008. I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 and had to drive 130 miles round-trip each day for my radiation treatment at Fletcher Allen. When I found out earlier this year a second round of radiation was needed, I was so grateful to have the Hope Lodge at my disposal. Eliminating a draining daily commute was a huge relief to my 82-year-old husband and me.
Again, many thanks for the services you provide to people battling cancer. The Hope Lodge is an absolutely beautiful building that has certainly made my life easier.
East Calais, VT
Residency at a Hope Lodge facility is a courtesy extended at the sole discretion of American Cancer Society. All individuals who meet the Hope Lodge eligibility requirements will be welcomed regardless of race, creed, citizenship, physical disability, gender, color, ethnic heritage, veteran status, economic status, or sexual orientation. For admissions information, please select a Hope Lodge location.