by Elizabeth Tinsley, Da5id Abbot and Zander Greene
Cancer treatment sucks.
We’re pretty sure it does, anyway: we’ve seen friends and family go through it and the phrase “Laugh a minute” really doesn’t spring to mind anywhere along the way. It’s just one reason why being a Caregiver is hard, because you have to watch as someone you love goes through that. For the survivor actually going through it? We can only imagine. So many of us in the Faire community – and within the Relay – have our own tales of seeing or experiencing that journey, and there’s no doubt in our minds that if we can’t quite yet prevent it all of us want to make the next person’s journey a little easier.
That’s just the treatment, though. Now imagine that you’ve got to travel to get to that treatment, because the nearest centre is a hundred miles away, or two, or three…
That’s where Hope Lodge comes in.
The driving idea of Hope Lodge is a simple one: when you’re undergoing treatment the last thing you want to face is a hotel bill and a long trip home. Hope Lodges are placed near major cancer treatment centres, providing comfortable homely accommodation for survivors and their caregivers who live far enough away that the journey would add more stress to an already stressful experience. It’s more than just a room for the night, too: there are social facilities, a laundry, a library filled with information to aid informed treatment decisions and a team of support workers and volunteers who make sure that everything is as simple, easy and stress-free as possible.
But the best bit? It’s all free: the Society pays for everything, right down to laundry detergent. In 2014, for example, over 44,000 cancer patients and caregivers stayed at a Hope Lodge, a total of over 276,000 free nights of accommodation. For some of these people, it saved them from facing the impossible choice between receiving treatment and paying the bills at home.
Since the programme began, Hope Lodges have played host to patients and caregivers in over thirty locations across the United States and Puerto Rico, making their individual journeys a little easier in any way they can. They’re one of the many programmes supported by Relay for Life, and make an incredible difference to people’s lives.
Even as they’re developing more centres within the US, though, the Society has added a new mission: to take that same help where it’s needed outside the United States. This year, ACS has partnered with the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi to build its first Hope Lodge in Africa. This will be an incredible boon to a part of the world where cancer rates haven’t changed in thirty years, and the advances in prevention and treatment enjoyed in the developed world simply haven’t arrived yet.
That’s why when Jeff Montegut, our staff partner at ACS who many of you will know as Stingray9798 Raymaker, asked us to take the lead on a historic change for Relay For Life globally, not just within Second Life, we leapt at the chance. Fantasy Faire is one of RFL of SL’s flagship events and gives this exciting new idea the best possible chance of success, and that success will allow it to ripple through the Relay community – first in Second Life and then on out into the physical world. Second Life is a place where we are able to be our true selves and show the truest nature of our hearts; now it is, not for the first time, a place where a bold new idea can find the wings it needs to take flight and lift us all to even greater heights.
The survivors, caregivers and medical staff at Kenyatta National Hospital are every bit as much our brothers and sisters in the fight against cancer as those in our own home towns, and we can’t tell you how proud we are to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with them just as we stand with our brothers and sisters in Atlanta, in London, in Seoul, in Melbourne and in so many other places around the world. Fantasy Faire is the world – virtual and real – moving together, and today we welcome the chance to join new friends and colleagues in our global mission to make cancer history because, just as where you live doesn’t determine whether you help, we won’t let it determine whether you live – nor let it determine where we help.
Fairelanders, let’s show our new friends just what we can do.