She is not being admitted to the hospital for these treatments. This illness has already proved to be financially devastating for her and her family, and even the most inexpensive hotel room, say $60 a night (IS there a $60/night hotel room in St. Louis?) would cost her almost $3000, with tax. Throw in meals (not provided) and laundry (do it yourself) for 6 weeks... Hey, she doesn't have a spare $4K laying around the house, especially after not working for the last 3 months, and going to wound-care clinics every day.
So, social services there rounded up FREE housing for her. "Hope House," I thought she said. I spoke to her this weekend, and she shared with me the strict rules there:
- No food in your room
- No drinks in your room
- No TVs in your room
- No radios in your room
- Clean and vacuum your own room
- Community kitchen, share with everyone else
- Keep your own groceries in a locker provided to you (again, not in your room)
- Community living room (with TV, share with everyone else)
- LOCK DOWN: 10:05. You're not in, you're locked out, until 7:05 the next morning. Not only will the doors be locked, but the gates are closed, and the surrounding fence has razor wire on it.
- No laughing or smiling during business hours
I called her last night, and talked for a few minutes, before I meekly broached the subject: "Teri, are you staying in a homeless shelter?" Sniff.
It's not "Hope House," she told me, it's the "American Cancer Society Hope Lodge."
But those rules still apply and there's no wireless internet, so she can't use her laptop in her room. I have encouraged her to sneak a danged diet coke and a bag of pretzels up to her room if she wants to. She's all goodie-two-shoesie and shit, so I don't know if she'll do it or not. I'll continue to be a devil on her shoulder though: "Terrriiii, taaaaaaake the diet cooooooooke to your roooooom," I'll say to her.
If they catch her, I'll be right behind her, shrugging my shoulders and spinning my finger at my temple, to indicate she's cuckoo; that oughta get her off the hook.
I suppose the militant rules exist for good reasons. Taken at face value, they seem a bit unreasonable. Radiation therapy sucks enough without going back to a room with nothing but a bed, especially when your family is 2 hours away. Teri isn't complaining, but I hate it. If she doesn't hate it, I hate it for her.
But I also know: Hope Lodge is giving her free housing. A comfortable bed to sleep in. A television to share with others. A shuttle ride to the hospital every day, where she's getting life-saving treatment. A kitchen to cook in. Moral support, if she needs it.
For 6 weeks.
Only 6 weeks.
When she's 94 years old, perhaps she'll look back and say "that wasn't so long, in the overall scheme of things."
In the meantime, if you want to shout some words of encouragement at her, it's email@example.com.
(Tell her to take the diet coke to her room!)