Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Perspective

My sister started radiation therapy last Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. The technology is better at Barnes Hospital, and it was decided she'd receive treatments in St. Louis. She will be there for 6 weeks. Six weeks! She won't come home until October 15, people!

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
Ok, I made up the last one, but da-haaang! The rest are all true, and those are some pretty strict rules! I looked up "Hope House" yesterday, to read more about it, and I discovered that "Hope House" is a homeless shelter, that helps people in transition. My sister is staying in a homeless shelter? My god! I felt awful yesterday; how in the heck am I going to get her out of there?! Why didn't she TELL ME? Oh, she's so brave, she hid it from me. She made it sound like medical housing. She's protecting me.

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.

Heh.

It's not "Hope House," she told me, it's the "American Cancer Society Hope Lodge."

Ohhhh.

My bad.

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.

Sighhhhh.

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 terilee@insightbb.com.

(Tell her to take the diet coke to her room!)

8 comments:

  1. Whoa! Sounds more like a convent than anything else. Scary ass place that is. Tell her to take all those books she's never had time to read...

    And a coke.

    Or a gin tonic

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  2. Books, indeed a great way to pass the time ... hollowed out paged books, filled with candy, and bottles of coke, and pretzels, and vodka.

    =) I hope the few weeks pass fast, and Teri, you are in my prayers ... along with Brian !

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  3. I am so relieved - was stressed out after seeing that website too. Yikes. But still - 6 weeks is a long time and she must be lonely. We'll keep her in our thoughts and prayers.

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  4. Well, by the end of it, she'll be able to relate with Brian about Basic Training. It doesn't sound much different, absent the yelling and physical fitness runs.

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  5. Jennie Tonic5:21 PM

    I admire Teri's bravery & fortitude. I hope things go well.

    Surely she can have water in her room? Water's good to drink! Water & books are great! Maybe she could get clothes from the 1800s and pretend to be a pioneer.

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  6. Anonymous9:31 PM

    I'm very sorry to read of your sister's illness. I also HAD a sister that received radiation treatment at Barnes. She lived in So IL and was 2 hours from Barnes. She had to go every day for 6 weeks and many, many kind and generous people donated their time and money to drive her back and forth each day. I can't imagine what it must be like to go through those treatments and not be able to return to the comfort of her home and family. My prayers are with all of you.

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  7. I would have been shocked to see that the place she's staying at is a homeless shelter.

    I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers. I hope the time flies and she's back with her supportive, loving family.

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  8. Miz Liz6:13 AM

    One of the most important things is that your sister is going to be surrounded by other patients going through similar experiences. That can mean SO much when you're faced with the challenges of radiation therapy. I hope it all goes well for her. And am relieved to read that she's not going to end up in a homeless shelter. Heck, I was thinking "fundraiser" time as I was reading this! All best to her.

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