Julie Sneider
The View from Here

Lodging needed on the road to recovery

By - Oct 4th, 2010 04:00 am
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Road to Recovery volunteer driver talking with cancer patient.

Heather Byron and the American Cancer Society are looking for a few Milwaukee-area hoteliers willing to help out some cancer patients.

As part of its transportation and lodging program, the Society has long offered assistance to cancer patients who have to travel far for chemotherapy, radiation or other medical care.

Through the Society’s “Road to Recovery,” volunteers will drive patients to their medical appointments; fuel cards are offered when patients can’t afford to buy gas; and lodging is made available for patients traveling more than 50 miles to get to a treatment center.

The Cancer Society also operates 29 “Hope Lodges” around the country, including one in Marshfield. In 2009, those 29 locations provided more than 220,000 nights of free lodging to about 50,000 patients and caregivers, saving them about $19 million in travel costs. The Marshfield location alone served more than 5,700 patients and 4,400 caregivers since opening in 2003 for patients traveling to the Marshfield Clinic for care.

The American Cancer Society’s “Hope Lodge” in Marshfield, Wisconsin, provides lodging to cancer patients who have to travel far from home to receive medical care. 

Recently, through a grant from Kohl’s Department Stores, the Cancer Society’s Midwest Division is expanding such services to women diagnosed with breast cancer in southeast Wisconsin.

About 40 percent of Wisconsin women diagnosed with breast cancer come from the state’s southeast region, and many face barriers in getting to their medical appointments or even getting adequate information on their disease, says Byron, who specializes in transportation and lodging issues at the American Cancer Society.

The $5 million donation from Kohl’s, she says, is going toward research, education and patient assistance in Wisconsin, including help with transportation and lodging. It’s the largest corporate donation ever made to the Society’s Midwest division, which covers Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.

With economic times still tough and the cost of health care still going through the roof, a little help with lodging can go a long way. Since 2009, the Society has fielded a 25 percent increase in lodging requests from cancer patients, Byron says.

In areas where a Hope Lodge isn’t available, the Cancer Society partners with local hotels willing to provide a free or reduced-price stay. Currently, no Milwaukee area hotels are active in the program, so Byron is seeking partners willing to get involved.

To illustrate how such partnerships impact patients’ lives, Byron said that since launching a lodging program in South Dakota earlier this year, 10 percent of cancer patients have used lodging assistance in that state.

The need is obvious in our area. According to Byron, the American Cancer Society in southeast Wisconsin saw a 47 percent increase in Road to Recovery rides, a 70 percent increase in fuel card use and a 95 percent increase in bus voucher requests for the Milwaukee County Transit System in fiscal year 2010.

In addition to assisting in travel and lodging costs, the Kohl’s funds have been used to create a “Trip Kit,” a handy guide offering tips, advice, check lists and other information for patients as they prepare for treatment and travel.

“We’re very appreciative of Kohl’s and their support,” says Byron. “Hopefully the Trip Kit and these other resources will provide cancer patients with the support and resources they need, and help answer their questions as they navigate their journey.”

For more information on the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery or to receive a Trip Kit, Byron says cancer patients may call 1-800-227-2345.

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