This month I had the unanticipated pleasure of running into someone I haven’t seen for a few years, my friend Melody Biehl.
You can easily spot Melody in a crowd. She’s the energetic redhead wearing pink. We’ve known each other for ten years and often meet at western music events but that’s not why we clicked as friends. We developed an immediate bond when we realized both of us are breast cancer survivors.
Surviving is a wonderful thing, and Melody has taken her gratitude to great heights by founding the non-profit organization Because There is Hope (BTIH). According to the BTIH website, Melody has “ . . . dedicated herself to helping other cancer patients by delivering them a message of hope, healing, and ultimately a safe haven while undergoing treatment.”
The “safe haven” began with the organization of host homes in the Spokane area, offering lodging to cancer patients while they received medical treatment. In August 2013, that safe haven evolved into Faye’s House, a 4-bedroom, 3-bath home that provides temporary housing for cancer patients and their caregivers. The facility was named in memory of Faye McLain, a woman who was an inspiration to others (including Melody) during her own breast cancer journey.
Spokane is the largest city in northeastern Washington State but the surrounding area is rural, with many patients living 50 or more miles away. The trip to and from treatments can be physically and financially exhausting. In addition to Faye’s House (and host homes that still provide lodging when Faye’s House is full), BTIH also provides emotional and spiritual support, and gas cards to offset transportation expense for qualified individuals. To receive lodging at Faye’s House, guests must be patients in active treatment for cancer for whom other lodging options have been exhausted and paying for a hotel would cause financial hardship. Also, the patient’s permanent residence must be more than 50 miles from the treatment facility.
In 2004, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I learned that one out of eight women in the USA will have that diagnosis in her lifetime. Early detection kept my treatment relatively simple and I’m grateful to have eleven cancer-free years so far. Still, it was a time of great stress and worry, and it took a long time before I stopped defining myself by what had happened. Though I wasn’t in the Spokane area during this experience, I can easily understand the value of organizations like BTIH for those undergoing the same journey. If you’ve been looking for a way to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, visit the BTIH website and learn more about this organization (www.Becausethereishope.org/). There are many ways to help.
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