For as innovative and advanced as oncology at the Texas Medical Center may be, patient travel and lodging remains a largely overlooked aspect of cancer care in Houston.
Starting in 2014, the American Cancer Society plans to address the issue head-on with Hope Lodge Houston — the largest facility in the U.S. to provide free lodging and support to those traveling to receive cancer treatment.
During a Wednesday morning event at the center's future home at 7505 Almeda, the Cancer Society joined Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and his wife, philanthropist Janice Suber McNair, to launch a campaign aimed at raising $31 million to make Hope Lodge a reality at the Medical Center.
"The last thing patients need to worry about when they travel [to Houston] for care is where they're going to stay," said Betti Guzman of the American Cancer Society.
George and Barbara Bush were announced at the brief ceremony as honorary campaign chairs. Unfortunately, the couple was still in Kennebunkport and could not attend.
"We know that many cancer patients and their families journey long distances to receive their care and treatment. For those traveling to Houston, lodging can be one of the most formidable challenges that they face. Being diagnosed with cancer is emotional and causes a lot of anxiety and stress.
"The last thing patients need to worry about when they travel [to Houston] for care is where they're going to stay," Betti Guzman, regional vice president of the American Cancer Society, said in an introductory speech.
"They should never have to contemplate the thought of having to sleep in their car or worry about having to interrupt their treatment because they simply cannot afford the cost of travel or the expense of lodging."
"Hope Lodge Houston is not a scientific breakthrough," Bob McNair said. "It's something that deals with the human spirit."
More than 96,000 people travel to the Bayou City each year for cancer treatment, an expense coupled with lodging that can cost a patient upwards of $11,000 before taxes and meals. Hope Lodge will alleviative some of the stress by offering 23,000 nights of free lodging in its 62 suites.
The facility includes a shared kitchen, dining areas, and stocked pantries as well as daily linen services and laundry rooms. Support groups and activities will be available as well.
"When patients stay in hotel rooms, they tend to isolate themselves after these long days of treatment," Guzman told CultureMap. "Here they'll find more emotional support and have an opportunity to forge relationships with others who are going through the same process."
"Hope Lodge Houston is not a scientific breakthrough," Bob McNair said. "It's something that deals with the human spirit, which, when you're sick, is absolutely fundamental to the healing process."