Day 6: Palmyra to Rochester

Today was a short 23.6 mile day into Rochester. We got an extra hour of sleep which was definitely a treat.

When we got into Rochester half of us went to the American Cancer Society B. Thomas Golisano Hope Lodge Hospitality House and the other half went to Gilda’s Club. Hope Lodge is a place that patients can stay for free while they receive treatment for cancer. Traveling is a financial strain and very inconvenient for many, and this hospitality house allows patients to check in for a single night or several months depending on their needs. Gilda’s Club is named for the Saturday Night Live comedienne, Gilda Radner, who passed from ovarian cancer. The club supports over 17,800 people yearly with over 1,200 free programs offered to men, women, teens and children who are affected by cancer. These programs provide social and emotional support not only patients, but also their family and friends.

We did three portraits at each location, each one telling a unique experience with cancer. I personally was at Hope Lodge, so I am more accurately able to relay some of the experiences that were shared there today. The first was with Darlene O’Dell, a woman battling lung cancer. She and her sister in law are staying at Hope Lodge while she receives radiation twice a day for five days a week. She is a part of a study to see if the rapid treatment works at a faster pace. She is so appreciative of Hope Lodge because it makes this type of treatment possible since Darlene does not live close enough to the hospital for the commute to be doable. She was so kind to share her story with us and her sister in law shared how strong she has been throughout her battle.

Another portrait that we did was with Neel Monterio, the operations manager at Hope Lodge. He has worked with American Cancer Society for eleven years now, and he has what he thinks to be the best job in the world. He says that he gets to give and give and give to the guests without receiving anything in return. He helps provide a comfortable experience, listens when someone needs ears to talk to, and gives advice when he can. When asked why he’s passionate about working with cancer patients, Neel told us that his mother passed away from cancer when he was 9. He shared that her last words to him were “Be good, be kind, and help others every day.” He knows that his mother is proud of him and he finds much fulfillment in his role at Hope Lodge.

It was inspiring to hear experiences with cancer from two different perspectives. It shows how differently people can be affected and how much is being done to support those that are directly experiencing cancer.

We are excited to have all of the portraits up on the website eventually and look forward to collecting more as the trip continues.


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