12/20/2013 03:38 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

American Cancer Society: Providing Homes for the Holiday... and Beyond

According to the American Cancer Society 1 out of 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. That's a lot of people.

As a child, I knew only one person who had and died from cancer -- my grandfather. He died when I was about 5 years old so I don't really remember much about it. Back then cancer was called the "C" word and it was spoken and reference to those who had it only in whispers. Today, we say the word with ease as most of us now know someone who has/had it or we have/had it ourselves.

Do we really pay much attention to the word or its significance, though? When we hear about someone with the disease, do we question what the person is actually living through? Or, do we just dismiss it towards the back of our mind, sending well wishes and going on with our own lives? I know I do. I feel bad for them, but I continue working on my own survival. Selfish perhaps, but probably not unusual.

How many of you have seen the inside of a chemo room? How many of you have watched the enormous rotating machines radiating a human body, let alone have seen the scars the monster machine leaves behind?

Don't get me wrong, there are many who do pay attention and give their all in every way they can to help in any way they can. Sadly, until I got cancer and even now, I'm not really one of them.

Did you know that there are many people who must travel great distances on a daily basis to receive treatment? A friend of mine has to go from Daytona to Orlando (approx. 50 miles each way) five days a week for three weeks at a time to receive her chemo. She's 28 years old with two young children. Who pays for that? Do you suppose that will be an expense covered by those insured through the "Affordable Care Act"? I think not.

I just recently noticed the American Cancer Society's TV campaign asking for text donations of $10 to raise money for hotel rooms to help traveling cancer patients. I thought that was pretty cool. I'm embarrassed to say that until the other day I had never heard of the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge, which provides free housing in 31 locations throughout the U.S. My daughter (UF graduate) told me that she used to volunteer at the one in Gainesville. I had no idea. That's a problem. People need to know.

We are all familiar with the Ronald McDonald Houses and the many organizations that provide housing for children with cancer and their families. I would in no way ever want to take away from that or discourage anyone from continuing to support them (my change always goes into the collection box outside the drive-thru), but it is nice to know that there is some help for adults as well. Many adults have children that need them to survive too.

I have also recently learned that Extended Stay America has formed a partnership with the American Cancer Society by donating 10,000 free rooms and 10,000 rooms for $12/night for cancer patients in need of hotel rooms. This is a huge help to Hope Lodge and those of us longing for that elusive cure. There are other hotels who give discounts for out-of-town patients (Joe's House), but not free and not for $12.00/night. Extended Stay America is currently in three cities (Houston, Boston and Atlanta), and plans to expand over the next several months to at least 100 hotels.

We also (as humans) get caught up in the holiday activities forgetting that cancer doesn't take a break for the holidays. People still need treatment. People can't be home. Imagine the tears. Extended Stay America and Hope Lodge are especially important this time of year. They help ease some of that sadness and some of the financial stress. I will be home for the holidays this year. Will you?

CANCER is hard. Everything about it is. My first experience with radiation led me on a 4.5-year journey of breast reconstructive surgeries and pain. Chemo left me on the couch for weeks at a time doped up on Demerol. My latest round of radiation has left me with my throat feeling like someone sliced the inside of it and my taste buds (hopefully temporary) have left me wanting to spit out anything that enters my mouth. I can't even drink a glass of wine without being disgusted. That's pretty bad. And, I'm one of the lucky ones.

Most of my posts have been written about breast cancer for obvious reasons. It wasn't until I met that 28-year-old with uterine cancer that I stopped to think that cancer isn't just about me and my boobs. I will always love pink and fully support Pinkwashing and Pinktober, but I will no longer forget everyone else so easily.

Please help me spread the word. Like I said, I had no idea any of this was available and my first diagnosis was in 2006. Some people will forgo treatment because they can't afford a place to stay. If you or anyone needs help, please contact the American Cancer Society at

And... wherever your "home" is for the holidays... I hope it is a very merry one!

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