Front desk clerk Angel Tam and head of housekeeping Rita Stembeugh welcome cancer patients to the Holiday Plaza Sequim Inn. The motel provides free rooms for those who have to travel for treatment at Olympic Medical Cancer Center. Sequim Gazette photo by Mark Couhig
by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Through the American Cancer Society's Patient Lodging Program, local hoteliers are providing vital assistance to peninsula cancer patients receiving treatment at Olympic Medical Cancer Center in Sequim.
Chrystal Campbell, quality of life manager for the cancer society, said she works with the patient navigator at the cancer center to arrange free or reduced-rate rooms for patients traveling to Sequim, particularly when the need for lodging creates a financial hardship. Travel for treatment usually is defined as 50 miles or 90 minutes, though it's often available to those closer to Sequim, Campbell said.
The cancer society has partnerships with the Sequim Quality Inn, Sequim Bay Lodge and the Holiday Plaza Sequim Inn.
Campbell says the hotels have shown "incredible generosity" in providing the rooms. "It's estimated that a free lodging stay costs the hotel $30 per night," she said.
She noted the Holiday Plaza Sequim Inn has been "particularly generous" in providing cancer patients free rooms.
"In the year I've worked with the American Cancer Society, they have given 109 free rooms to patients actively going through treatment," Campbell said.
Linda Mulvahill, office manager of the Holiday Plaza, says hotel marketing consultant Jack Chant knows what the patients are going through.
Chant's mother had to undergo chemotherapy treatments for cancer, so when the American Cancer Society called, he volunteered the complimentary rooms.
Home away from home
Shirley Aquila recently endured five weeks of four-a-week chemotherapy treatments. She lives in Port Ludlow, "right next to the Hood Canal."
Aquila said Susan Clements, patient navigator at OMCC, arranged for lodging two nights a week at the Holiday Plaza. "It was a nice hotel with nice rooms," she said.
"I hated being away from home, but I didn't want that 45-minute drive home," she said. "I was totally grateful."
Aquila, who has a basal cell carcinoma, said her condition is improving. "It's looking really good."
Mulvahill says the hotel's guests have arrived from Forks, Port Townsend and Quilcene.
"I enjoy having them here," she said. With a smile she noted one grateful guest brought smoked salmon for the hotel staff, a gift they enjoyed for several days.
Best of all, "you get to know them," she said. "It's kinda nice."
Nancy Schade, general manager of the Sequim Quality Inn, said she decided to lend a hand with reduced rates "because I care about people. When you're struggling with an illness, that's hard enough. You don't need to be struggling with these bills, too."
Campbell noted the lodging program is just one of the ways the society helps cancer patients.
"We offer many programs including a Look Good ... Feel Better class taught by a licensed, trained cosmetologist to help women cope with the appearance-related side effects of radiation and chemotherapy." Campbell said these can include hair loss, skin changes and infection. The classes are offered in Sequim at Olympic Medical Cancer Center.
"We also have a Road to Recovery program, in which volunteer drivers transport patients to treatment, and a Reach to Recovery program that matches newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with survivors who offer support and mentor them through their cancer journey."
The society also has prosthetics and a 24/7 cancer information line with specialists available to cancer patients, family and friends. Call 800-227-2345.
Providing these services requires lots of manpower, and that means volunteer assistance, "We are in desperate need of more volunteer drivers for our Road to Recovery program and more hotels willing to offer free rooms," Campbell said.
Those who can help are encouraged to call Campbell at 425-322-1137.
Assistance from the American Cancer Society and all of its programs and services are free to cancer patients and their families.
Reach Mark Couhig at email@example.com.