Larry Chilcutt heard the diagnosis — acute lymphoblastic leukemia — and knew that he had a big fight ahead of him.
But neither he nor his wife, Tabitha, realized that the battle would take complete control of their lives.
After three months in the hospital, Larry had to see his doctor every other day for follow-up treatment — a nearly two-hour car trip from his home in Dyersburg to Memphis and back.
Tabitha had been laid off from her job and the cost was getting out of hand.
The situation felt dire, until somebody told them about Harrah’s Hope Lodge.
“There is no way we could have mustered up the money to keep driving back and forth,” Larry says. “We lost everything.”
“We were at a point where we felt like we just had to give up. Then we found out about Hope Lodge.”
“It made a big difference.”
Support and friendship
One of 32 such communities set up by the American Cancer Society (ACS), Harrah’s Hope Lodge in Memphis houses adult cancer patients traveling to the area for treatment.
Once they arrived, the Chilcutts found relief and much-needed empathy.
They didn’t have to pay for their room.
They got free transportation to and from doctor appointments.
They formed strong friendships with other guests who were fighting cancer, and felt inspired by the upbeat spirit surrounding them.
Most of all they were able to carve out time to laugh, relax and even feel a bit normal again.
“All of the people who stay at Hope Lodge are walking that cancer journey,” says Whitney Merida, ACS Relay for Life community manager.
“It is very helpful in the recovery process to be around people who understand.”
Larry is home again, doing well after stem cell transplant surgery.
He and Tabitha remain friends with many of the men and women they met at Hope Lodge during their stay, and consider it a bright spot in the most difficult of times.
“The people there keep you feeling positive,” says Larry.
“You can feel the love. You feel it as soon as you walk in the door.”