Hope Lodge residents share stories with student group

Laughter filled the Hope Lodge dining room Wednesday night as young and old met to discuss a common experience – surviving cancer.

The Colleges Against Cancer student group held their first get-together with Hope Lodge residents to build community and fight back against cancer, said Jenna Langer, University senior and two-time cancer survivor.

“We’re really trying to pay attention to cancer survivors of all ages because a lot of the times, the adults here are less likely to have that network like kids do,” Langer, a member of the group, said.

The first to move into the residence was Julie Seaberg, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2005.

“Getting to know the people here like Annie brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “But I think what’s nice is people know what each other’s going through.”

Seaberg’s new friend Annie is Ann Gray, originally from Bald Knob, Ark., who has been living at the cancer treatment house with her husband Dennis Gray since Jan. 27.

“Everybody makes you feel welcome,” Ann Gray, who has a form of skin cancer, said. “The people that are residents here are family you’ve never met before.”

Seaberg’s husband of 30 years, Jim Seaberg, said they will be at the Hope Lodge for another month and likes to see the students involved.

“In terms of the students, it’s kind of nice,” he said. “It dispels some of the stereotypes about the kids now days being too hard and self-absorbed and not being all that concerned with the wider community, and it’s nice to see that.”

Genetics first-year Sanyu Janardan, who took time to visit Wednesday, said she thinks college students can be supportive of those battling cancer.

“I think that they have a good support network,” she said. “Even if they don’t actually know us, like we’re not part of their family, I think they probably like that they have volunteers coming here on a regular basis.”

Janardan said she joined the student group because she wanted to meet more people like her after being diagnosed with cancer in high school.

“It’s a unique club in that you don’t have to be a certain major or a certain year. Pretty much anyone can join,” she said.

The mission of the facility is to “provide a home away from home” for adults 18 and older who are undergoing long term cancer treatment, Mary Wiles, the manager of Hope Lodge, said.

The residence is in its beginnings, with many of the 40 rooms unoccupied, and the lodge still needs practical things, Wiles said.

The lodge needs paper towels and toilet paper, but Wiles said residents need more, especially entertainment options such as books and DVDs.

“We also are in need of things to make our guests feel like they are more at home,” she said.

Lodging in the center is paid for by the American Cancer Society. Paying for housing is a major concern for those who are being treated for cancer, said Wiles.

“A lot of people are traveling to get the best medical care and that often isn’t in the area that people live,” she said. “Lodging is a significant cost.”