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Hope Lodge provides free support for those going through cancer treatment

Watching a loved one battle cancer isn't easy but the American Cancer Society hopes to ease the burden with its new Hope Lodge opening in the Texas Medical Center.

HOUSTON — In September, a new hotel specifically for people going through cancer treatment will open in Houston. Patients and caretakers can stay for free as long as they are getting treatment.

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Zach Jurgensen was 27 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

“It spread into my lungs and my brain, which caused two brain hemorrhages,” Jurgensen said.

The Oklahoman traveled to MD Anderson for aggressive chemotherapy and experimental stem cell therapy. The then-graduate student said, “I lost of all of my hair ... eyebrows, eyelashes, nose hair. My fingernails and toenails fell out. I had zero white blood cell count.”

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He and his caregiver, his mother, were in the Texas Medical Center for seven months.

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“I had to move three times. Mentally, physically it’s exhausting to move, right? Now, imagine doing that when you're supposed to be in the hospital," Jurgensen said.

Jeff Fehlis is the Executive Vice President of the American Cancer Society. He traveled to Houston ahead of the opening of its newest Hope Lodge on 6801 Ardmore Street in September.

“It’s designed uniquely for the cancer patient," Fehlis said.

There are about 30 Hope Lodges nationwide which house cancer patients and their caregivers for free.

Thanks to generous donors, there are 64 suites, laundry services, exercise rooms, lounge areas and spacious kitchens for home-cooked meals and comfortable tables for eating and visiting.

“I lost my mother in 1998 to breast cancer. She lived in Deer Park, Texas. Her eulogy was written about our kitchen table ... where you can gather, celebrate, cry, mourn. No different than your kitchen table at home and that is by design here," Fehlis said.

In addition to the $3 million a year saved in lodging costs, patients and caregivers get something else invaluable at Hope Lodge.

“That emotional support and the idea that you have people that can empathize with you," Jurgensen said.

Doctors and hospitals will refer patients to Hope Lodge. Interested in volunteering? Click here.