Fisher House Guests Bond Over Cancer Fight
Military, veterans, and their families face a tough fight when a cancer diagnosis comes their way, but Fisher House serves them during long hospital stays by providing a home away from home and a network of other guests that have faced the same struggle.
Fisher House tries to always provide a home away from home to help families support their loved ones during hospital stays, but one of the great things about the home environment is that it helps families lean on one another.
The support networks that grow in Fisher Houses can help military, veterans, and their families get through especially tough diagnoses like cancer.
Thomas Queen is an Army Vietnam War veteran who served in the signal corps. He left active duty after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic condition that required frequent trips to Veterans Affairs medical centers. He and his wife, Michelle, frequently visited the Washington DC VA Medical Center but avoided using the Fisher House there.
“We actually watched [the Fisher House] being built from the ground up and they offered us tours, offered it to us when we were coming up for the MS treatments and visits with the doctor,” Michelle said. “And we were like, no, some other family might need it more than we did. We never ever entered it.”
That changed when Thomas was diagnosed with cancer. Their hospital visits were going to change from a few days at a time to potentially weeks or months. They were shocked when they first entered the house.
“They gave us the tour and it was like, ‘Oh my God, we could have been staying here.’ I've never seen anything like it before. If it wasn't for the Fisher House, from my point of view, my husband wouldn't be here today.”
Thomas needed treatment five times a week, and Michelle says the family could not have afforded the hotel and food necessary to get his treatment without the Fisher House. But the Queens benefitted from more than just food and a roof.
The Queens met five other families who stayed at the same Fisher House who were fighting cancer, and the six families formed a support network that helped Thomas get better.
“By being here, being able to come to the Fisher House and having [Michelle] come with me, it was like I had somebody in my corner,” Thomas said, “somebody who kept telling me to never give up. And we beat the cancer together.”
Thomas is now cancer-free. But, unfortunately, some of the other families he met when he started treatment were not so lucky.
“We had movie night, we had get-together night. We would sit in the room and talk with the different families and we became bonded,” Michelle said. “I found five families, five great families in this house, but my husband is what we call the last man standing because we were all dealing with our husbands and our brother with cancer. ‘Thomas is the last man standing,’ that’s what the wives say.”
The Union for International Cancer Control has named February 4 as World Cancer Day.