Army Veteran Alex Schwartz and his wife Annie have stayed at the Alaska Fisher House off and on since 2014. Here Annie shares their story in her own words.
Our Fisher House journey started in 2014. We stayed there when our full-term NICU baby had a follow up surgery at 20 months. We had never heard of Fisher House before and were so impressed with the friendliness of the staff, cleanliness of facilities, and generosity of the donors and volunteers.
After that first time, Fisher House became our favorite place to stay when we had to be away from home for medical appointments. We felt blessed to be able to stay in such a comfortable place when we were 3-4 hours from home.
In November 2019, we had just gotten home from our routine monthly appointments when we found out that our then-eight-year-old daughter had cancer. This was life shattering. The physical toll on a pediatric cancer patient is heart wrenching. The emotional and relational tolls on a family can be similarly devastating.
But in the midst of what was probably our family’s darkest December....where the day we celebrated our daughter’s ninth birthday was the very day we learned her cancer’s name.... where we once again uprooted our family to seek medical care away from home for a family member.... Fisher House was a bright and shining light.
We arrived on the 16th of December: the middle of the busy, joyous, bustling Christmas season. It didn’t feel much like Christmas. But with young children, skipping a holiday is NOT an option! They needed the celebration. Honestly, we all did. But none of us had energy or time to devote to festivities.
However, Fisher House, with their amazing donors, volunteers, and staff, encircled our family with so much love and caring and light during those dark, dreadful days of starting this cancer journey.
There were special meals. Snacks and goodies and treats—one volunteer came in to bake cookies with my daughters! Caroling around a beautifully decorated tree. Stockings filled daily with an amazing assortment of fun and useful treats. We were gifted lovely, decorated trees for our own family’s room. And on Christmas Day we were blessed with so many presents that it took hours to open them all! One year later, the children still look on this as their best Christmas ever!!
We ended up at our Fisher House home for most of 2020. All the staff, housekeepers and managers alike, were there to listen to our story, cheer the little successes, and grieve the losses along the way. They kept the house supplied with paper products, hand soap, and sanitizing wipes during shortages spurred by a global pandemic. During those months we also celebrated 5 family members’ birthdays and 1 high school graduation (our oldest son.) But our biggest celebration was when our daughter completed her treatments—and the ending scans were clear! And then—finally—we were cleared to take her home!
Three months later, we’re home from another trip to Fisher House for follow up scans. (Thankfully, all is still clear!) It was an interesting feeling returning to what our 3-year-old called “the brown home.” In so many ways it was like we had never left. We had missed everyone while we were home, and it was a great reunion. Fisher House is now our “home away from home” and ALL the staff are our extended family!
To all the folks who make Fisher House such a wonderful place: We can’t thank you enough! Our hearts will forever be full of gratitude for making what could have been a dreadful year one of hope. Thank you all and God bless each one of you!!