Cancer patients can get free lodging

Some courses of cancer treatment can require a patient to be in a hospital or clinic five days a week, and that can be rough on someone who has to travel from someplace such as Moses Lake or Pendleton, advocates say.

So the American Cancer Society is starting a program to provide free lodging for cancer patients and their caregivers who must travel 50 miles or more to the Tri-Cities for treatment.

The society's local chapter has paired with several hotels to offer free rooms to patients needing accommodations Monday through Thursday nights.

"Both our Cancer Resource Center volunteers at Kadlec Regional Medical Center and I hear far too often about the burden of having to try and afford treatment along with the cost of traveling from outside the area," said Todd Courtney, the society's quality of life manager.

"There is always a limit to what we can offer patients and their families to care for their needs while they are going through their cancer ordeal, so I am happy to add this as an option for those who are struggling."

Participating hotels are the Red Lion Hotel Columbia Center, Red Lion Hanford House, Cedars Inn & Suites, Super 8 and Comfort Inn. Rooms at each of the hotels will be offered on a rotation basis.

Cancer patients won't be able to get free rooms directly from the hotels. They must contact American Cancer Society volunteers at the Cancer Resource Center at Kadlec, or be referred by a social worker at the place where they are getting treatment, Courtney said.

Tom Cothran, executive director of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, said the center saw a slight drop in the number of people traveling from out of town for radiation therapy in 2010, but travel can be a hardship for those who do come.

"Some people are not as fortunate as others and need assistance," he said.

The cancer center has programs to help people with gas money or other travel costs, but not hotel stays. It does offer spaces at its building in Kennewick where patients can park and stay overnight in recreational vehicles, Cothran said.

"That has been used a fair amount this year," he said, "more so than I have noticed in the past."

For more information about the American Cancer Society's lodging program, contact Courtney at 783-1574 or todd.courtney@cancer.org.

* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com