MCT REGIONAL NEWS
By Sarah Nightingale
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas
June 27--Mark Stephens' grandfather clock chimed every 15 minutes, steadily recording the moments of his life.
Tick -- the memories he made with his wife, Sherilyn.
Tock -- their laughter; their love; their children's voices.
At 6:45 p.m. on June 12, 2008, time screeched to a halt.
Sherilyn died of cancer.
Stephens asked his son to stop the clock, making a quarter of seven its last chime. The Lubbock man didn't think he'd restart his beautiful Herschede-brand clock.
But a new facility bringing hope to other families fighting cancer changed his mind, he said.
Stephens will start the clock when the first patient checks in to Lubbock's Hope Lodge on July 12. A ribbon cutting and open house will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at 3511 10th St. The public is invited to attend.
Hope Lodges, run by the American Cancer Society, offer free accommodation and other services to patients traveling away from home for cancer treatment. There are 30 facilities nationwide, but Lubbock's lodge is the first in Texas, the first in the West, and the first outside a major metropolitan area.
Each year, an estimated 2,200 cancer patients travel more than 50 miles to Lubbock for treatment, according to the
cancer society. The lodge's 32 patient rooms are for patients and families who travel at least 40 miles for care, said Jason McCoy regional vice president for the American Cancer Society.
The difference can be lifesaving, he said.
''When people don't have to choose between paying for gas or utilities or health care, it aids in their getting better," McCoy said. Amenities like a library, a prayer room and a community of patients and staff will help fulfill the organization's mission to care for the "bodies, minds and souls" of patients, he said.
A Hope Lodge would have been invaluable when Sherilyn spent a year fighting cancer, a battle that took place in Houston and Dallas, Stephens said.
His wife and soulmate was 56 when she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive bone cancer called osteosarcoma. Pegging her aches and pains to less devastating conditions like arthritis meant her tumor was football-sized when a radiologist finally saw it in the summer of 2007.
''There were only two days in all of her treatment I wasn't with her," said Stephens, who spent many nights sleeping on a nursing home floor.
When he heard about Lubbock's bid for a Hope Lodge, he was determined to help. He volunteered, donated -- the library is named for his late wife -- and will soon work as the lodge's operations specialist.
''The concept just captured me because having gone to Houston and spending six months in Dallas, we didn't have anything remotely like that," said Stephens, a retired athletics trainer who later co-owned a Christian bookstore with Sherilyn.
As Stephens helps guests find the strength to fight cancer, he'll have to face the disease again and again, he realizes. Stephens has taken two courses to help him overcome his grief and married his wife, Cindy, earlier this year.
''I have seen how caregivers tend to neglect themselves," Stephens said. "I see myself being able to empathize with and encourage caregivers."
The lodge is now home for his beloved clock, Stephens said. Restarting it will be an emotional event -- something he'll share with the lodge's first guests, he said.
''It's sadness for what happened to our family," he said. "But it's joy that the outcome for some others won't be like that because of what Hope Lodge can accomplish."
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HEALTH/New lodge for cancer patients, families strikes chord in life of man who lost his wife to the disease
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