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October 16, 2012

In June 2008 I learned that my stage III colon cancer had metastasized to the liver. I lived in Florida but I knew that Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City offered the best chance to treat this disease with a special procedure called hepatic arterial infusion designed by Dr. Nancy Kemeny. The surgeons at Sloan were among the top doctors in the country performing hepatic resection as well. But getting to New York City and the expenses involved in being treated there seemed like impossible obstacles to overcome. That is when I learned about Miracle House, a nonprofit organization providing housing and meals to those in need of specialized medical care in New York City. I called the number I found on their website and spoke with Majo Prazenec, director of client services, who informed me that under the circumstances, he would find a way to book a room for me and my husband, even with last minute notice. His warm voice and positive spirit encouraged me right away. When we arrived in New York City and found the Miracle House address, carying a weekend bag, we did not know that it was the beginning of our "coming home". After a consultation with the surgeon at Sloan Kettering, I discovered that I would need immediate surgery followed by 6 months of chemotherapy at the hospital. My weekend turned into 9 months. The staff at Miracle House worked with me to ensure that I had a safe place to stay during the entire treatment period. More than the lodging, Miracle House offers free meals to clients and their caregivers - breakfast every weekday morning, dinners on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, and brunch on Saturdays. Miracle House rents five three-bedroom apartments in a highrise in midtown west Manhattan. The apartments are stocked with food, basic toiletries such as paper towers, bathroom necessities, dishes, and cookware, linens, small appliances, local phone, and wireless internet. But Miracle House is so much more than that. Truly, Miracle House becomes a home away from home, where ordinary people from all over the world learn to share living space as well as share their lives in crises. The camaraderie is therapeutic, and total strangers can become lifelong friends through the bond that is formed together. Patients and their caregivers meet in the lobby of the apartment building and walk as a group to the diner that contracts with Miracle House and the experience of sharing the meals, hosted by volunteers, is like a warm cocoon in the overwhelming rush of the city. Miracle House relies primarily on private donations to fund its services. Once after my liver resection, I was looking out the window of the 8th floor apartment , and suddenly noticed our little band of "warriors" walking back "home" from the diner, some with canes or chemotherapy infusion tubes, old, young, bald, bundled up against the cold winds of late fall, and I knew that it was an image I would wear on my heart forever. As we all were fighting for life, Miracle House gave us a precious gift in the battle - the gift of a home - the gift of its Miracle.

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