Guest Spotlight: Spirit of Resilience
An overwhelming number of the patients who stay at Family House have cancer - true of most hospitality houses across the United States. While cancer death rates have fallen drastically over the last 25 years, certain cancer diagnoses are on the rise.
Last fall, we had the opportunity to meet a young cancer survivor and a patriot in every sense of the word. First Lieutenant Chanel Menges, currently stationed at Fort Bragg, a military installation of the US Army, arrived on our doorsteps. In 2016, combat arms opened up to women and she became one of only 15 women selected to serve as an armor officer that year. In 2017 she became a platoon leader.
Then cancer hit in April 2018, Chanel felt a lump in her neck and was eventually diagnosed with a malignant adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare type of cancer that often occurs in the salivary glands. On October 5, 2018, Dr. Trevor Hackman, an otolaryngologist at UNC Hospitals, removed the cancerous tumor.
While she received almost daily radiation treatments post-surgery, Chanel stayed at Family House for seven weeks. She quickly became one of our stand-out guests because of the number of visitors she had, her positive outlook on life, and her remarkable resilience. Guests, volunteers, and staff members were all drawn to her, many wanting to shower her with TLC.
It's not surprising then that - when asked what staying at Family House has meant to her - Chanel shared, “the best part is having people to relate to. At dinnertime, we sit together and ask each other if we can taste the food. It’s been good to be around other cancer and transplant patients.” Chanel also told us that she’s been “amazed” by all of our volunteers, including the therapy dogs, and all they do at Family House for guests: “they all come and pour their hearts out."
On January 9, 2019, Chanel completed her treatments. She left for Ft. Bragg to slowly return to duty. Her next goal is to be deployed, as originally planned, to Afghanistan this July. Knowing Chanel and her indomitable spirit, we don't doubt she can tackle what she sets out to accomplish on her life journey.
* Thank you to Lt. Chanel Menges for sharing and granting permission for us to use these photos.