Guest Story: Far From Home

Over 2,500 miles away from home, Caring House guest Maria is halfway through her six-week stay when I sit down with her on a hot July afternoon.

Maria, a Los Angeles native with a big family and a fast-paced life, is warm and soft-spoken. She maintains a sense of calm that you can’t help but notice upon speaking with her. She shares her journey with me of finding and treating her benign brain tumor. When her sister’s brother-in-law, a neurosurgeon in Tennessee, recommended Duke for surgery and treatment, she jumped on a plane to fly across the country, not knowing what to expect. 

Her social worker recommended Caring House for her long stay and Maria arrived with her daughter in early June. Maria did not hesitate to get involved with Caring House’s activities and community – joining our art therapy sessions, taking part in our weekly oncological massages, sitting through pastor visits, and sharing meals with other guests. 

“These programs that you have available are an opportunity for me to take a step back, practice self-care, and focus on something else. That is really important. It’s helpful in my healing process,” she said.

Maria is a self-proclaimed foodie, enjoying cooking new meals and honing her skills in Mexican cooking. She and her daughter, Lauren, have made meals for the house numerous times, bringing people together through food. Maria tells me she’s learned a lot about North Carolina and Southern culture during her six-week stay, and has met new friends that have supported her through treatment. 

“What’s been amazing here is that I’ve had the opportunity to speak to so many women. And speaking to them is almost like getting therapy for free. We are able to relate to each other, even though our treatments are different. But the situation is that we’re all going through a health issue. So we all can empathize with that and support each other. I think that’s one of the things that’s so amazing here, is that we lift each other,” she said.

That uplifting spirit that is felt throughout Caring House is created by people just like Maria, who share love and a listening ear, encouragement and a helping hand.   

Even though she is thousands of miles away from the rest of her family, her job, and the comfort of her own city, the community at Caring House has embraced her and made her feel like she’s not far from home. 

Of her experience being in a new state and going through an exhausting and often isolating treatment protocol, she said, “I think that Caring House really is a home away from home. And it’s a place that I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss the connections. The conversations we’ve had have been meaningful and deep, so I’m going to miss that. Robin has been incredibly supportive and wonderful throughout our stay in making this possible. It’s a blessing to have you guys. It’s a very special place.”

Maria heads back home to California this week, and it’s hard to believe she has been with us for nearly two months. I asked her how she would describe Caring House in one word. 

Without hesitation, she responded.


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Written by: Kristen Luft, Communications Associate