Wandering in York County

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The new H.O.P.E Haven on Blymire Hollow Road in Stewartstown will provide temporary relief for those suffering from cancer. Jamie Kinsley Photo.

Stewartstown area H.O.P.E. Haven to provide relief from cancer

Barb Titanish sits at a table within H.O.P.E.’s new cancer retreat haven.

Behind pink-tinted glasses, she recalls a story from 1978 about her sister, Diane Walburn.

On a cold night, Diane suffered from the pain of cancer. At that time, few medications were permitted for home-use to help cope with the suffering Diane experienced.

Barb Titanish shows the beautiful new kitchen that cancer patients and their families will enjoy at The H.O.P.E. Haven. Jamie Kinsley Photo.

To ease the anguish, Walburn requested to go to the family’s farm just two miles away so she could sit by an outdoor fire. Without hesitation, Titanish and their father delivered Diane to the heat – the warmth, her sanctuary – so she could find relief.

Titanish told me during our interview, “She wanted to go there to feel better.”

To make the environment as comfortable as possible, the family placed a tarp over a lazy boy recliner and set Diane upon her outdoor haven.

This memory serves as just one example from Titanish’s family history that motivates her to help those suffering from cancer through The H.O.P.E. Haven – Help for Oncology Problems and Emotional Support co-founded by Titanish and Jeanette Cartwright

Her son, diagnosed with cancer just two days before Christmas in 2005, was told that this holiday would be his last. Thankfully, fourteen years have lapsed and her son lives on.

Additionally, her brother, father, grandparents, aunts, cousin, and nephew were all diagnosed with lymphoma – a type of cancer oncologists believe is hereditary.

At age 20, Diane was given six months to live but she fought for eight more years, passing away in 1986. Even though her strength proved tougher than the malignant cells for a time, the years of fighting took a toll on the family. 

That is why Titanish along with her husband, Ed Titanish, devoted the past 25 years to helping people with cancer, including building a retreat for those afflicted with cancer. 

The H.O.P.E Haven offers a retreat for cancer patients in southern York County. Jamie Kinsley Photo.

The H.O.P.E Haven

Resting on 17.4 acres on Blymire Hollow near Stewartstown, The H.O.P.E. Haven will hold 10 guests at one time with two full kitchens, four full bathrooms, and six bedrooms.

Large windows bring light into The H.O.P.E Haven. Jamie Kinsley Photo.

Families can reserve the house for up to five days. While there, guests will enjoy outdoor amenities such as a pool, patio, a water feature, basketball hoops and volleyball nets, a picnic area, and a playground with cleanable surfaces. For those who cannot hike on the walking paths, a golf cart will chauffeur them around the grounds.

Looking over a beautiful hillside, rocking chairs will soothe patients who listen to tree frogs and watch the deer graze.

Titanish wanted to ensure families would be entertained so they installed a movie room, foosball table, and a room for yoga.

Next to the haven rests a conference center. Built out of a pole barn, the building will host support groups, the reception area, and offices.

“We know what it’s like to be struggling,” Titanish told me. So they’re hoping their efforts will ease some of the challenges of fighting cancer.

In addition to the haven, H.O.P.E., a nonprofit, gifted 92 back-to-school packages to children last year including book bags and gift cards to purchase school supplies.

With 469 active patients who receive support, The H.O.P.E. Haven will have no trouble booking the rooms.

Many volunteers donated time, resources, and skills to build The H.O.P.E. Haven. Jamie Kinsley Photo.

Furthermore, the organization has paid electric bills, medical bills, purchased gas cards, and provided transportation services. On one occasion, Titanish rallied volunteers to muck farm stalls for a farmer undergoing treatment.

“As long as it’s legal and I can get volunteers,” Titanish commented, “we do it.”

On average, the organization has 16 regular volunteers. However, 100 volunteers are available on a weekly basis for fundraising which is how the nonprofit is financially support. Everyone from Habitat for Humanity crews to plumbers to mowers volunteer their time and skills.  

H.O.P.E. is not considered a hospice because they primarily help people who are fighting cancer by supporting areas of their life that do not involve physical care such as nursing.

Throughout the tour, I kept encountering the same feeling: peace. Titanish’s strong faith-based approach to providing relief touches all those who visit the retreat.

However, the history of cancer treatment hasn’t always been this positive .

History of Cancer

Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, describes the hunt for the cause and cures of cancer by taking the reader on a hideous, biographical history of man’s relationship with the disease.

Many times, scientists and researchers found their desire to help humanity’s “war” against the disease blinded them into following the wrong path.

For example, putting the “cart before the horse,” surgeons in the nineteenth century took more and more infected regions off the body beginning with breasts, then pectoral muscles, followed by glands and even bone such as the case with breast cancer.  

This brings into question the ethical and practical use of experimental treatment. People are more likely to try trials because some may become desperate – many people need little convincing because they want to be cured so badly.

The alternative? Submit to the disease and that’s not what most people want.

Mukoherjee argues the medical community has an obligation to their patients to use drugs and treatments with founded claims and evidence.

By the twentieth century, doctors plunged into the depths of cancer treatment by removing visible tumors via surgery such as radical mastectomies or attacked invisible malignancies with X-ray radiation.

Later, leukemia met its foe with breakthrough chemical technology in the 1940s.

However, soon after this discovery financial support slowed. Cancer research needed a mascot.

Jimmy, a young boy with lymphoma in his intestines – his real name was Einar Gufstason – shone with enough vigar to appeal to the public.

He spoke on the radio and rose public awareness by encouraging donations. During his birthday party, it was less of an individual celebration of Jimmy’s survival and more of a coming together of scientists, philanthropists, and the media to fight cancer.

The Jimmy character-campaign against cancer ultimately white-washed cancer, removing the awfulness of cancer from the popular scene. However, the powerful persuasive techniques brought attention to an area dependent on supportive funds.

A large room in The H.O.P.E. Haven will host activities such as yoga. Jamie Kinsley Photo.

Due to the increased financial support, researchers discovered that cancer is a total disease. This means it requires a multidisciplinary approach. Nutritionists, chemotherapists, medical residents, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, and pharmacists are all needed in this fight.

And now for Yorkers, H.O.P.E. has joined the battle.

To keep with Mukherjee’s war metaphor, the entire arsenal needs mobilized outside of the patient as well as within the patient. Their entire being must orientate its energy toward defeating the threat from within.

It took fifty years for the walls separating medical fields to crumble into one unified force. Medicine and chemistry first collided when the discover of vitalism, or the idea that man can naturally produce chemicals. Now, molecules in a laboratory could help a living organism.

It took us years and billions of dollars for the medical community to finally realize cancer was not born out of a virus or infection, but a mutation of our own cells. And it took cancer for the scientific community to start seeing what connects them, not what separates them.

The conference room beside The H.O.P.E. Haven is almost ready for their fall opening. Jamie Kinsley Photo.

H.O.P.E. continues the battle on cancer

Cancer takes away the present, distorts the past, and blurs the future so it becomes nearly impossible to see life as it once was or may be without the infliction.

This is what makes The H.O.P.E Haven so special – patients can forget they have cancer, even if it’s just for a few days.

The haven restores a much-needed sense of normalcy.

Opening in the fall, The H.O.P.E. Haven will change lives.

And last but not least, the haven will feature a fire ring for not only roasting marshmallows, but warming by the fire such as Titanish’s sister did more than thirty years ago.

The H.O.P.E. Haven will provide rest and relaxation for those suffering from cancer. Jamie Kinsley Photo.
In the fall, patients fighting cancer will occupy the bedrooms for one week at The H.O.P.E. Haven. Jamie Kinsley Photo.
You can find hope everywhere within The H.O.P.E. Haven. Jamie Kinsley Photo.

3 comments on “Stewartstown area H.O.P.E. Haven to provide relief from cancer

  1. I’m honored to know Barb and the staff and to help fundraise for this organization. HOPE has helped my own mother through her breast cancer treatment. This is one of the best organizations I know and I will continue to contribute to their cause!

  2. Barb,
    WOW, what a beautiful undertaking! We lost my sister in law, Dave’s sister , Martie, age 44, in 1998, to breast cancer. She had 5 children, the youngest was 5. You should never have to start kindergarten without your mom to see you through that milestone. Many times, Martie would load up her kids and come here, a three hour drive, before cell phones. Martie was already dealing with being in an abusive marriage before the cancer hit, and coming here was her refuge. She was Dave’s only sister, they were very close. Not that they didn’t lie he other brothers, but I think God knew Martie would need a special , caring man in her life. Every time she came up with her kids, we had a routine. We played with the kids, and since we homeschooled, our kids were always available to play with their cousins! Dave and Martie would take a walk while I entertained the kids…when they got back, we would have lunch, and while we pulled the food together, Martie would sit at the piano, and man, could she play! That girl could play any instrument you would hand her. She played with a symphony in the Allentown area…Her cancer was a rapid moving kind, and 8 months after being diagnosed, she “came home” to her parents in Clearfield, but it was soon apparent the The care she needed was more than Dave’s parents could provide. She was moved to Ridgeview, and the last “normal “ thing Dave got to o with his sister was sing it’s her. The nursing home called, it was late, but they couldn’t seem to comfort Martie, she was upset, etc…so they called Dave. Of course, Dave being Dave..(at this time two of her daughters were living with us..) went right over. Dave took Martie to an empty rec room that had a piano. Martie played every hymn she knew, and her and Dave sang, and sang and sang! She was in her element! Even now..when we are in church and see the hymn “Be Thou My
    Vision” is in the bulletin..we know we won’t make it through..by the end of the first verse, we are both reaching for Kleenex. Thank you for providing a place for cancer patients to “just relax”, and let their bodies and minds relax, and provide them the chance to sit by a fire, which is a thing we do here in a regular basis! Add some mountain pie irons to the supplies for the fire pit!!
    Great job Barb! Even now, Diane is greatly missed, and those of us who knew her are greatly blessed!
    Jill Bloom Peterson

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