Hearing the news that her daughter, Delilah, had been diagnosed with cancer came as a great shock to Gloria. The mother of five children, her entire life was up-heaved in an instant. “I’m always very busy. People call me a ‘bus driver’ because I’m always driving somewhere with kids. Plus, my husband is on disability because he has trouble with his back. I don’t think I realized how much cancer makes you drop all that so suddenly. In one moment, it affected my whole family,” she explained. Living in Stockton, Gloria knew that in order to get care for her daughter, she would have to find temporary housing closer to Kaiser Santa Clara. However, with hotel prices so high in the Bay Area, she had no idea how she was going to be able to stay close to Delilah as she underwent treatment and the pressures were quickly mounting.
Soon after her daughter began radiation and chemotherapy, Gloria spoke with a social worker and explained her need to find an affordable hotel in the area to stay. “I tried to hide how much of a toll it all was taking on me. In private, I would cry, I was stressed, and I felt depressed. That was why JW House was so special for me when I heard about it. I went to visit, and I was so, so happy with what I saw!” remembered Gloria. All her worries about finding a place to stay were gone, and she could focus her attention on all that mattered—caring for her daughter. As she began her stay at JW House, Gloria quickly realized how special the place was. With the treatment center mere steps away, both her and her daughter enjoyed how JW House offered a smooth transition to ease some of their hardship. “Delilah needs to be sanitized and we have to be very careful of diseases and infections because her immune system is weak,” explained Gloria, “so it is so great that JW House can be a place for her to spend time. The only other alternative is a hospital room.” Having a safe space in which Delilah could stay outside of the hospital, Gloria and her daughter began appreciating the love within JW House as well. “The House has everything! It doesn’t feel like a hotel at all. It’s the little things that go a long way,” she said. “Like the soap, it smells so good! And Delilah loves the play area, especially the toy horse. She could be there for hours at a time!” Gloria remembered how easy it was to focus on the difficulties she was experiencing and become angry with what was happening. Whenever she felt she was losing sight of hope, she reminded herself of all the blessings JW House gave. “It is extremely hard to go through this. It is difficult for my husband whenever he has to put Delilah to sleep. Because we have to dedicate so much time to her, our other kids have to sacrifice as well. I have to keep telling myself I have to thank God, not blame him. He gave us JW House. Just seeing smiles around the House always gives us support,” Gloria felt.
Along with the House itself, Gloria has firsthand felt the warmth and love of the volunteers in JW House. “They always say hello; I love it. They truly understand what you are going through and always try to help in any way they can,” she remembered. While she has felt the dedication of all the volunteers in the House, Gloria is always reminded of one particularly special instance with Anne Marie Asnong, the mother of JW. “Delilah is very shy. She never really likes to be around people she doesn’t know and it is very difficult for her to warm up to people at first,” explained Gloria. “But after spending just a little bit of time with Anne Marie, Delilah grabbed her hand! I couldn’t believe it. I remember telling another volunteer, Dee Dee, that Delilah had a new best friend!” laughed Gloria. “I really felt the comfort of this place. A lot of people think that cancer is contagious, and so friends stopped coming. Personally, I love spending time and working with kids, but with the treatment, I can’t do that anymore, which is very hard for me. The volunteers are a real source of friendship and support when it seems like there’s nowhere else to go.”
Witnessing the love of the volunteers at JW House, Gloria and her family have truly been inspired to help others in return. Surrounded by compassion throughout some of her most difficult experiences has opened her heart to the opportunity of continuing JW House’s mission in her own life. “If we won the lottery, I think it’s such a good idea we would build a house of our own,” Gloria joked. “My family wants to help people out where we can. We brought donations from Costco for the House to show our appreciation, some cleaning supplies. We don’t want anyone feeling sorry for us; we just want to do our part to help others receive the experience which has changed our lives.”