HHonors, Walk for Hope, and Surviving Cancer

Hilton HHonors, City of Hope, Cancer Research, and Walk4Hope San Francisco are topics on my mind in this post.  This is a story of survival, hotels, and loyalty. Sorry if I meander through this blog post, but there is so much to say and I have to start getting the word(s) out.

The main point I want readers to remember is City of Hope has the 12th Annual Walk for Hope 5K Walk in San Francisco on Saturday, October 3, 2009. Link.

Registration is $30 for the San Francisco Walk for Hope. Participants who raise or contribute from $25 to $600 are eligible for up to 7,000 HHonors points. Participants who raise $1,000+ will receive a complimentary Hilton HHonors award night for up to a category 6 hotel.

Walk for Hope holds walks in cities around the USA each year as a fundraising effort to support breast cancer research.

HHonors, City of Hope, and Walk for Hope Incentive Prizes

There have only been two Walk for Hope events (San Diego and Edison, New Jersey) so far in 2009. Seven more Walk for Hope events will take place between September 27 and October 25.

Walk for Hope 2009 Events

Walk for Hope 2009 Events


Registration links are located on this page:

HHonors Fundraising Incentive Prizes

Donate or raise:

– US$25–74.99: Get 500 HHonors bonus points.
– US$75–149.99: Get an additional 1,500 HHonors bonus points (2,000 total).
– US$150–299.99: Get an additional 1,500 HHonors bonus points (3,500 total).
– US$300–599.99: Get an additional 1,500 HHonors bonus points (5,000 total).
– US$600–999.99: Get an additional 2,000 HHonors bonus points (7,000 total).

– US$1,000 or more: Get a free one-night stay at a participating Hilton Family hotel in the US48 (Cat. O-6),* plus the 7,000 HHonors bonus points named above.

I posted on Twitter that I wanted to be a team captain for the San Francisco walk. I am not doing this for points or free nights. In fact, in the same way Tour de France winners like Lance Armstrong give their prize money to the team, I would like to raise $1,000 as a Loyalty Traveler team and somehow give the free Hilton award night to a member of the team.

I really don’t have this Walk for Hope event figured out. I haven’t even registered for the San Francisco Walk for Hope event yet.

What I do know is cancer is not waiting and if I sit around waiting to figure out how to start a team and organize Walk for Hope preparations before I start spreading the word, then time will have run out. So this is my first installment on promoting City of Hope, Walk for Hope events, and HHonors sponsorship and incentive program for fundraisers.

Email me if interested in joining Kelley and me in San Francisco on October 3 for the 5K Walk for Hope event.

Kelley isn’t sure she’ll have the stamina for walking 5K but with a little encouragement and lots of friends (several thousand cancer survivors creates quite a spark of life) she just might make the whole journey.

(Time to wake up Kelley for the drive to the oncology center in San Jose this afternoon. The rest of this post is personal reflection detailing some of our experiences living with cancer.)


Loyalty Traveler’s History with Walk for Hope

I probably would not even be aware of City of Hope if it weren’t for Hilton HHonors and FlyerTalk.

Back in 2004 the news spread on FlyerTalk that Hilton HHonors was giving 5,000 points for members who registered as a walker or even as a virtual walker for Walk for Hope  events around the country.

What a great deal many of us FlyerTalkers had with HHonors and City of Hope!  Pay $25 to register for an event that you didn’t even need to attend and earn 5,000 HHonors points.

I registered for walks all over the USA. Kelley and I walked the 7th annual Walk for Hope through downtown Oakland in 2004. Walking the streets of Oakland with thousands of women and a few hundred men was a memorable experience.  Kelley was actually quite ill during the walk and I had to drive her to the Kaiser hospital in Oakland after the walk. She was diagnosed with strep throat; an occupational hazard for a first grade teacher.

Five Years Later and Life with Cancer

Sunday night I was sitting in a beautiful suite at the Westin Verasa Napa – alone.  My wife, Kelley, said to me over the phone, “Of course you have the best room at the hotel. I’m not with you.” This is a long-standing joke between us and truthfully the joke evolved due to the occurrence of many incredible complimentary hotel room upgrades happening when I travel alone. My room was not actually the best room at the Westin Napa, but damn near the best.

Kelley missed this trip because she had just finished her 46-hour strong chemotherapy treatment on Friday afternoon and her energy level was too low to travel.  This has been her sixth strong chemotherapy treatment since April.

Kelley has Stage 2 rectal cancer. She had no idea she was even ill when she had a routine colonoscopy after turning 50. Her tumor was removed in February, about 6 weeks after her initial diagnosis. In four weeks she will go from cancer patient to cancer survivor. She has only two more strong chemotherapy treatments to go before she completes the 6 month chemotherapy and radiation treatment regime. She hasn’t worked since February at her job as a kindergarten-first grade teacher.

Right after we learned of Kelley’s cancer diagnosis in January we went through what appears to be the textbook steps of cancer shock. I looked up the survival statistics and saw a Stage 2 rectal cancer patient has a five-year 60% survival probability.

Subsequently I have come to believe, as many cancer survivors will tell you, a person diagnosed with cancer should not be overly concerned with these survival statistics. The primary focus to maintain after being diagnosed with cancer is the attitude and determination to beat cancer and become a survivor. Kelley’s prognosis is good. The doctor’s estimate her chances at 90-95% remaining cancer free.


I heard or read a doctor’s statement, “Ignoring cancer is not an option.”

My brilliant strategy for dealing with her cancer was to take us on a California “Bucket List” of hotel travel. Our” Bucket List” kept getting pared down as the effects of cancer treatment took their toll on Kelley’s health and stamina. If you have read many of my hotel reviews from stays over the past few months you may recall that Kelley has spent most of our hotel stays sleeping in bed as I booked hotel stays to rack up Starwood free nights in May.

St. Regis Aspen was dropped from the bucket list while in Colorado since Kelley wasn’t sure how she would handle the altitude. She was her sickest the week before after her fourth round of chemotherapy. A three night stay at the SLS Beverly Hills was dropped since Kelley didn’t want to be in the smoggy air of Los Angeles.

Kelley’s inability to stay awake and enjoy the lovely hotels in the way I anticipated we would if we just kept living for fun was a bit of a bummer. It seemed to me at times that she simply wanted to sleep eight months of her life away and wake up after treatment ends. I have to remind myself, and sometimes remind her, that this treatment is rough stuff.

Everyone who sees her remarks how well she looks. She hasn’t lost all the hair on her head and to her dismay she hasn’t lost much weight either, even though we eat so much healthier these days.

Hilton HHonors and Walk for Hope San Francisco

Sunday night I was reading through mail in my Napa hotel room and came across the Walk for Hope San Francisco brochure.

Satori spark of light.

Organize a Loyalty Traveler team for the Saturday, October 3, 2009 San Francisco Walk for Hope in celebration of the end of Kelley’s 8-month cancer treatment. She will be finished with cancer treatment just a few days before her 51st birthday in September and two weeks before the San Francisco Walk for Hope 5K event.

I posted the Loyalty Traveler Walk for Hope team idea on Twitter. Drinking alone in Napa and Twitter are not always a good combination, but I think this time there was some positive insight.

I typed in Walk4Hope on Twitter search. Nothing. Walk for Hope San Francisco. Nothing.

I came across a tweet with a link to an article about male breast cancer.

180,000 women in the US last year were diagnosed with breast cancer. 2,000 men were also diagnosed with breast cancer. News to me.

Kelley repeatedly commented during her six weeks of radiation treatment how awkward she felt sitting in a waiting room with a group of women, almost all waiting for breast irradiation while almost all the men in an adjacent waiting room were undergoing prostate irradiation.  She felt the groups, rather than being segregated by sex, should be segregated by “no underwear” crowd or “no bra” crowd to better share the common radiation irritation complaints.

I woke up Monday morning in the Westin Verasa Napa hotel room and found the USA Today newspaper outside my door. The “Life” section of USA Today had a photo of cyclist Lance Armstrong and an article about his 1.7 million Twitter followers.

Armstrong, in addition to riding the Tour of Ireland, has just completed a global cancer summit on using social media to spread awareness of cancer and the need for research.

The USA Today article stated, “Cancer kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.  Next year it is projected to become the world’s leading cause of death.”

Another section of the article states:

“Armstrong says American breast cancer survivors got much of the credit for helping to end the stigma of cancer, as early as the 1970s. “Women said, ‘No, we aren’t going to be ashamed of this.’ They empowered a whole bunch of women. And that empowered guys to go out and talk about prostate cancer and testicular cancer and colon cancer.”

On my drive home from Napa Monday, I listened to an hour long radio show on Berkeley’s KPFA, “About Health” with Dr. Lenoir discussing cancer. Comedian Robert Schimmel was his guest and discussed his book, Cancer on $5 a Day* (*Chemo not included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life

Many of us know someone who has cancer. Do you really know what that means?

Kelley and I had no idea how consuming cancer treatment is for the cancer patient and those caregivers who are needed to assist the patient. I was dropped from one of Loyalty Traveler’s paid gigs during Kelley’s radiation treatment. I couldn’t keep up with the work tasks. I can work anywhere and I still struggled to stay up on my work due to the time involved dealing with Kelley’s cancer.

Cancer treatment doesn’t wait for you or your caregivers to be unbusy.

Health Care Reform

We have a health care reform debate going on in this country right now. My wife has good insurance with her teaching job and Kaiser has promptly addressed her treatment. I read last month that the average breast cancer treatment therapy is a $200,000 regime.

Could you afford that cost without insurance? Would your insurance cover that cost?

We had to drive 180 miles roundtrip for 28 days of Kelley’s 6-week cancer radiation treatment. I drove Kelley over 5,000 miles in June and July to the oncology center in Santa Clara. The loss of Loyalty Traveler income isn’t as bad as if we hadn’t switched to Kaiser insurance coverage five years ago. The Blue Cross plan alternative would have allowed us to use the hospital two miles up the road, but our out-of-pocket expenses would have probably been $50,000+ for the 9 months of cancer treatment.

This country needs real health care reform.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. The Loyalty Traveler team idea for San Francisco WalkforHope is unlikely to happen.

    Too much going on with the final weeks of Kelley’s treatment, travel, and other Loyalty Traveler tasks.

    Kelley finishes her 9 months of tests and treatments tomorrow. We’re smiling and celebrating.

    My energy to mount a quick time cancer research fundraising campaign just wasn’t there these past few weeks. I apologize.

    Kelley and I still plan to be in San Francisco Saturday, October 3rd, but as individuals – a cancer survivor and a caregiver.

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