[cancer|personal] The high cost of being in Bethesda – looking for help

We’re running into some significant planning and budget issues as we consider the trials here at NIH. I could use some help of the thinking kind, especially if you live in the Baltimore/Washington area.

Any trial at NIH requires me to spend time in Bethesda, Maryland. They provide financial assistance for patient airfare, and a nominal daily stipend, but that doesn’t account for airfares for anyone who comes with me, and the stipend only covers about 25% of the daily cost of being here. As at least one trial requires me being here about 2.5 to 3 weeks per month for the first few months, this gets expensive very fast. Depending on the study, somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000 per month if we do everything at rack rate — airfare, rental car, hotel.

We’re looking at options. The American Cancer Society has several programs for reduced price or free lodging in the area for patients receiving treatment. As of yet, I have no idea what the availability is, or whether I qualify. We’ll be investigating that tomorrow.

This boils down to four issues: airfare, lodging, vehicle, meals. Airfare we can cover at least for now (among other things, I do have tons of frequent flier miles). Meals are more or less a wash, as I eat whether I’m here or in Portland, though being here involves eating out more, and restaurants seem to be more expensive.

Regarding lodging, does anyone have any suggestions for cost-effective short-to-medium term housing? I can’t sign anything more than a month-to-month lease, because I have no idea how long any study will last for me. I could wash out in month one, or could go on for many months. Or if you have a mother-in-law unit or a vacant rental property that we might discuss the use of, please let me know. (We need two bedrooms with a bathroom and kitchen.)

Regarding a vehicle, I am considering buying a cheap used car in Portland and having it brought out here. A friend has already volunteered to drive it cross-country. Also possible to buy a car here, I suppose, but our recent experiences with Maryland’s DMV make me very wary of doing anything like that in this state. But if you have a spare vehicle that I might be able to use intermittently while I’m here, as much as three weeks a month depending on the study protocol, please let me know.

This might turn into a fundraising effort later on, but I’m looking for simpler solutions first. If you have any thoughts, please share them.

20 thoughts on “[cancer|personal] The high cost of being in Bethesda – looking for help

  1. I generally use Extended Stay America hotels when I’m working on site, as they have cooking facilities in the room and are set up for longer-term stays. https://www.extendedstayamerica.com/hotels/md/bethesda

  2. ces says:

    Ask the local Red Cross for ideas. They help displaced persons all the time.

    1. john bartley says:

      call 703-584-8400 8a-5p weekdays, ask for Disaster Services. They will have a list of preferred motels – explain why you’re calling and they may make an unofficial hint.

  3. Terry says:

    I have no idea what might be available in the Bethesda area, but you might try googling “vacation rentals Bethesda MD” – if there are any (and I think there are; I tried it and got some hits but didn’t investigate further) they would expect occupancy to be intermittent (thus no leases) and there *may* be a price range you could work with. Good luck!

  4. I’ll post this link on my working moms list. Besides the cancer doc who writes, there’s folks in the area who might be able to tell you more…and I think the realtor who might know of alternatives like those in-law apartments is still active.

  5. Kayley says:

    You could try https://www.airbnb.com to find a place to stay. People rent out rooms, usually at a cheaper rate than hotels.

  6. Brenda cooper says:

    It seems silly to buy a car here and take it there. Buy one there or see if you can use a zip car or something like that.

    1. Agreed on the ZipCar suggestion. Though I think Car2Go is actually cheaper than ZipCar, and they’re in both Portland and Maryland.

      That said, the certainty of having an owned-outright car available whenever needed rather than having to add the “book one of the ZipCars or make certain there’s a Car2Go available in the area” stress on top of things may be of greater value than the financial savings.

  7. gottacook says:

    I agree, that’s a lot of gas money (for a cross-country trip) simply to avoid having to buy a car in Maryland. At the mechanic we use in Kensington (2-3 miles east of NIH), there are always a few notices for cars for sale that they’ve maintained. We’ve used them for 19+ years, and they’re honest; e-mail me for shop name and location if you like. In any case, I hope the ACS can set you up with housing not too far from the NIH campus.

  8. Jonah Knight says:

    My wife works for NIH (a different institute). She gave me this to share. If you have a gap of time where you only need one fold out couch and transportation to and from campus, you can stay with us while you look for what you really want.

    I’m assuming he’s been in touch with the family lodge on campus, which provides on-campus housing for patients: http://clinicalcenter.nih.gov/familylodge/

    Housing list from NIH Recreation and Welfare Association (R & W):

    Hotel info from the Clinical Center website (these locations are on the NIH shuttle route):

    Friends of the Clinical Center may be able to assist with travel or housing arrangements:

    I’m not sure whether the Patient Representative staff at the Clinical Center can help find housing (they act as link/liaison between patient and hospital), but the number to speak to a Patient Representative is 301-496-2626 (daytime hours).

    The National Patient Travel Center has an information/referral line at 1-800-296-1217 – the organization seems more focused on long-distance medical transportation but perhaps they can provide referral to another agency that can help find/secure housing.

    1. Jay says:

      Thank you very much.

  9. Barbara says:

    three leads from current colleagues who moved from Bethesda two months ago to lab space across my hall at OHSU. 1: look at NIH’s “fellows list serve” which arranges housing for temporary fellows in research circles. 2: ask at the Ronald MacDonald house if they know of any housing (unless they will let you stay there since you are a kid at heart) 3: look along the red line of the metro. it has a stop “inside the fence” (Mcd house is also “inside the fence”).

  10. letter_d says:

    Many hospice organizations provide treatment and respite support as well as end of life care. The NIH Clinical Center for Hospice and Palliative Medicine may be able to provide leads.

  11. Jay, I haven’t seen anyone mention just outright renting an apartment in Bethesda. I made the assumption of $200/day, 20 days/month and at least 3 months. That alone puts you at a $12,0000 housing budget. Even if you find a place that requires a year-long lease, it may be more cost-effective to price in any early termination penalties and just rent an apartment. Also, consider craigslist as a more likely place to list shorter-term or month to month rentals.

    Incidentally, I wouldn’t dismiss airbnb out of hand — many people use it to list full dwellings and are willing to offer them for longer periods. Not looking at locations too closely I’ve found private apartment listings as low as $1600/mo, which works out to just under $55/day.

  12. Erica says:

    Hi Jay,

    I saw this friend-of-a-friend’s listing on FB this morning.

    1) Rental townhome
    2) Catonsville MD (about 40 minute drive from Bethesda)
    3) 3BR, 1250 sqft
    4) $1500/mo, includes utilities
    5) Landlords are open to negotiating lease terms.
    6) Available in January.
    7) Separate basement unit also available. (in Feb)

    Here’s the listing:

    Best of luck!

  13. We live in Greenbelt, MD. With traffic and finding a parking space it is about 1 hour from us to Walter Reed Bethesda. (My husband is also undergoing cancer treatments so we’ve become intimately familiar with the commute). I don’t have an extra room, but our family room has 4 couches, three of which are sleeper. If you can handle sleeping in our family room (not very private, but we have a fireplace) you are welcome to stay with us.

    1. Jay says:

      I really appreciate that. I think we’ve got it covered — both Dad and Lisa need rooms. I hope your husband is doing as well as he can.

      1. Well, be aware, the offer is open if you need it.

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